Miss USA’s resignation letter accuses organization of ‘building a culture of fear and control’

Miss USA’s resignation letter accuses organization of ‘building a culture of fear and control’
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Days after announcing she is stepping away from the Miss USA 2023 crown, Noelia Voigt's official resignation letter has surfaced. In it, she accuses the organization of creating a toxic and unbearable work culture.

In the letter, obtained by NBC News on May 9, Voigt accused the pageant’s CEO of failing to take an incident of sexual harassment seriously and creating a toxic work environment.

“There is a toxic work environment within the Miss USA organization that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment,” Voigt, 24, wrote in the letter. “This started soon after winning the title of Miss USA 2023.”

Voigt announced on May 6 in an Instagram post that she is resigning from the coveted title to focus on her mental health.

Voigt shared a lengthy message on social media with the caption, in part, "I realize this may come as a large shock to many. Never compromise your physical and mental well-being."

Noelia Voigt  (Chelsea Lauren / Shutterstock for Miss USA)
Noelia Voigt (Chelsea Lauren / Shutterstock for Miss USA)

In the text photo of her post, Voigt shared, "In life, I strongly value the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health. As individuals, we grow through experiencing different things in life that lead us to learning more about ourselves. My journey as Miss USA has been incredibly meaningful, representing Utah with pride, and later the USA at Miss Universe. Sadly, I have made the very tough decision to resign from the title of Miss USA 2023.

She went on to thank her fans, friends, coaches, former directors and then-Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava. Srivastava would follow in Voigt's footsteps and announce her own resignation on May 8 in a similar Instagram post.

"Lifelong friendships and connections that I had the opportunity to make along the way while attending different events, and competing at state pageants, Miss USA, and Miss Universe are invaluable things I will be forever grateful for," Voigt continued in her post.

Voigt wrote that her favorite part of her experience as Miss USA has been working with Smile Train and being an advocate for causes like anti-bullying, dating violence prevention and immigration rights. She also touched on her impact as the first Venezuelan-American woman to win the title.

Noelia Voigt  (Ryan Hartford / AP)
Noelia Voigt (Ryan Hartford / AP)

"Never could I have imagined the journey that my childhood dream would take me on," she continued in the text photo. "Constant and consistent hard work and dedication all lead me to where I am today, and I hope that over the last seven years of competing in pageantry and sharing my journey with you all is something that inspires you to never give up on your dreams, whatever they may be.

"Eternal gratitude fills my heart when I think about the platform I was given to make a difference, the feeling of achieving a lifelong dream, and connecting with people all over the world, just as I said I would do on the Miss USA stage," Voigt 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."

In the letter obtained by NBC News, Voigt stated that Miss USA CEO and President Laylah Rose often failed to communicate with her and when she did, was “often cold and unnecessarily aggressive.”

In addition to her allegations about Rose, Voigt also outlined an alleged incident of sexual harassment she'd experienced at a Christmas event in Florida while on the job. The former Miss USA said when she told Rose about the incident, the CEO was dismissive.

“We cannot prevent people saying things to you at public appearances, it is, unfortunately, part of the role you’re in as a public figure,” Rose allegedly told Voigt, the letter says.

Representatives for the Miss USA organization did not immediately respond to request for comment from NBC News on Thursday evening.

However, in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday, May 8 — before the letter was made public — Rose told NBC News that “the well-being of all individuals associated with Miss USA is my top priority.”

“All along, my personal goal as the head of this organization 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. I hold myself to these same high standards and I take these allegations seriously,” Rose said.

Voigt was crowned Miss USA in September 2023, making history as the first Venezuelan-American woman to hold the title.

Prior to holding the accolade, Voigt attended the University of Alabama and the National Design Academy UK, where she studied interior design. She is also a licensed esthetician and has authored a children’s book titled “Maddie the Brave.”

Before claiming her Miss USA title, she was crowned Miss Alabama Collegiate in 2020. Following that title, she won first runner-up at Miss Alabama USA for two consecutive years, in 2022 and 2023.

In November 2023, she represented the United States at the Miss Universe 2023 pageant in El Salvador.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com