Insiders say Miss USA’s resignation is just the tip of the iceberg



CNN

During their year of service, Miss World queens are highly visible, appearing at major events, championing important causes and speaking at public events, all in an official capacity. But yet A shocking double resignation Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA 2023 Uma Sofia Srivastava This week, just days apart, insiders are painting a picture of national titleholders who remain absent from their usual duties, their organization in disarray, and key players who seem unable to… Express their experiences – and interests.

The Miss USA organization, which runs the two pageants, has come under intense criticism 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 affecting her mental health.

While Srivastava, 16, who represented New Jersey in the Miss Teen USA pageant, issued a Statement on Instagram Saying that her personal values ​​were “no longer fully aligned” with those of the organization, Voigt, 24, who represented Utah in the Miss USA pageant, wrote a long but Mysterious function, referring to her mental health. However, an apparent hidden message soon spread widely – the first letter of the first 11 sentences reading “I am silent.” (Voigt did not later address this speculation.)

“We respect and support Noelia’s decision to step down from her duties,” the Miss USA pageant said in a statement following Voigt’s announcement. “The well-being of our title holders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time.” The organization did not respond to CNN’s request for further comment.

In response, a number of current state titleholders who competed alongside Voigt for Miss USA — including Miss North Carolina USA 2023 — Jordyn Ashley MackeyMiss Wisconsin USA 2023 Alexis Lomans Miss New York USA, Rachel Di Stasio – Messages shared on social media in support of Voigt, asking the organization to “release Noelia from the confidentiality clause in her contract, forever, so that she can be free to talk about her experiences and time as Miss USA.”

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Srivastava and Voigt at an event in New York in February. Their representative, Dennis White, claims they are unable to speak publicly about their experiences.

Denise White, a public relations representative for both Srivastava and Voigt – and Miss Oregon USA 1994 – claimed that both winners were bound by “strict” non-disclosure agreements in their contracts.

So far, neither Voigt nor Srivastava has publicly revealed more details about the reasons that prompted them to resign. But in a resignation letter submitted to the Miss USA organization and obtained by CNN, Voigt laid out a number of concerns, ranging from frustrating administrative issues to more serious allegations. In it, she described a “toxic work environment” that was “characterized at best by mismanagement and, at worst, by bullying and harassment.” The pageant’s executive director, Leila Rose, was accused 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, which acquired the brand in 2023.

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Voigt says Rose’s communications with her were “unnecessarily cold and aggressive,” and that she never received a formal meeting about her responsibilities. Despite not being communicated about her role, she was “continuously threatened with disciplinary action, including withdrawing my salary,” according to the document.

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Voigt claims in his subsequent resignation from Miss USA that was obtained by CNN that the CEO of the Miss USA organization, Lily Rose, is “actively building a culture of fear and control.”

She wrote that the organization failed to arrange travel accommodations for Voigt on several occasions, and did not provide her with an apartment and a car for several months, as stated in her award package. She claimed she did not have an “effective therapist,” leading to a situation in which Voigt says she was sexually harassed during a Christmas parade in Sarasota, Florida, while she was alone with an unnamed person in a car.

According to Voigt’s letter, Rose is “actively building a culture of fear and control, which is the antithesis of women’s empowerment, and that is…unsafe for future titleholders and employees.”

She also wrote that she could not voice her concerns publicly, saying she was “contractually silenced from being able to speak for herself.”

According to White, Voigt’s and Srivastava’s resignations were not coordinated.

“What I witnessed and saw was harassment, a toxic work environment and bullying,” White said in a phone interview with CNN. “This is not conducive to creating a women’s organization that uplifts women and is supposed to promote them using your voice. It’s quite the opposite.”

She added that both winners requested support from the Miss Universe administration, which owns the Miss USA organization, to no avail.

“Both young women always tried to solve any problems quietly behind the scenes,” she explained. “The fact that the Miss Universe Organization has not even responded to Noelia’s resignation at this point is just stonewalling… It’s no wonder things are falling apart. Because no one knows what to do.”

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The Miss Universe and Rose Organization, through Miss USA, did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

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Voigt and Srivastava were photographed with Miss USA pageant owner Lily 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 as she was preparing for Miss Utah, emphasized the new and inauspicious territory of the organization under Rose’s leadership. “No woman has ever resigned the title of Miss USA or Miss Teen USA, and she lost both within 48 hours,” he said.

Even before Voigt and Srivastava stepped down, there was turmoil in the organization, according to Claudia Englehart, the former social media director for Miss USA, White and Brodeur, who also resigned in recent days. Englehart claimed She posted on Instagram that she worked without pay for two months after being hired, that she witnessed a “deterioration” in Voigt’s mental health, and witnessed a “disrespect” towards Srivastava and her family members.

According to Engelhardt, they were not the only members of the Miss USA organization to leave. When she started in January, she was part of a small team of five employees. She says now, after several firings and resignations, the team is entrusted to Rose and another employee. Multiple sources said trading volume was flat.

“This is not a state pageant. This is not a local pageant. You need…a full team,” Englehart said in a phone call with CNN.

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Voigt and Srivastava posed for photos with Krystle Stewart, who previously led Miss USA, at a ceremony in New York in the wake of their dual resignations.

Englehart said she thought she was applying for a freelance position, and was surprised to learn she had been hired as an employee. However, she claimed that she received no employee contract, no onboarding and no guidance. She said there was no one else to help her manage the national brand’s day-to-day social media needs, and she often encountered what she coined as Rose’s overbearing approach to her social accounts.

“She was blocking Instagram accounts with people she had personal conflicts with. She was censoring comments, leaving comments for the Miss USA page as if she were Noelia.”

White also alleged that Rose impersonated the contest winners on their official accounts. Weeks before Voigt’s resignation, she announced in a… Now deleted Instagram post On her personal account, she “no longer has access” to her Miss USA pages.

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Englehart said she witnessed first-hand the impact the role had on Voigt, whom she considers a friend and former colleague. “(I saw) how stressed she would feel when the landlord constantly bombarded her with emails,” she recalled. “She was constantly living in a state of anxiety.”

But despite the daily pressures, Voigt claimed she only appeared at a few public events. She said in her letter that, except for a few press interviews in Los Angeles following her win and subsequent interviews in Utah, the state she represented in the Miss USA pageant, she has yet to appear outside of Sarasota, Florida. ‘, where she lived. She wrote that this was due to a ‘lack of communication’ which she found ‘confusing’.

“Miss USA, who should have been booked and busy with endless opportunities, was sitting around doing nothing, not because she didn’t want to, but because of poor management,” Englehart said.

Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports/Reuters

Savannah Jankiewicz, who was named first runner-up in the 2023 Miss USA pageant as Miss Hawaii, will take over as Miss USA following Voigt’s resignation.

On May 9, Miss USA announced that Savannah Jankiewicz, Miss Hawaii USA 2023 and first runner-up to Voigt in Miss USA 2023, would assume the national title and its responsibilities. She 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 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,” Jankiewicz added. “To my fellow Miss USA, I believe it is important for us to stand united for the future of the organization and the next class of 2024 and beyond.”

Although many have offered General support For the two pageant winners who resigned — including Shanna Moakler, who oversaw Voigt’s win in her role as state director of Miss Utah USA, and Cindy Provost and Debbie Miller, who oversaw Srivastava’s win in their role as state directors for Miss New. Miss Jersey Teen USA Pageant Both Englehart and White hope others will come forward to reveal more about what they view as a stifling culture, as well as potential legal ramifications, that keeps the titleholders silent.

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

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