why did miss usa 2024 resign

why did miss usa 2024 resign
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Following the shocking double resignation of Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava this week, just days apart, insiders are painting a picture of national titleholders kept absent from their usual duties, their organization in disarray, and key players who appear to be unable to voice their experiences – and concerns.

The Miss USA organization, which runs both pageants, has come under fire amid accusations of mismanagement, a hostile work environment, and conditions that led, in particular, to Voigt’s resignation on the grounds that her role was impacting her mental health.

While Srivastava, 16, who represented New Jersey at Miss Teen USA, released a statement on Instagram saying that her personal values “No longer fully align” with those of the organization, Voigt, 24, who represented Utah at Miss USA, wrote a long but cryptic post, citing her mental health.

In response, a number of current state titleholders who competed alongside Voigt for Miss USA – including Miss North Carolina USA 2023 Jordyn Ashlee McKey, Miss Wisconsin USA 2023 Alexis Loomans and Miss New York USA, Rachelle di Stasio – shared social media messages in support of Voigt, asking the organization to “Release Noelia from the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract, in perpetuity, so that she is free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA.” Denise White, a PR representative for both Srivastava and Voigt – and the 1994 Miss Oregon USA – alleged that both winners are restricted by “Ironclad” non-disclosure agreements in their contracts.

In a resignation letter provided to the Miss USA organization and obtained by CNN, Voigt outlined a number of concerns, ranging from frustrating managerial issues to more serious allegations.

The organization failed to arrange travel accommodations for Voigt on multiple occasions, she wrote, and did not provide her with an apartment and car for months, as had been outlined in her prize package.

According to Voigt’s letter, Rose is “Actively building a culture of fear and control, the antithesis of women’s empowerment, that isunsafe for future titleholders and employees.” Nor, she wrote, can she publicly voice her concerns, saying she is “Silenced contractually from being able to speak up for myself.”

why did miss usa 2024 resign
why did miss usa 2024 resign

Things are falling apart

“What I’ve witnessed and seen is harassment, a toxic work environment and bullying,” White said in a telephone interview with CNN. “It’s just not conducive to a women’s organization that uplifts women and is supposed to promote using your voice. It’s quite the opposite.” Both pageant winners sought out support from management at Miss Universe, which owns the Miss USA organization, without success, she added.

Voigt’s pageant coach, Thom Brodeur, who has worked with Miss USA contestants since 1991 and began working with Voigt while she was preparing for Miss Utah, emphasized new and ominous territory for the organization under Rose.

“No woman has ever resigned as Miss USA or as Miss Teen USA, and she’s lost both of them in 48 hours,” he said.

Even before Voigt and Srivastava stepped down, there was turmoil in the organization, according to White, Brodeur and Miss USA’s former social media director, Claudia Engelhardt, who also resigned in recent days.

According to Engelhardt, they were far from the only members of the Miss USA organization to depart.

“She would block Instagram accounts with people that she had personal discrepancies with. She would censor comments, and she would leave comments for the Miss USA page as if she was Noelia,” Engelhardt claimed.

Weeks before Voigt resigned, she announced in a now-deleted Instagram post on her personal account that she “No longer had access” to her Miss USA pages.

An uneasy path forward

She said in her letter that, aside from a handful of press interviews in Los Angeles following her win and subsequent ones in Utah, the state she had represented at the Miss USA pageant, she had “Yet to make an appearance outside of Sarasota, Florida,” where she was living.

“Our Miss USA, who should have been booked and busy endless opportunities was sitting around doing nothing, and it’s not because she didn’t want to, but because of mismanagement,” Engelhardt said.

Savannah Gankiewicz, who as Miss Hawaii placed as first runner-up during the 2023 Miss USA pageant, will take over as Miss USA following Voigt’s resignation.

Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports/Reuters On May 9, the Miss USA pageant announced that Savannah Gankiewicz, Miss Hawaii USA 2023 and first-runner up to Voigt at the 2023 Miss USA pageant, would be taking over the national title and its responsibilities.

“We are proud to crown Savannah Miss USA 2023, A true representation of vision, intelligence, and compassion,” Rose said in a statement.

“Her dedication to empowering women through self-love and confidence is inspiring, and we look forward to her impactful reign as Miss USA. “I fully support and respect Noelia’s decision to step down, and I stand in solidarity with mental health awareness,” Gankiewicz added.

“To my fellow Miss USA sisters, I believe it’s crucial for us to stand united for the future of the organization and the incoming class of 2024 and beyond.” Though many have offered their public support for the two resigned pageant winners – including Shanna Moakler, who oversaw Voigt’s win in her role as the state director for the Miss Utah USA pageant, and Cindy Provost and Debbie Miller, who oversaw Srivastava’s win in their role as state directors for the Miss New Jersey Teen USA pageant – Engelhardt and White both hope that others will step up to reveal more about what they see as a stifling culture, as well as potential legal ramifications, that are keeping the titleholders quiet.

Who are Miss USA and Miss Teen USA?

Voigt became Miss USA in September 2023 after she made history as the first Venezuelan-American woman to win the Miss Utah title.

“It would’ve been very easy for anybody to get first runner up three times and just say, ‘Oh, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.’ But for me, it wasn’t that way,” Voigt told PEOPLE in October 2023.

“I knew I had to keep pushing forward and keep pushing through.” In September, she made her dream come true when she was named Miss USA. “I am honored to be the first Venezuelan-American woman to hold the title of Miss Utah USA, and I am truly looking forward to breaking barriers and bridging the gap between communities by being able to speak Spanish and connect with the large Hispanic population in Utah,” she wrote on Instagram in July 2023.

Her younger counterpart, Srivastava, won the Miss Teen USA title the same day, also making history as the first Mexican-Indian woman and first New Jersey contestant to win the pageant.

“IS THIS REAL??? I am so grateful and honored that I’m the first Mexican-Indian, first New Jersey, your MISS TEEN USA 2023!!!” the high school student wrote on Instagram.

In May 2024, Srivastava told PEOPLE she was heads down in preparing for her AP exams while attending a philanthropic gala.

“It’s AP exam week and tomorrow I have my AP U.S. history exam – I’m like freaking out,” she said.

What have other employees said about the Miss USA organization?

Before either Voigt or Srivastava resigned, former social media director Claudia Michelle announced on Instagram that she would be stepping down from her role.

She claimed that the organization promised her a team to work with when she was hired – which she alleged was not the case when she signed on – and that they did not pay her for the first two months of work.

Michelle noted that “Being offered your dream job and seeing that it was anything but was so disheartening” before adding that since she had not signed any NDAs or contracts, she could speak freely on what she thought was the disrespectful treatment of the titleholders.

“I have had the privilege of getting to work with Noelia closely and have unfortunately seen a decline in her mental health since we first met,” she wrote.

“I feel like her ability to share her story and her platform has been diminished.” She added that she also saw the “Disrespect towards Uma and her family” and how Voigt and Srivastava were “Unable to share about their personal advocacies on social media.” “I don’t believe in taking sides. I believe in telling the truth,” Michelle concluded.

“I believe Noelia and Uma’s mental health and happiness has taken a toll and I cannot remain silent about that.”

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