US & Canada

Miss America 2019: Miss Michigan criticises Flint water crisis

Emily Sioma during the competition Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Emily Sioma won praise for raising awareness about the water crisis

A contestant in Sunday's Miss America competition has been commended on social media for using her brief introduction to draw attention to the Flint water crisis.

Instead of speaking about herself, Miss Michigan said she was "from the state with 84% of the US fresh water but none for its residents to drink".

A deadly water crisis, due to lead piping, has plagued Flint since 2014.

Local residents are still advised to only drink filtered and bottled water.

It is thought that nearly 100,000 residents of the poor, mostly black city were exposed to high levels of lead.

The contamination has been blamed for at least 12 deaths.

While water tests are improving, full replacement of the pipes is not expected to be completed until 2020.

On Twitter, people applauded Emily Sioma's comments, calling her a "badass woman" and saying she should have won for speaking out.

As a survivor of sexual assault, Ms Sioma has already used her public platform to bring attention to violence against women.

She did not make the final 15, but comments on her Instagram page thanked her and called her a "hero" for drawing attention to the crisis in Flint on a large television platform.

Other contestants have also got political during the competition.

Earlier this week, Miss West Virginia Madeline Collins said in a preliminary round that President Trump was the biggest issue currently dividing America.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Miss Collins said the country could not be united "until we can trust in him and the choices that he makes"

Miss Virginia Emili McPhail also waded into the NFL kneeling row, saying American football players "absolutely" had the right to protest police brutality during the national anthem.

Miss America 2.0

The pageant is in the midst of a major rebrand after an email scandal involving its former CEO in 2017.

Organisers announced earlier this year the "2.0" version of Miss America would no longer judge contestants on outward beauty.

"Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment" said Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, in a statement about the changes.

This year's competition was the first ever without a swimsuit round, which was dropped in favour of an interview segment with contestants.

Miss New York, Nia Imani Franklin, took home the 2019 crown and a $50,000 (£40,000) scholarship on Sunday evening.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption She is the fourth Miss New York to win the crown since 2013

After her win she spoke out in praise of the controversial dropping of the bikini round.

"I've already seen so many young women reaching out to me personally as Miss New York asking how they can get involved because I think they feel more empowered that they don't have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship," she said after the pageant.

"And I'm happy that I didn't have to do so to win this title tonight because I'm more than just that."

"And all these women onstage are more than just that."

She was presented the crown by 2018's winner Cara Mund, who penned a recent open letter claiming the organisation's chair and CEO had "systematically" silenced and marginalised her since her win.

The two are currently facing calls to resign by 46 of the 51 state pageant organisations.

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