Miss Kentucky Elle Smith was crowned the new Miss USA on Monday night.
She told Insider that she believes Miss USA needs to be "more inclusive to all body types."
Smith supports the swimsuit competition, which she said "celebrates confidence and a healthy lifestyle."
Miss Kentucky Elle Smith was crowned the new Miss USA on Monday night, earning her spot in the upcoming Miss Universe competition just six months after competing in her first pageant.
Smith spoke with Insider after her win and discussed what she believes should change in the world of pageants.
"At Miss USA, we have been so inclusive to different ethnicities and different races," said Smith, who is now the fifth Black woman to take the Miss USA title in the last six years.
"But more or less, we all look very similar," she added. "And I think, if we want to be representative of women as a whole, then we've got to be more inclusive to all body types. And that transcends across the Miss USA pageant into other pageant systems as well."
Former pageant queens have spoken up in the past about the pressure to stay skinny for competitions
In an op-ed for Elle, Siera Bearchell, who represented Canada at Miss Universe in 2017, discussed the moment she was shamed on social media for her size after appearing in the competition's swimsuit round. Bearchell also revealed she used to eat just a protein bar a day to train for pageants before deciding to embrace her body for the Miss Universe competition.
Paulina Vega, who was crowned Miss Universe in 2014, previously told People that her modeling agency classified her as plus-size when she gained two pounds in the months after winning the competition.
While pageants including Miss America and Miss Teen USA have since eliminated the swimsuit competition, Miss USA and Miss Universe have no current plans to get rid of them.
And Smith said she still "fully supports" that aspect of the pageant.
"The swimsuit competition, to me, just celebrates confidence and a healthy lifestyle," she said. "I put in a lot of work to walk across that stage, and women should be able to celebrate and feel empowered in that moment."
Smith juggled getting ready for the pageant with her full-time job as a journalist
The 23-year-old is a reporter at WHAS, an ABC affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky.
In her Miss USA bio, Smith said that being a journalist in America today is "an honor and a role I take very seriously."
Smith also advocates for cervical cancer awareness and prevention to honor her late grandmother. It's a platform she hopes to take global if she wins Miss Universe.
"Gynecological health is so incredibly uncomfortable, I realize that," she told Insider. "But it's a necessary conversation to have, and I would implore every woman to get a preventative screening because it can help a lot in preventing cervical cancer as a whole."
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