Madison Marsh got engaged a week after she was crowned the new Miss America.
Marsh told BI that "a lot of outdated rules have gone away" since Miss America got a new CEO.
The pageant previously had strict "anti-boyfriend" policies.
Boyfriends and fiancés no longer have to be kept secret if you're Miss America.
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 docuseries "Secrets of Miss America." But Marsh told Business Insider 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 "There are a lot of outdated rules that have gone away, one being that you can't be engaged and be Miss America."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 got engaged. She said 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 said. "I'm just as proud being a fiancée as I am being Miss America."
Walker Morris, Marsh's fiancé, got down on one knee at the Boston Opera House. Marsh called it "the easiest yes" in the caption of her Instagram post.
"Walker never fails to put a smile on my face on the scariest and hardest days. There has never been a doubt in my mind when it came to him," she wrote in the caption. "Through every moment of uncertainty and hardship, Walker was my constant. A match made in the stars."
Marsh told BI that her engagement photo was reposted to Miss America's social media pages, which she felt was a big moment for the pageant.
"I think a lot of women were really excited because this means that, in the Miss America Organization, you don't have to hide your significant other anymore," she said. "This should be a celebrated part of our life. Because it is life, and it's something that's beautiful, so we were all super excited."
In "Secrets of Miss America," past winners Mallory Hagan, Savvy Shields Wolfe, and Betty Maxwell described the "anti-boyfriend" policies that were enacted by former CEO Sam Haskell, who resigned in 2017 after vulgar internal emails he wrote about past Miss America winners were leaked to the press.
Hagan, who won in 2013, said men were never allowed in her hotel room, even if it was her father.
Wolfe, who took the crown in 2018, said she couldn't share 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 added.
"They're very, very, very anti-boyfriend because they want you to look like you're America's sweetheart," said Maxwell, who won in 2018. "They're trying to be feminist and 'Me Too' and all these things, and at the same time, they're not thinking every young 20-something is dating someone? Come on."
Married women and mothers are now allowed to compete at Miss USA but are still unable to participate in Miss America. Past winners, including Grace Stanke and Camille Schrier, have supported the stance, while Marsh declined to comment. The Miss America Organization did not respond to a request for comment on the marriage rule.
Marsh's Miss America reign is just getting started. She made history as the first active-duty Air Force officer to compete in the pageant, and she'll continue to serve full-time during her reign. Marsh will also continue her work with the Whitney Marsh Foundation, which she founded after her mother died of pancreatic cancer in 2018.
Once Marsh has some free time in her schedule, she'll also get 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 laugh. "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'll be excited. Obviously, I love dress shopping," she added. "I've been doing it for the past five years of competing, so I'm super excited to find my style."
Read the original article on Business Insider