Pageant scandal: Why did Miss USA & Miss Teen USA both abruptly quit?

Why did Miss USA and Miss Teen USA both abruptly quit? Pictured here: Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava and Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt
Why did Miss USA and Miss Teen USA both abruptly quit? Pictured here: Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava and Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt Copyright Getty Images for Supermodels Unlimited - Canva
Copyright Getty Images for Supermodels Unlimited - Canva
By David Mouriquand
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This week, both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA suddenly gave up their titles, leading to much speculation. Here’s why there’s mounting pressure on both orgnizations for more transparency.


Pageantry and controversy often go hand in hand, but this week has been a particularly turbulent one over in the US, as both the reigning Miss USA and Miss Teen USA have relinquished their crowns.

Their sudden resignations have caused much speculation about the state of the Miss USA Organization.

Here’s the lowdown.

On 6 May, Noelia Voigt announced that she was hanging up her crown and shash as Miss USA, saying she had to do what was best for her mental health.

Voigt won the Miss USA title last September aged 24, and becomes the first title holder in the pageant’s 72-year history to voluntarily step down.

She praised her "darling beloved Miss Teen USA UmaSofia," and added: "Deep down I know that this is just the beginning of a new chapter for me, and my hope is that I continue to inspire others to remain steadfast, prioritize your mental health, advocate for yourself and others by using your voice, and never be afraid of what the future holds, even if it feels uncertain," Voigt wrote.

Noelia Voigt's statement
Noelia Voigt's statementInstagram

Then, only two days later, UmaSofia Srivastava, the current Miss Teen USA, who was crowned in September aged 17, wrote on Instagram that she would also resign from the role, stating that her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

She opened her resignation statement with a Friedrich Nietzsche quote: "There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth."

She went on to say: "I will always look back on my time as Miss NJ Teen USA fondly, and the experience of representing my state as a first generation, Mexican-Indian American at the national level was fulfilling in itself. After careful consideration, I've decided to resign as I find that my personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization."

UmaSofia Srivastava's statement
UmaSofia Srivastava's statementInstagram

After both abruptly abandoned their titles, both the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Instagram accounts posted statements acknowledging both resignations and wishing them the best in “this next chapter."

"We respect and support Noelia’s decision to step down from her duties,” said the statement from Miss USA. “The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time. We are currently reviewing plans for the transition of responsibilities to a successor, and we will soon announce the crowning of the new Miss USA."

Miss USA's statement
Miss USA's statementInstagram

The Miss Teen USA account used pretty much identical language, which has fuelled further speculation and rumours of shady scandals.

Were the shock resignations strategically timed?

Does that surprising quote from the German philosopher refer to a dark underbelly?

Is Voigt’s statement actually a coded cry for help, as the first letters of her sentences clearly spell out: “I AM SILENCED”?

And does the fact that Miss USA's social media director resigned days before Voigt and Srivastava have anything to do with the sudden abdications?

Indeed, Claudia Michelle also resigned, on 3 May, writing in an Instagram post that she, Voigt and Srivastava had been mistreated by the Miss USA Organization.

Michelle wrote that she had worked without pay for two months and experienced "workplace toxicity." She also said she was able to share that information because she had not signed an NDA.


"This is a women's empowerment organization and my hope in making this statement is to restore some of the empowerment back to these titleholders that was so deeply lost in their year," Michelle stated.

"I've first hand seen Noelia and Uma be unable to share about their personal advocacies on social media and be threatened by 'social media rules and guidelines' that I still have yet to see," Michelle added. "I feel the way current management speaks about their titleholders is unprofessional and inappropriate; I disavow workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind."

The organization told USA Today in a statement that it is "troubled to hear the false accusations made by a former Miss USA employee."

"Miss USA is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment, and we take these allegations seriously," it said. "Indeed, we have and will continue to prioritize the well-being of all individuals involved with Miss USA.”

Mounting public scrutiny towards Miss USA is far from new.


These departures are the latest in a long line of controversies at the organization.

In 2022, the 2019 Miss USA winner, Cheslie Kryst, died by suicide. Soon after, R'Bonney Gabriel was crowned Miss USA, but other contestants accused organizers of rigging the competition in her favour.

An investigation was opened, and Miss USA's national director, Crystle Stewart, was suspended. Not long after that, Stewart's husband, Max Sebrechts, resigned as Miss USA vice president after multiple 2021 contestants accused him of sexual harassment.

After the news of Voigt's resignation, several of her fellow 2023 Miss USA class issued a joint statement supporting her decision.

The post urged that the organization "release Noelia from the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract, in perpetuity, so that she is free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA."


It added: "Our goal is to give Noelia her voice back. We are asking for full transparency for contestants in the class of 2024 and beyond."

Whether or not these mounting calls to pressure the pageant organization for more transparency with regards to work practices and possible toxic workplace conditions will bear fruit remains to be seen. 

However, these two broken crowns are certainly a strong signal that change is needed. And without that action or transparency, an already tarnished legacy might be corroded further - leading to legitimise Nietzsche when he wrote: “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”

Additional sources • USA Today, Business Insider

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