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The Miss USA controversy, explained – NBC Chicago

In the span of a week, three women who won titles within the Miss USA organization last year have relinquished their crowns.

Noelia Voigt, the 24-year-old former Miss USA 2023, announced her resignation on Instagram on May 6, saying she was choosing to focus on her mental health. Within days, former Miss USA Teen 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava, 17, and former Miss Colorado USA 2023 Arianna Lemus, 26, also both resigned.

Miss Universe Organization owns Miss USA and Miss USA Teen. The organization shared similar messages after Voigt and Srivastava resigned, thanking them for their “service” and saying it “respects and supports” the pageant queen’s decision. The organization has not commented on Lemus’ resignation.

Savannah Gankiewicz, former Miss Hawaii USA and first runner-up in the Miss USA 2023 pageant, succeeded Voigt, but said she stood in solidarity with the original winner. Stephanie Skinner, former Miss Teen New York and Miss USA Teen 2023 finalist, declined the title because she didn’t want to “give up (her) character,” she revealed to People.

Read on to learn more about the series of resignations.

Why do Miss USA pageant winners withdraw?

Voigt, the former Miss Utah 2023, became Miss USA in September 2023, becoming the first Venezuelan American to win the pageant.

Announcing his resignation on Instagram on May 6, Voigt said: “I realize this may come as a great shock to many. Never compromise your physical and mental well-being.

“In life, I highly value the importance of making the decisions that are best for you and your mental health,” she continued. “As individuals, we grow by experiencing different things in life that lead us to learn more about ourselves. My journey as Miss USA was incredibly meaningful, proudly representing Utah, and later the United States at Miss Universe. Unfortunately, I have made the very difficult decision to relinquish the title of Miss USA 2023.”

Fans pointed out that the first letter of every sentence in Voigt’s online statement read “I am silenced.”

In a resignation letter obtained by NBC News on May 9, Voigt said Miss USA Organization CEO and president Laylah Rose failed to take a sexual harassment incident seriously and created a work environment toxic.

“There is a toxic work environment within the Miss USA Organization that, at best, is mismanagement and, at worst, bullying and harassment,” Voigt, 24, wrote in the letter. “It started shortly after she won the Miss USA 2023 title.”

According to NBC News, Voigt said in the letter that Rose was never able to communicate, adding that when she did, the CEO was “often cold and unnecessarily aggressive.”

“It’s incredibly upsetting to try to do my job and be constantly threatened with disciplinary action, including having my pay cut, for things that were never discussed with me and, if it related to a position public for example, did not entail any problem other than that of not responding to personal preferences,” Voigt wrote.

Voigt also detailed in the letter an alleged incident of sexual harassment at an event in Florida, writing that she was left alone in a car with a man who “made several inappropriate statements to me about wanting to enter in relation to me.”

In the letter, Voigt wrote that once Rose was informed of the situation and told him, according to NBC News, “We cannot stop people from saying things to you in public appearances, this unfortunately makes part of your role as a public figure.

Voigt said she has now been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and is experiencing “heart palpitations, full-body tremors, loss of appetite, involuntary weight loss, loss of sleep, hair loss, and more.”

She identified an alleged hypocrisy between the Miss Universe Organization’s external values ​​and its internal reality.

“Every statement you have made about the morality and integrity of the MUO directly contradicts what is happening within the American organization,” the letter said.

When former Miss Teen USA 2023 Srivastava stepped away from the crown, she wrote in an Instagram post that her “personal values ​​no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

She quoted the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and wrote, in part: “This is certainly not how I saw the end of my reign. »

Voigt told People on May 9 that she didn’t know Srivastava was also resigning, calling the move “surprising.”

“I actually didn’t know she was going to do that,” she said, adding that the two were “very close” and that Srivastava was a “very, very strong young woman.”

Lemus, the former Miss Colorado USA 2023, shared on Instagram on May 10, “I stand in solidarity with Noelia and UmaSofia, former Miss USA and Miss Teen USA 2023, as I step down from my role as Miss Colorado USA. The voices of Noelia and UmaSofia have been drowned out by the constraints of a contract that violates their rights and their dignity. These remarkable women are a poignant reminder of the urgent need for reform within the Miss USA Organization.

She captioned the post: “Silencing women is not the definition of pageantry. »

The Miss USA Organization’s former social media director, Claudia Michelle, resigned from her position on May 3, writing on Instagram: “I believe Noelia and Uma’s mental health and happiness have taken a toll and I can’t keep silent about them.”

What did the Miss USA organization say about the resignations?

In a statement to NBC News, Rose said on May 8 that “the well-being of everyone associated with Miss USA is my top priority.”

“My personal goal as the leader of this organization has always been to inspire women to always create new dreams, have the courage to explore everything, and continue to maintain their integrity along the way. I hold myself to the same high standards and take these allegations seriously,” she said.

After Voigt and Srivastava each resigned their respective titles, the Miss USA organization shared nearly identical posts on social media.

“Thank you, Noelia, for your service as Miss USA. We wish you the best in this next chapter,” the organization wrote in part. “We respect and support Noélia’s decision to step down from her role. The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand that she must prioritize herself at this time.

In a similar post, the Miss Teen USA organization wrote a message to Srivastava: “UmaSofia, we wish you all the best. Thank you for your service as Miss Teen USA. We respect and support UmaSofia’s decision to step down from office. The well-being of our title holders is a top priority.

Who now holds the Miss USA crowns?

Savannah Gankiewicz, former Miss Hawaii USA and runner-up in the Miss USA 2023 pageant, shared that she will regain the coveted title in a May 9 Instagram post.

“Please know that my decision to accept the Miss USA crown was not taken lightly. I stand with Noelia and admire her strength to step aside and prioritize her mental health,” she wrote.

Gankiewicz will be crowned Miss USA 2023 during a crowning ceremony on May 15, the pageant announced.

As for Miss USA Teen, 2023 runner-up and current Miss New York Teen Stephanie Skinner told People on May 13 that she was offered the title and turned it down.

“It was an extremely difficult decision to make,” the 19-year-old told the publication. “I worked so hard and sacrificed so much to achieve this goal of becoming Miss Teen USA,” she says, “and while this title was a dream of mine, I believe it is something I I will never give up is my character.”

The Wharton student told the New York Post “she didn’t feel like it was the right decision given all the circumstances” and that she “was supportive and advocating for women’s empowerment “.

The organization has not yet announced who will win the Teen title.

This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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