NFL heiress and pageant queen Gracie Hunt defends swimsuit competition

An NFL heiress and beauty queen has spoken out to defend pageants’ controversial swimsuit competitions, insisting that they actually help ’empower’ women while ‘reinforcing’ the importance of ‘health and fitness’. 

Gracie Hunt, 22, who is the daughter of billionaire Kansas City Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, 56, and granddaughter of the team’s late founder Lamar Hunt, shared a lengthy rant about the taboo topic on her Instagram account this week – days after she was crowned as the winner of the Miss Kansas USA pageant. 

Sharing a video of herself competing in the swimsuit portion of the pageant – which is now known as the ‘fitness competition’ – Gracie hit back at claims that the contest ‘degrades’ or ‘diminishes’ women, insisting that taking part in the competition was ‘one of the most empowering things she has ever done’. 

Gracie also suggested that the swimsuit competition is an essential element of the pageant, because it encourages the women taking part to focus on their ‘health and fitness’, which she insists has never been more important given the ‘obesity crisis looming large over America’. 

Proud: NFL heiress-turned-pageant queen Gracie Hunt has spoken out to defend the controversial swimsuit competition, after being crowned Miss Kansas USA on Sunday

Proud: NFL heiress-turned-pageant queen Gracie Hunt has spoken out to defend the controversial swimsuit competition, after being crowned Miss Kansas USA on Sunday

Proud: NFL heiress-turned-pageant queen Gracie Hunt has spoken out to defend the controversial swimsuit competition, after being crowned Miss Kansas USA on Sunday 

Taking a stand: Gracie, 22, who is the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, 56, posted a lengthy rant about the swimsuit competition on her Instagram this week

Taking a stand: Gracie, 22, who is the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, 56, posted a lengthy rant about the swimsuit competition on her Instagram this week

Taking a stand: Gracie, 22, who is the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, 56, posted a lengthy rant about the swimsuit competition on her Instagram this week

Taking a stand: Gracie, 22, who is the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, 56, posted a lengthy rant about the swimsuit competition on her Instagram this week

Taking a stand: Gracie, 22, who is the daughter of Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt, 56, posted a lengthy rant about the swimsuit competition on her Instagram this week 

Important: Gracie hit back at claims that the contest 'degrades' women, insisting that taking part in the competition was 'one of the most empowering things she has ever done'

Important: Gracie hit back at claims that the contest 'degrades' women, insisting that taking part in the competition was 'one of the most empowering things she has ever done'

Important: Gracie hit back at claims that the contest ‘degrades’ women, insisting that taking part in the competition was ‘one of the most empowering things she has ever done’

‘Health and fitness are more relevant today than ever before, as an obesity crisis looms large over America,’ she wrote alongside a clip of herself strutting down a catwalk in a skimpy blue bikini. 

‘An athlete my entire life, it took pageantry to teach me sustainable, real life health habits. Competing in fitness is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever chosen to do. Preparing for swimsuit competition helped me not only to look good, but to feel good.’ 

She insisted that she has never felt ‘degraded’ or ‘diminished’ while taking part in the swimsuit competition, claiming that it actually helps to promote a ‘hard work ethic’ and teach ‘life lessons’ about living a healthy lifestyle. 

‘Swimsuit modeling or showing my work in the pursuit of health and fitness does not in any way diminish my worth as a woman,’ she said. 

‘It does not abate my true strength, lessen my credibility, or degrade any other area of my life. In fact it reinforces the notion that pageantry develops a hard work ethic in all areas of competition and life lessons about living healthy inside and out.’

Gracie, who regularly documents her fitness routines and vegan diet tips on social media, also went on to list the many benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle, writing: ‘Exercise and healthful eating reduce stress, increase heart health as well as overall happiness and wellness.’ 

The pageant queen often flaunts her very toned figure in images shared with her 114,000 followers, however she insisted that the swimsuit competition is not about discriminating against certain body types, or only celebrating women of a certain size. 

Message: Gracie suggested that the swimsuit competition is an essential element of the pageant, because it encourages the women taking part to focus on their 'health and fitness'

Message: Gracie suggested that the swimsuit competition is an essential element of the pageant, because it encourages the women taking part to focus on their 'health and fitness'

Message: Gracie suggested that the swimsuit competition is an essential element of the pageant, because it encourages the women taking part to focus on their ‘health and fitness’

Victory: The health and fitness fanatic (seen center) claimed victory in the Miss Kansas USA pageant, and will now go on to compete in Miss USA 2021

Victory: The health and fitness fanatic (seen center) claimed victory in the Miss Kansas USA pageant, and will now go on to compete in Miss USA 2021

Victory: The health and fitness fanatic (seen center) claimed victory in the Miss Kansas USA pageant, and will now go on to compete in Miss USA 2021

Family: Gracie, who is pictured with her dad Clark, mother Tavia, and her brother and sister, said she is incredibly 'honored' to have won the pageant

Family: Gracie, who is pictured with her dad Clark, mother Tavia, and her brother and sister, said she is incredibly 'honored' to have won the pageant

Family: Gracie, who is pictured with her dad Clark, mother Tavia, and her brother and sister, said she is incredibly ‘honored’ to have won the pageant

‘I want all women to feel empowered and strong, so that we may fulfill our potential and become the best versions of ourselves,’ she continued. 

‘We are all different. There is no “one size fits all,” but there is confidence in knowing that you are better today than you were yesterday. Work towards health and strength, it is empowering and confidence building.’ 

Pageant swimsuit competitions have long been a very taboo topic – and there are many critics who feel that they should be banned altogether. 

In 2018, Miss America chairwoman Gretchen Carlson announced that it had scrapped the swimsuit competition, while insisting that contestants would no longer be judged on their physical appearance, but rather who they are ‘as people’.  

‘We’ve heard from a lot of young woman who say, “We’d love to be a part of your program but we don’t want to be out there in high heels and a swimsuit”‘, Carlson said at the time. 

‘So guess what, you don’t have to do that anymore.’ 

However, many other pageants – including Miss USA, which Gracie will compete in later this year, and Miss Universe – continue to promote the swimsuit contest as a key part of their programs. 

Active: Gracie insisted that promoting health and fitness has never been more important given the 'obesity crisis looming large over America'

Active: Gracie insisted that promoting health and fitness has never been more important given the 'obesity crisis looming large over America'

Active: Gracie insisted that promoting health and fitness has never been more important given the ‘obesity crisis looming large over America’

Heritage: The NFL heiress works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, which was founded by her late grandfather, Lamar Hunt

Heritage: The NFL heiress works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, which was founded by her late grandfather, Lamar Hunt

Heritage: The NFL heiress works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, which was founded by her late grandfather, Lamar Hunt

Heritage: The NFL heiress works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, which was founded by her late grandfather, Lamar Hunt

Heritage: The NFL heiress works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, which was founded by her late grandfather, Lamar Hunt 

Get ready: This year's Miss USA competition is due to take place on May 16, and will see Gracie (seen with her dad) going up against winners from 49 other states and the District of Columbia

Get ready: This year's Miss USA competition is due to take place on May 16, and will see Gracie (seen with her dad) going up against winners from 49 other states and the District of Columbia

Get ready: This year’s Miss USA competition is due to take place on May 16, and will see Gracie (seen with her dad) going up against winners from 49 other states and the District of Columbia

Gracie, who works in marketing and development for the Kansas City Chiefs, is not the only Miss USA competitor to speak out in defense of the swimsuit competition. 

In November 2020, former Miss USA winner Cheslie Kryst, revealed that the swimsuit contest has always been her favorite part of the pageant competition, explaining that she has always been ‘proud’ to show off the athletic figure she worked so hard to achieve. 

‘For me, swimsuit is exciting,’ she told Insider. ‘I want to show you I worked hard for these abs, I worked hard for these thighs and calf muscles. And I want you to know that I’m proud of my body.’

This year’s Miss USA competition is due to take place on May 16, and will see Gracie going head to head with winners from 49 other states and the District of Columbia. 

Speaking about her victory in the Miss Kansas USA pageant, Gracie spoke of her ‘pride’ at winning the crown, writing: ‘OH MY GOODNESS! Dreams do come true! 

‘I cannot put into words how honored I am to join the VANBROS [producers of the Miss USA state pageants] family and Miss Kansas USA legacy and represent the amazing state of Kansas! 

‘Thank you to everyone who believed in me and to God for making my prayers a reality. I hope to make everyone proud through the next part of my journey. And so the adventure begins…’

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