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The Incredible Shrinking Miss America

--A study released this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that since the inception of the Miss America pageant, the majority of contestants have fallen increasingly below normal BMI (body mass index). On Thursday's Early Show, the researchers and Miss America 1998, Katherine Shindle, discussed the findings.

Researcher Findings

  • Data on weight and height of winners of the Miss America Pageant, from 1922 to 1999, was obtained from the Miss America Archives. They determined the body mass index (BMI), calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters, for each winner.

  • Found a significant time-dependent decline in BMI.

    • In the 1920s, contestants had BMIs within the range that is now considered normal (between 20 and 25).

    • The decline in BMI over the years has put an increasing number of winners in the range of undernutrition (defined by the World Health Organization as BMI less than 18.5) with some having a BMI as low as 16.9.

    • Pageant winners' height increased less than 2 percent, whereas body weight decreased by 12 percent.

Interesting Miss America Trivia

  • In 1986, the pageant stopped releasing contestant's bust, waist and hip measurements.

  • The lightest Miss America was 16-year-old Margaret Gorman, the first Miss America. She was 5' 1" and weighed 108 pounds when she won in 1921.

  • Katherine Shindle (5'11" tall) was 145 pounds when she won the 1998 title.
    Nicole Johnson (5'9" tall) was 133 pounds when she won the 1999 crown.
    Both of them fall within the normal BMI range and are not considered undernourished.

The Judging Process

  • During the Preliminary Competitions in Atlantic City, the weighting of scores awarded per category is distributed as follows:

    • Talent: 40%

    • Interview: 30%

    • On-Stage Personality in Evening Wear: 15%

    • Physical Fitness in Swimsuit: 15%

  • Scoring in the finals, the weighting of the scores is as follows:

    Top Ten Announced:

    • Composite Attributes 45%

    • On-stage Personality in Evening Wear 10%

    • Physical Fitness in Swimsuit 10%

    • Subtotal 65%

      Top Five Announced:

    • Talent 15%

    • On-stage Interview 20%

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