Organizers wanted to make it clear the 99th Miss America competition isn't your grandmother's beauty pageant – and their winner did just that on Thursday. Virginia biochemist Camille Schrier won the crown just minutes after wowing the crowd with science.
Dressed in a lab coat, she gave a colorful chemistry demonstration of the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.
Schrier, a 24-year-old Pennsylvania native, said she hopes to "break stereotypes about what it means to be a Miss America in 2020" by being a "woman of science" who is true to herself.
"I'm not the beauty queen," she said. "I'm the brand ambassador for this organization and I'm more than just someone with a crown on my head."
No longer called contestants, the 51 women "candidates," who hailed from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, competed for a $50,000 scholarship and the "job" of Miss America, a one-year paid position they hope to use as a public platform for their "social impact initiative."
For the second year in a row, women were not judged in a swimsuit or how they look in an evening gown. Instead, a series of interviews and talent demonstrations determined who was best qualified to compete for this year's crown.
"To make it relevant for these young women, it was important for us as a scholarship and service organization to make sure that we were reflective of this generation, meaning that you no longer had to be defined by some sort of ideal," said Regina Hopper, president & CEO of the Miss America Organization.
Schrier, who spoke on stage about having tackled an eating disorder, said she decided to compete for Miss America after the swimsuit competition was ditched, along with other changes that have been made to modernize the organization.
"I kind of figured that I would never get on that stage because I was a woman who did not want to get into a swimsuit on stage. And I didn't have a performing talent, which is really ironic now," she said, adding how she's the first Miss America to win with a science experiment, a presentation she brings to schools.
Schrier is a cum laude graduate of Virginia Tech with dual bachelor of science degrees in bio chemistry and systems biology and she is currently studying to obtain a doctor of pharmacy degree.