RALEIGH — Miss America turns 100 years old this week with the 83rd Miss North Carolina joining 50 other women from each state plus the District of Columbia vying to claim the crown and title.
The competition, born from a 1921 Atlantic City boardwalk beauty contest , has evolved into a scholarship competition which will this year award $100,000 in scholarship funds to the winner.
The next Miss America will be crowned Thursday with several changes in tradition. The event moved from its traditional home on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 2019 to the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut. The event also moved from its traditional end-of-summer calendar spot in September to December. After a Covid-related cancellation in 2020, the organization will celebrate its 100th anniversary crowing its 94th winner (the event wasn’t held from 1928-1932). In the age of streaming dominance, coronation of the new Miss America will be live streamed on NBC’s Peacock service instead of a typical primetime broadcast.
This year, the nonprofit organization — run by an ardent group of volunteers at the national, state and local levels — announced the top scholarship awarded at the Dec. 16 finale will double to $100,000. The change was made possible by a donation from Miss America 1996 Shawntel Smith Wuerch and her husband Ryan Wuerch. According to the organization, a total of $435,500 in scholarship money will be distributed in this year’s competition, while more than $5 million is awarded annually through national, state and local programs.
It’s unclear if the decision to move the competition online says more about the fate of broadcast television than Miss America. NBCUniversal Media has been bullish about its streaming service and Krebs insisted the move to streaming was the organization’s decision and it had nothing to do with viewership numbers.
In 2019, the Miss America finale on NBC drew 3.6 million viewers, an all-time low. In contrast, the 1954 competition attracted 27 million viewers when there was much less competition for eyeballs.
“If you say you want to be around the next 100 years, we absolutely had the desire to be streamed because that is where our future is,” Miss America chair Shantel Krebs said, noting how younger people — and keep in mind, Miss America contestants must be between the ages of 17 and 25 — are less likely to have access to broadcast television.
Miss North Carolina Carli Batson, of Wilmington, expressed excitement about the competition. “I am beyond thankful for this experience, the memories I have made and the impact this organization has had on my life,” said Batson. “I will forever be indebted to the Miss America organization for sculpting me into the woman I am, and putting me on the path towards the woman I hope to become.”
Miss America streams live at 8pm on Peacock.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.