Miss America Looks to Branch Out to Teens

The Miss America Organization (search), which still doesn't have a network lined up to air this year's pageant, is nonetheless going forward with plans to stage a spin-off pageant -- this one for teenage girls.

Miss America's Outstanding Teen (search), a pageant for girls 13 to 17 years old, will be held this year in Orlando, Fla., pitting state winners against one another in talent and evening wear, The Associated Press has learned.

Miss America Organization officials, who have scheduled an announcement for Wednesday in Orlando, would not release details about the contest Monday.

But the chairman of the board of Miss America's Outstanding Teen, Donna Bozarth, said the contest will be a smaller version of the main pageant that's been held in Atlantic City since 1921.

About $150,000 in scholarships will be divided among the contestants.

Contestants in the pageant -- scheduled for Aug. 17-20 -- will compete in "active wear" -- leotards or workout clothes, for example -- for the lifestyle and fitness category, but not swimsuits.

"We just didn't feel that a 13-year-old competing with a 17-year-old in a swimsuit was fair," Bozarth said.

The Miss America Organization is struggling to find a network after being dumped by ABC for low ratings last October. Last year's show attracted a record-low 9.8 million viewers.

Critics, including some of Miss America's own, were wondering why the pageant was starting up a second program when its first is in such dire straits.

"It's interesting to me that Miss America would involve itself in anything when right now, the focus should be in surviving as a pageant and an organization on its own," said Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993.

Miss America CEO Art McMaster (search) could not be reached for comment Monday.