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Miss USA Noelia Voigt’s resignation letter accuses toxic culture built on fear

The New York Daily News - 5/10/2024

The other (high-heeled) shoe has dropped now that former Miss USA Noelia Voigt’s resignation letter has become public — and it’s nothing pretty.

The Venezuelan-American beauty, who announced she was relinquishing her crown on Monday, accused bosses at the Miss USA organization of “actively building a culture of fear and control.”

“There is a toxic work environment within the Miss USA organization that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment,” she wrote in her detailed exit correspondence. “This started soon after winning the title of Miss USA 2023.”

Voigt called out Miss USA CEO and President Laylah Rose for being unsupportive and “often cold and unnecessarily aggressive” during their interactions — and specifically mentioned social media activity.

“It’s incredibly jarring to be trying to do my job and constantly be threatened with disciplinary action, including taking away my salary, for things that were never discussed with me and, if it related to a public-facing post for example, were causing no issue other than not meeting her personal preference,” she wrote.

Voigt also said the organization “neglected its responsibility to provide a chaperone and/or traveling companion” at events she attended as Miss USA. This led her to feel unsafe and, in one instance, “culminated in being sexually harassed at the 2023 Sarasota Christmas Parade,” she claimed.

Voigt, who was awarded the title on Sept. 29, 2023, cited her mental health when she gave up the crown earlier this week. She said her experience as Miss USA took a toll on her physical and mental well-being, and ultimately led her to being diagnosed with anxiety.

Social media sleuths later deciphered the first letter of every sentence of Voigt’s online statement to spell out the words “I am silenced.”

The Miss USA organization — currently owned by Thai transgender entrepreneur Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip — swiftly responded to the surprising defection in a statement on social media, saying in part: “The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time.”

But Voigt wasn’t the only beauty jumping ship from the controversial pageant that Donald Trump owned before becoming U.S. president.

Two days later, 17-year-old Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava announced she was also stepping down in a statement that said her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

Even someone from inside the organization made an exit, citing similar circumstances.

Miss USA’s social media director, Claudia Engelhardt, announced her resignation Saturday on Instagram while saying she “[disavows] workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind.”

Savannah Gankiewicz, Miss Hawaii USA and the first runner-up in the 2023 Miss USA competition, was named as Voigt’s replacement on Thursday.

“I fully support and respect Noelia’s decision to step down, and I stand in solidarity with mental health awareness,” Savannah said in a joint statement with Miss USA.

The 73rd Miss USA pageant is scheduled to take place Aug. 4.

©2024 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.