Miss America Preliminary

Second night of preliminary competition of the Miss America Competition, at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Vernon Ogrodnek / For The Press of Atlantic City).

ATLANTIC CITY — On Sunday night, 51 candidates will compete to become Miss America 2019, simultaneously taking on a new mission, breaking from the past and trying to erase memories of a year that’s been marked by controversy.

This isn’t the first time leadership changes and controversy have rocked the organization, and it has come back before. Can it rebound again?

“It’s a complicated issue,” said Vicki Gold Levi, an Atlantic City historian and Miss America judge in the 1990s. “My biggest concern is for the women competing — that they not feel compromised or confused.”

Gold Levi said whether the competition continues comes down to a myriad of factors: TV ratings, state organizations and director support and how the competition adapts to the changes.