LINWOOD, N.J., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The annual Miss America pageant is dropping in popularity and TV ratings and participants blame the changing cultural tide in the United States.
Entertainment Weekly online reported the 2009 Miss American pageant only drew 3.5 million viewers, down from the 26.7 million who watched the event in 1991. Actor Mario Lopez, who is hosting this year's pageant Saturday night, blames the atrophy on an abundance of beautiful women in other arenas.
"There are so many things these days, like Maxim, where you can check out beautiful women," said Lopez, referring to the popular men's magazine.
Miss America 2003 Ericka Dunlap said the pageant's declining popularity may be due to reality TV shows that draw away previous viewers.
"They just want to watch entertaining television, so we enter into some trash, like the dating reality shows filled with these girls who are willing to bicker and fight," Dunlap told Entertainment Weekly.
Current Miss America Katie Stam, 23, laments the pageant's low ratings.
"We had the most amazing connection with the pageant. It was such a big deal to us," Stam said of her childhood experiences watching the beauty pageant.