Boyfriends and fiancés no longer have to be kept secret if you’re Miss America.
Madison Marsh was crowned the new Miss America on January 14. A week later, she announced her engagement on Instagram.
It’s a far cry from the strict “anti-boyfriend” rules that the pageant once held, which were detailed by past winners in the 2023 A&E documentary “Secrets of Miss America.” But Marsh told College Unified that the pageant has changed under Robin Fleming, who became CEO in January 2023.
“She has been saying it’s a new day at Miss America, and she really meant that,” Marsh said. “There are a lot of outdated rules that have gone away, one being that you can’t be engaged and be Miss America.”
“Just because you’re engaged or in a healthy relationship doesn’t mean you’re not independent,” she added. “It doesn’t mean you still can’t be a leader.”
Marsh texted Fleming about an hour after she became engaged. She stated that the CEO was “just so excited” about the good news.
“We all had a general assumption that it would be OK for me to share because it’s obviously such a big, important part of my life,” Marsh went on to say. “I’m just as proud being a fiancée as I am being Miss America.”
Marsh’s fiancé, Walker Morris, got down on one knee at Boston Opera House. Marsh described it as “the easiest yes” in the caption of her Instagram post.
“Walker never fails to make me happy, even on the scariest and most difficult days. “I’ve never doubted him,” she wrote in the caption. “Walker was a constant in my life during times of uncertainty and hardship. “A match made in the stars.”
Marsh told BI that her engagement photo was reposted on Miss America’s social media pages, which she considered a significant moment for the pageant.
“I think a lot of women were really excited because this means that, in the Miss America Organisation, you don’t have to hide your significant other anymore,” she went on to say. “This should be a cherished aspect of our lives. Because it’s life and it’s beautiful, we were all very excited.”
In ‘Secrets of Miss America’, former winners Mallory Hagan, Savvy Shields Wolfe, and Betty Maxwell discuss the ‘anti-boyfriend’ policies implemented by former CEO Sam Haskell. Haskell resigned in 2017 after leaked emails about past Miss America winners.
Hagan, who won in 2013, stated that men, even her father, were not allowed in her hotel room.
Wolfe, who was crowned in 2018, said she couldn’t reveal that she was dating someone during her reign.
“It was made clear that Sam was in charge, and what he said went, and boyfriends were not allowed to exist when you’re Miss America,” she went on to say.
“They’re very, very, very anti-boyfriend because they want you to look like you’re America’s sweetheart,” said Maxwell, the 2018 winner. “They’re trying to be feminist and ‘Me Too’ and all of that, but they don’t believe that every young 20-something is dating someone. “Come on.
Married women and mothers can now compete at Miss USA, but not in Miss America. Past winners, including Grace Stanke and Camille Schrier, have supported the stance, while Marsh has declined to comment. The Miss America Organisation did not respond to a request for comment on the marriage rule.
Marsh’s reign as Miss America is just beginning. She was the first active-duty Air Force officer to compete in the pageant, and will continue to serve full-time during her reign. Marsh will continue to work with the Whitney Marsh Foundation, which she founded after her mother died of pancreatic cancer in 2018.
Marsh will have some free time in her schedule and will be able to go shopping for wedding dresses.
“Pageant dress shopping has ruined my idea of wedding dress shopping because I feel like I’m going to be so picky,” Marsh said with a smirk. “I have one chance to pick something that I really feel like a bride in, so I feel the pressure to find that perfect dress.”
“But I will be excited. “Obviously, I enjoy dress shopping,” she explained. “I’ve been doing it for the past five years of competing, so I’m super excited to find my style.”