Miss USA Pageant Resignations Spark Organization’s Latest Controversy

Miss USA Pageant Resignations Spark Organization’s Latest Controversy


The reigning Miss USA handed back her crown earlier this week (with Miss Teen USA quickly following suit), accusing the pageant organization’s chief executive of creating a toxic workplace in a newly reported resignation letter.

The organization’s social media director resigned noting she opposed “workplace toxicity and … [+] bullying of any kind”

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Key Facts

Noelia Voigt—crowned Miss USA in September—announced her resignation on Instagram Monday, saying she “strongly [valued] the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health.”

Voigt’s resignation drew speculation from Instagram users, who suggested Voigt’s statement revealed a hidden message about a non-disclosure agreement because the first letters of the first 11 sentences spell out “I am silenced.”

In her resignation later to the pageant—obtained by NBC News Thursday—Voigt alleges a toxic workplace within the Miss USA Organization that “at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment,” adding Miss USA CEO and president Laylah Rose was “often cold and unnecessarily aggressive” toward her while “constantly” threatening to withhold her salary.

After Voigt notified the pageant about an alleged incident of sexual harassment, Rose told Voigt the Miss USA Organization could not “prevent people saying things to you at public appearances,” adding it was “part of the role you’re in as a public figure,” Voigt claims in the letter.

Several Miss USA contestants from last year’s competition issued a joint statement on social media, saying a “majority” of competitors supported Voigt’s decision to resign while calling on the Miss USA Organization to release Voigt from the “confidentiality NDA clause of her contract” so she would be “free to speak on her experiences and time” in the role.

UmaSofia Srivastava, who was named Miss Teen USA in November, wrote on Instagram Wednesday she would resign from the role “months after grappling with the decision,” noting she found her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization,” though she did not elaborate.

The Miss USA Organization responded to Voigt and Srivastava’s resignations with the same statement, saying the “well-being of our titleholders is a top priority” while adding it is “reviewing plans for the transition of responsibilities to a successor” for both roles.

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Surprising Fact

Claudia Engelhardt, the Miss USA Organization’s social media director, announced her resignation Saturday while saying she “[disavows]

workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind.” Engelhardt told USA Today Srivastava and Voigt stepped down in a “direct response to the current ownership and current management of the Miss USA brand,” whom she said were “responsible” for their mental health decline. She said both Voigt and Srivastava signed contracts preventing them from speaking about their experiences in order to compete in their respective pageants. Rose would “constantly weaponize” Voigt’s contract and threatened to withhold her salary if she violated it, Engelhardt alleges.

Crucial Quote

Rose told USA Today Wednesday her goal “has been to inspire women to always create new dreams, have the courage to explore it all and continue to preserve integrity along the way,” adding, “I hold myself to these same high standards and I take these allegations seriously.” Rose said the “well-being of all individuals associated with Miss USA is my top priority.”

Key Background

The resignations are the latest controversy for the Miss USA Organization over the last decade. In 2022, several contestants alleged the organization gave R’Bonney Gabriel—the first Filipino American to win the title—preferential treatment during the competition. The Miss Universe Organization suspended Miss USA president Crystle Stewart after launching an investigation into the claims, though they later found the allegations were false. Sheena Monnin, 2012 Miss Pennsylvania, resigned from her role after alleging the 2012 Miss USA pageant was rigged in favor of Olivia Culpo. Monnin was later ordered to pay the pageant $5 million for defamation after Miss USA denied the competition was rigged.


Miss America, another nationwide pageant, has also faced controversy. In 2017, several top executives—including CEO Sam Haskell and COO Josh Randle, among others–-resigned after a series of internal emails circulated online. Emails among executives and employees used vulgar and offensive language to describe contestants, including one email that called 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan “fat and gross.”

Further Reading

Miss USA Contestants Call For ‘Full Transparency’ From Pageant Amid Noelia Voigt’s Departure (USA Today)

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