Shock Miss USA resignation is just the tip of the iceberg, insiders say


During their year of service, pageant queens are highly visible, making appearances at major events, advocating important causes and speaking at public events, all in an official capacity. But following the shocking dual resignations this week of Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA 2023 Umasofia Srivastava, just days apart, insiders are talking about national titleholders being absent from their normal duties, disarray in their organization and key players. Presenting a picture of. They appear to be unable to express their experiences and concerns.

The Miss USA Organization, which runs both pageants, has come under criticism amid allegations of mismanagement, hostile work environments and conditions, which notably led Voigt to resign on the grounds that her role was affecting her mental health. Was staying.

While Srivastava, 16, who represented New Jersey at Miss Teen USA, released a statement on Instagram saying that her personal values ​​no longer “completely align” with those of the organization, Voigt, 24, who represented Utah at Miss USA Wrote a long but cryptic post citing her mental health. However, soon, it went viral for an apparent hidden message – the first letter of the first 11 sentences read “I have been silenced.” (Voigt has not subsequently addressed this speculation.)

“We respect and support Noelia's decision to step down from her duties,” the Miss USA pageant said in a statement after Voigt's announcement. “The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand that they need to put themselves first at this time.” The organization has not returned CNN's request for further comment.

In response, several current state titleholders competing with Voigt for Miss USA – including Miss North Carolina USA 2023 Jordan Ashley McKee, Miss Wisconsin USA 2023 Alexis Loomans and Miss New York USA, Rachel Di Stasio – took to social media in support. Shared media messages. Voigt asked the organization to “permanently release Noelia from the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract, so that she will be free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA.”

Srivastava and Voigt at an event in New York in February.  His representative Dennis White alleges that he is unable to speak about his experiences.

Dennis White, a PR representative for both Srivastava and Voigt – and 1994 Miss Oregon USA – alleged that both winners were restricted by “ironclad” non-disclosure agreements in their contracts.

To date, neither Voigt or Srivastava have publicly disclosed much about what led them to step down. But 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. In it, he described a “toxic work environment” that was “at best, poor management and, at worst, bullying and harassment.” She accused pageant CEO Laila Rose of “defaming” her character in conversations with people inside and outside the organization, including calling Voigt “mentally ill.” Rose is an entrepreneur and CEO of VIP Pageantry Network, who took over the brand in 2023.

Voigt says Rose's communications with him were “cold and unnecessarily aggressive” and that he never received a formal meeting about his responsibilities. Despite a lack of communication about her role, she was “continuously… threatened with disciplinary action, including having my salary taken away,” according to the document.

In a resignation letter to Miss USA later obtained by CNN, Voigt claimed that the CEO of the Miss USA organization was Laila Rose.

The organization failed to arrange travel accommodations for Voigt on several occasions, she wrote, and did not provide her with an apartment and car for months, as stated in her award package. Nor did she have any “effective handlers”, she claimed, later revealing an instance where Voigt says she was sexually assaulted while alone with an unnamed man in a car during a Christmas parade event in Sarasota, Florida. it was done.

According to Voigt's letter, Rose is “actively creating a culture of fear and control, which is the opposite of women's empowerment, that is…unsafe for future title holders and employees.”

Nor, she wrote, could she express her concerns publicly, saying she “has been contractually silenced from being able to speak for herself.”

According to White, the respective resignations of Voigt and Srivastava were not coordinated.

“What I saw and witnessed is harassment, toxic work environments and bullying,” White said in a telephone interview with CNN. “It is not favorable for a women's organization that uplifts women and is supposed to campaign using your voice. It is quite the opposite.”

She said both pageant winners sought support from the management of Miss Universe, which owns the Miss USA organization, but without success.

“Both the girls always tried to resolve any issue quietly behind the scenes,” he said. “The fact that the Miss Universe Organization hasn't even responded to Noelia's resignation at this point is just obstructionist… no wonder things are falling apart. Because no one knows what to do.”

Rose did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for comment through the Miss Universe Organization and Miss USA.

Voigt and Srivastava pose with Miss USA pageant owner Laila Rose (second from right) during a New York Fashion Week event in February.

Voigt's pageant coach, Thom Brodeur, who has worked with Miss USA contestants since 1991 and began working with Voigt when she was preparing for Miss Utah, took on new and inauspicious territory for the organization under Rose. Insisted. He said, “No woman has ever resigned as Miss USA or Miss Teen USA and lost both in 48 hours.”

The organization was already in turmoil before Voigt and Srivastava stepped down, according to White, Brodeur and former Miss USA social media director Claudia Engelhardt, who also resigned in recent days. Engelhart claimed on Instagram that she had worked without pay for two months after being hired, and that she had witnessed a “deterioration” in Voigt's mental health, and “disrespect” towards Srivastava and her family members. Was.

And according to Engelhart, he wasn't the only member to depart from the Miss USA organization. When she started her role in January, she was already part of a small team of five employees. Now, she says, after several layoffs and resignations, the team relies on Rose and one other employee. Several sources said business has been steady.

“This is not a state competition. This is not a local competition. You need a whole team,'' Engelhardt said in a phone call with CNN.

Voigt and Srivastava posed for a photo with Crystal Stewart, who previously reigned Miss USA, at an event in New York following their double resignation.

Engelhardt said she believed she was applying for a freelance role, and was surprised to learn she was being hired as staff. Yet, she claimed, she received no employee contract, no onboarding and no guidance. There was no one else to help her manage the day-to-day social media needs of the national brand, she said, and she often came up against Rose's overbearing approach to her social accounts.

“She would block Instagram accounts of people with whom she had personal disagreements. She censored comments, and she left comments for the Miss USA page as if she was Noelia,'' Engelhart claimed.

White also alleged that Rose impersonated two pageant winners on her official accounts. A few weeks before Voigt resigned, she announced in a now-deleted Instagram post on her personal account that she “no longer has access” to her Miss USA pages.

Engelhart said she has seen firsthand the impact the role has had on Voigt, whom she considers a friend as well as a former colleague. “(I saw) how stressed she became when the boss constantly bombarded her with emails,” she recalls. “She was living in a constant state of anxiety.”

But despite the day-to-day stresses, Voigt alleged that she made only a few public appearances. She said in her letter that, apart from a few press interviews in Los Angeles after her win and then a few press interviews in Utah, the state she represented at the Miss USA pageant, she has yet to make an appearance outside of Sarasota, Florida. Have to do. ,”Where was she staying? This, he wrote, was due to a “lack of communication” that he found “surprising”.

Engelhardt said, “Our Miss USA, who should have been booked and was busy with endless opportunities, was not doing anything, and it was not because she didn't want to, but because of mismanagement.”

Savannah Gankiewicz, who finished first runner-up as Miss Hawaii at the 2023 Miss USA pageant, will take over as Miss USA following Voigt's resignation.

On May 9, the Miss USA pageant announced that Miss Hawaii USA 2023 and first runner-up Savannah Gankiewicz will take over the national title and its responsibilities to Voigt at the 2023 Miss USA pageant. He will be officially crowned on May 15.

“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 impressive 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 said. “To my fellow Miss USA sisters, I believe it is important for us to unite for the future of the organization and the incoming class of 2024 and beyond.”

However several people have offered their public support for the two resigning pageant winners – including Shanna Moakler, who oversaw Voigt's win in her role as state director for the Miss Utah USA pageant, and Cindy Provost and Debbie Miller, who oversaw Srivastava's victory in her role. As state directors of the Miss New Jersey Teen USA pageant – both Engelhardt and White hope others will step up to reveal more about what they see as a stifling culture, as well as potential legal Influences, too, that keep title holders quiet.

“They need someone else to speak for them,” White said.

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