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.
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 judged in a swimsuit or how they look in an evening gown. Instead, a series of interviews and talent demonstrations will determine who is best qualified to wear 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.
Morgan Nichols, Miss Carolina, had her own message. She walked down the red carpet wearing a billowing, long skirt topped by a plain white T-shirt that read: "Stronger."
While Hopper acknowledges there has been some push-back from "old pageant" people who liked the old way of doing things, she said there's been greater interest in the competition since the roll-out of Miss America 2.0.
This year also marks the first time the multi-day event is being held at Mohegan Sun, tribal casino and entertainment complex in suburban southeastern Connecticut. Miss America organizers announced plans this summer to leave Atlantic City, New Jersey — for the second time in its history.
Miss America also switched from ABC back to NBC to broadcast the glitzy finale to an estimated 4.5 million viewers. And for the first time, preliminary events and the finale — held in Mohegan's 10,000-seat arena — are being streamed live on the NBC app.
"We've had many, many large events. This probably reaches the most people," said Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun. "We're just really, really excited about it."
Miss America organizers and NBC have not yet agreed to a multi-year contract with the Connecticut casino. A decision is expected in the coming months.
Thursday night's ultimate winner succeeds 2019 Miss America Nia Franklin, a classically trained opera singer from New York.
The decision to drop the swimsuit competition did create great controversy and criticism of Miss America officials, including former board chair and former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who said in 2018 that Miss America would represent "a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent and empowerment." Carlson has since stepped down.
Atlantic City businessmen came up with the idea for a pageant in 1921 as a way to extend the summer tourism season beyond Labor Day weekend. It became synonymous with the New Jersey seaside resort but moved to Las Vegas in 2005, returning to Atlantic City in 2013.
A female tattoo artist, a rarity in ultra-conservative Afghanistan, is taking a big risk with every customer she takes on.
It's been 18 months since Suraya Shaheedi started her mobile tattoo shop in the capital, Kabul. She's received death threats for taking on the taboo of the ink-on-skin drawings she does — as well as being a single woman willing to work with men.
"I have struggled a lot, even been threatened with death, because people in Afghanistan think doing tattoos is haram," she said, using the Arabic word meaning prohibited by religion.
"Whether my customers are men or women doesn't matter to me. I do tattoos for both," says Shaheedi, a 26-year-old, divorced single mother.
In a black curtained room, surrounded by his friends, a young customer shrieks in pain as the needle pierces and inks his skin.
"I can't leave the profession I love," Shaheedi adds.
She easily gets customers, whether men or women, as social attitudes toward tattoos loosen up and more ink parlors open. It's the kind of small, but important change that Shaheedi feels a return of Taliban rule could threaten.
After decades of war, Afghans want peace. A big concern for many like Shaheedi is that U.S.-led peace talks with the Taliban will boost the militant group.
"I am happy if the Taliban return results in peace, but if they disagree with my work and impede the freedom and progress of women, then I will be the first to stand against them," she vowed.
Women like Shaheedi have carved out a space for themselves in a society where custom heavily restricts women's roles and education. Close to 40% of Afghanistan's eligible girls are not allowed by their families to go to school, and almost 20% are forced by their families to leave school after grade six, according to a survey by the Asia Foundation released this year.
In areas under the Taliban, who now control or hold sway over roughly half of the country, women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort. The insurgent group ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001, when the U.S. invaded.
Shaheedi divorced her husband eight years ago while she was pregnant. She and her son now live with her parents. Her father supports her work, even though Afghanistan's patriarchal society often forbids a woman from touching a man to whom she is not related or married.
Her parents and elder brother persuaded her to become a tattoo artist, Shaheedi said, after she got her first tattoo while visiting Turkey — an arrow piercing the image of an eye on her right hand, which she says symbolizes overcoming adversity.
Shaheedi's father, Hussain, 58, believes the strict customs controlling women in Afghanistan need to change. "I support my daughter in every way, and she makes me proud the way she's stood against this taboo," he said.
Shaheedi uses Instagram and other social media to find and meet customers. She prefers not to keep a parlor with a fixed address out of concerns for her safety.
She also does manicures and makeup. When she met one customer recently at a hair salon, the customer's husband recognized her from her social media pages as being the tattoo artist "Ahoo," the nickname she uses online. The husband threatened to kill Shaheedi if she kept posting images of her tattoo work on social media.
Tattoos were common in some of Afghanistan's rural areas, especially among Pashtun and Hazara women, but the ink piercings were used sparingly, often as only a few green dots on the face.
Tattoo artists say demand among the younger generation has risen for more flamboyant and personal designs, and with it, the number of ink parlors increased in the capital.
Omid Noori, 23, has 16 tattoos all over his body. He wants to add another on his left arm, showing the head of a lion with a crown and wreaths. But he only wants new designs on parts of his body that his clothing can hide, because he says he's tired of hearing people's negative comments about the ink piercings.
He also worries what would happen if Islamic militants caught him.
"I'm thinking that if the Taliban return, they'll cut off my hands and legs," he said.
He inked his last tattoos at a parlor belonging to a former Afghan army officer, Nazeer Mosawi.
Mosawi, 42, fought for seven years in Afghanistan's civil war with the Islamic insurgents. He says he is still fighting the war, but this time his battle is against society's conservatism, with his tattoo machine as his weapon.
Mosawi receives threatening phone and social media messages almost every day, demanding he close his tattoo business. "They even threaten to beat me, burn my shop," he said. "There is no alternative: I tell them, OK, I can't flee this country because of these threats. It's my homeland."
But for every threat he gets, Mousawi said he gets several messages with positive feedback or people curious to learn more.
Shaheedi said she is also working to put her 8-year-old son, now in second grade, through school. She is also studying business management at a university in Kabul.
"Being a woman in Afghanistan requires guts," she said. "I am proud of myself for having the guts."
Chanel brought its itinerant off-season fashion show the "arts and crafts," with its swath of VIPs including Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard, back to home ground in Paris on Wednesday to mark its first collection since Karl Lagerfeld died earlier this year.
New designer Virginie Viard teamed up with film director Sofia Coppola this season to imagine a cinematic opus that saw the house's 1920s Rue Cambon atelier — replete with crystal chandeliers and mirrored cubist staircase — recreated under the lofty roof of the Grand Palais exhibition space.
Unlike the seasonal collections that trickle down to set high street trends, the "arts and crafts" pre-collection aims at showing off and celebrating the work of the artisans that are the beating heart of Chanel, and the Paris fashion industry as a whole. Celebrating their technical know-how is one way that storied Paris heritage houses have tried to distinguish themselves in the face of increased competition from other fashion capitals, such as New York and Milan.
The first looks, in black with oversized statement shoulders, were simple enough as to let the embellishments do the talking: Large silvery art-deco waist bands with beading, bejeweled cuff bands or large geometric buttons with silver rims. A staple black sweater and knee length skirt were given life with rings of pearls that cascaded down to a black and gold chain belt that resembled the strap of the house's iconic handbag. Camellias adorned ethereal feathers as prints, while ears of wheat were constructed in glimmering gold sequins.
They set the agenda of the show. The fashion panache here was hidden down in the details that were delivered with couture-like finesse.
"The show was incredible," exclaimed Cruz, who reminisced nostalgically about walking around Central Park at midnight with Lagerfeld last December after last year's Egypt-themed Chanel show in New York.
Since 2002, the "arts and crafts" show has traveled around the world to highlight the fashion artistry of Parisian embroiderers, feathermakers, adornment-makers, pleaters, shoemakers, milliners and glovemakers.
After shows in Hamburg, Edinburgh, New York and other far-flung locations, Chanel returned to the French capital where it may be the last chance in a long time to stage it at the Grand Palais, which is scheduled to close for renovations next year ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
This year's homecoming echoes the very first show, held in the salons at 31 Rue Cambon — Chanel's storied Paris atelier.
It was the late house founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel who first understood the need to support struggling artisans in the field in the 1950s, culminating in the creation of the body of crafts, Paraffection, in 1985.
This vast network, which employs some 5,000 workers and includes famed embroider Lesage, does not work only for Chanel but also multiple other big names in the fashion industry.
"There is something so generous about how Chanel has supported the Parisian fashion industry as a whole," Cotillard said following the show.
"Chanel is a sort of ambassador for France and Paris over the world and it makes me so proud," she added.
A drop down on the Celsius scale and the rustling of the falling leaves – safe to say that Autumn has arrived. For us Bangladeshis, it feels like a thousand summers have passed in the last few months. It’s finally time to bid our farewells to the chaotic summer months and welcome Autumn. The calm sweep of the seasons demands a change in our wardrobes, so let’s dive in and see how we can stay trendy this Fall!
Let’s talk colours. Looking beyond the classic fall shades of maroons and browns, there are a few additions this year that demand our attention. By now you have probably seen an outbreak of millennial purple on your Instagram feed and looks like it is here to stay for the cooler seasons this year. Fashionistas are adorning themselves in hues of lilac and lavender (yes, there is a difference) by incorporating these shades in their Fall outfits. Whether it’s a touch of lavender in your accessories or going all the way by sporting a full monochromatic lavender outfit – this colour is definitely one of the season’s favourites.
Moving onto the surprise guest appearance to the panel of fall favourite shades this year is *drumrolls* - neon! That’s right. Neon brights are no longer confined to scorching hot summers or monsoons. They have well paved their way into the colder months. You can go full out with a bright pink or neon green jacket, sweater or top or instead if you feel that it is too loud for your taste – you can fashion yourself a pair of neon shoes or earrings to keep it simpler yet fun.
L-R – House of Holland, Emporio Armani, Brandon Maxwell
Pistachio green has been spotted quite heavily on the fashion scene and we are here for it! The soft pale green shade has been making rounds on both the runways and streetstyle and it’s truly a treat to the eyes. You can mix up different shades of green like pistachio, olive or sage in your outfit. Take a pistachio top and pair it up with a sage green sweater or jacket or put on a pair of olive pants. Even mixing whites with hues of pistachio is great idea. The versatility of the colour makes it easy for us to get creative when picking our outfit!
L-R – Ryan Roche, Marc Jacobs, Jil Sander
These three colours have accompanied the plums, neutrals and burnt oranges this season to help us pick our fall outfit. Some of the major trends we have spotted for this fall are capes, asymmetric necklines, long-hemmed coats, the 80’s padded shoulders with its dramatic silhouettes and an unexpected upsurge of feathered apparel. Basically, we are drawing inspiration from a multitude of eras to fashion ourselves the perfect autumnal look. In terms of accessories, the tiny handbag trend is still going strong which is practically impossible to get any use out of. However, if you’re a fan of functionality like the average citizen then you can opt for a trusty crossbody or belt bag. Other accessory trends to try out this summer are statement earrings and oversized chain-link jewels which are constructed with both earrings and chokers packing force into any look you exhibit.
The temperature has calmed down but your style certainly does not have to! It’s the best season to try out an array of fascinating trends before committing to our winter essentials. So, let’s enjoy this season in all its glory!
Paris, SEP 28 (AP/UNB) — Balmain defied the trends in designer Olivier Rousteing's rebellious ode to the 90s, serving up an infectious soundtrack of nostalgia that had Kris Jenner and Eva Longoria tapping their feet.
And the debut of Issey Miyake's new designer tried literally to take flight with a multi-segment musical and gravity-defying dance performance.
Here are some highlights of Friday's spring-summer 2020 ready-to-wear collections in Paris, including Celine.
HIT ME BALMAIN ONE MORE TIME
Spring found Rousteing in a philosophical mood, posing a fundamental question about fashion.
Contemporary houses constantly mine the 60s, 70s and 80s for inspiration. But are styles from the 34-year-old designer's own youth — the 90s and early aughts — "too recent to consider"?
Cue a display in which Rousteing explored that era and, with no apology, "riffing on the distinctive sounds, spirit and styles of my youth."
Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" blasted on the soundtrack as gentle, Barbie pink flares — as might befit the costumes of the 90s' pop princess— billowed down the runway at Paris' Opera Garnier.
In contrast to Rousteing's normally austere and structured looks, this 90s musing moved him in a softer direction.
Monochrome and graphic prints graced models sporting 90s shades with hair parted at the side. While, polka-dot tuxedo jackets were constructed with a fluidity that nicely captured the heyday of, say, Janet Jackson.
Rousteing reflected on why recycled trends never encroach into a past more recent than 30 years: "It's perhaps due to a feeling that those looks need a bit more of the filter of time that always helps to smooth out past era's fashion bumps."
While the concept of the show was admirable, in its execution there were some unintended fashion bumps owing to the over-exuberance of certain detailing.
On some asymmetrical looks, the weight of voluminous fabric at the midriff tugged down and produced an unpleasant off-kilter effect.
DIAMONDS ARE THE WORLD'S BEST FRIEND
Fashion is one of the world's most polluting industries, but some houses are launching eco-friendly initiatives of note - some more incremental, some more important.
Chloe has started sending out electronic invitations, in favor of gas-guzzling courier.
And another such move was on display at Balmain's show that featured diamonds incorporated into the spring designs and adornments.
The house proudly claims the sparkle in the show's embellishments were "sustainably created diamonds" and were sourced from the world's only carbon-neutral diamond producer Diamond Foundry.
ISSEY MIYAKE'S FLYING START
Acrobatic ballerinas in parachute-like gowns twirled on one foot as they were hoisted up by a gravity-defying cable.
Models on electric skateboards whizzed past front row guests.
And a circle of models danced around holding hands like the figures in Henri Matisse's 1910 masterpiece "The Dance."
But the highlight by new designer Satoshi Kondo, one that had guests reaching for their cameras, came as Hula Hoops with stretch-material dresses inside descended from the ceiling above three standing models.
A dress slid into place over each model's head — triggering gasps from spectators.
It was the cue for the models to dance to funky music as the material in their gowns bounced like an accordion or a jack-in-the-box, which evoked the house's iconic 1994 Flying Saucer dress.
This last segment showed off the house's famed prowess with techno fabrics.
Yet, Kondo's color-rich designs as a whole didn't feel as fresh as the presentation, nor did he really seem to move the house in a new direction.
Still, there were many beautiful ideas in the spring silhouettes.
The first looks, a series of baby powder coats, had layers of material that folded around the body like origami. While, later in the collection, diaphanous brightly-colored anoraks billowed as they filed past like the cape of an Asian warrior at battle.
These specific looks encompassed what the program notes poetically described as the essential "sense of joy that is primitive and instinctive" in wearing clothes.
ISSEY MIYAKE'S NEW DESIGNER
Iconic Japanese designer Issey Miyake may have retired from the design helm of the house he founded in 1970, but he continues to exert great influence over the Franco-Japanese maison.
Miyake stepped in to appoint Kondo, the house said in a statement: "Mr. Miyake... has made a point of giving talented young designers within the company the opportunity to develop their skills."
But it's unclear why the designer since 2011, Yoshiyuki Miyamae, was replaced. Perhaps it was due to the lukewarm reception of his collections in recent years that some critics felt had lost their edginess.
In a curt explainer, the house said: "Regarding the change, it was a natural decision that came after the last show."
CELINE HAS CHANGED
Smoldering red column structures set the stage for Hedi Slimane's re-branded vision of Celine in an annex near the gilded Invalides.
It was the rebellious designer's third Celine women's collection to date, in which he continued in his clean break-away from its traditional designs.
Spring continued where fall left off — somewhere in the 70s.
Faded denim flares were a key theme in the pared-down designs that featured retro center partings, silk headscarves in leopard print, boho floral gowns and ruffled tan leather boots.
High necks defined the aesthetic of silk shirts that were accessorized by large fedora hats with razor sharp brims.
Smolder it didn't, but the former Saint Laurent designer served up a saleable collection, in which he put his youth-culture-infused stamp on the 74-year-old house.