Miss USA resignation scandal pulls back curtain on pageant industry struggles

The sudden resignations of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA have sparked a new wave of scrutiny of the pageants’ owner, the Miss Universe Organization, as it continues to navigate what some close to the pageants see as an uncertain future.

Beauty pageants, whose history in the United States dates back to the 19th century, have struggled in recent decades to maintain relevance as cultural norms have changed. The Miss America pageant, the Miss Universe Organization’s main rival, has also had to find a way to counter declining television ratings and its own leadership scandal.

Years of leadership turmoil and upheaval within the Miss Universe Organization, whose owners are based in the United States and Thailand, preceded the current controversy. In 2023, after Miss Universe owner JKN Global Group filed for bankruptcy, its longtime president resigned. His replacement then resigned in February. In 2020, the Miss Universe Organization handed the reins of the Miss USA pageant to a former titleholder, Crystle Stewart. After allegations of favoritism upended the 2022 competition, fashion designer Laylah Rose replaced Stewart.

And before that, in 2015, NBCUniversal ended its relationship with the pageants after then-Miss Universe owner and presidential candidate Donald Trump accused Mexico of sending criminals and rapists to the other side of the border. NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

Now UmaSofia Srivastava’s resignation as Miss Teen USA, coming just two days after Noelia Voigt’s resignation as Miss USA, has brought new attention to Rose, another blow to a struggling organization .

“I feel like they’re already on shaky ground,” said Dani Walker, a former Miss Montana who competed at Miss USA. “We’re in an age filled with influencers and reality TV stars and we have Hollywood, we literally have the biggest stars in the world. This is why pageantry in the United States struggles to stay relevant. »

Walker, who first chronicled his pageant journey on YouTube and has since begun covering news and providing commentary on the pageant industry for more than 130,000 subscribers, has also documented the recent fallout within the organization. She said American pageantry has also undergone a major cultural shift over the past decade, with the competition evolving from judging primarily physical beauty to including public speaking skills and an emphasis on diversity and advocacy. She noted the recent success of many former Miss USA contestants who have gone on to pursue careers in entertainment and business.

One of the factors underlying the crisis appears to be financial. Claudia Michelle, Miss USA’s former social media manager, said in her resignation statement that she hasn’t been paid in two months. In an interview with NBC News, Michelle said a Miss USA employee told her when she was hired in January that “this organization had no money” and couldn’t pay her.

“I wasn’t really an employee. No contracts were signed, there was no onboarding, there were no salaries or benefits,” Michelle said. “It’s a testament to how much I love this brand that I was willing to take on this on a pro bono basis.”

“It is the leading beauty pageant organization in our country,” Michelle added. “There are few girls and many girls have already withdrawn from this competition because of this news.”

Other resignations also reflect difficulties within the organization.

NBC News obtained a copy of Voigt’s resignation letter, in which she outlined the cultural challenges facing the organization. In the letter, Voigt also accused Rose, CEO and president of Miss USA, of unprofessional and toxic conduct that she said included failing to fulfill contractual obligations, bullying Voigt and lying about Voigt to d other people within Miss USA. Rose, who succeeds Miss USA in 2022, did not respond to a request for comment.

“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that pageants are struggling to stay relevant,” Voigt wrote in his resignation letter. “People come to me and others who know me and say they are nervous about competing with the American system because they see the mess that is happening, they see the devaluation of the brand and they prefer to invest their time and money in more stable organizations with stronger partnerships.

Shanna Moakler, Miss USA 1995 and former reality TV star who is now state director at the Miss USA Organization, posted on Instagram her support for Voigt and about the organization’s troubles.

“I can’t speak for all state directors, but I feel confident speaking for the majority; we do not sit in silence; we are doing our best behind the scenes to secure the future of an organization we love dearly,” Moakler wrote.

In light of the current controversies, Walker encouraged her supporters in the pageant community to not compete in Miss USA. It was “heartbreaking” advice to give, inspired in part by what Walker called increasingly restrictive nondisclosure agreements that Miss USA titleholders must sign. When Voigt resigned, the first letter of every sentence in her public statement read “I am silenced.”

“I care about the young women that I work with and I wanted to warn them and warn them a little bit about what they’re getting into,” Walker said. “I don’t think the Laylah Rose era in its current state is sustainable.”

Gn entert
News Source : www.nbcnews.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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