Miss Teen USA resigns days after Miss USA steps down. What's going on with the pageants?

From left: Miss USA Assistant National Director Jillian Spano, Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava, Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss USA/Teen USA Assistant National Director & Partnerships Christina Lee in February.
From left: Miss USA Assistant National Director Jillian Spano, Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava, Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss USA/Teen USA Assistant National Director & Partnerships Christina Lee in February. (Chance Yeh/Getty Images)
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Reigning Miss USA Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava both abdicated their posts this week, citing mental health concerns and a conflict of values with the parent organization.

In explaining her decision on Monday, Voigt, who won the Miss USA title in September 2023 and who had planned to participate in the Miss Universe pageant later this year, said in an Instagram post that she “values the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health.”

Then on Wednesday, Srivastava wrote in her own, similarly styled Instagram post that she was prematurely stepping away from her 2023 Miss Teen USA title, saying that her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

The two sudden departures come at a precarious time for the Miss USA organization, whose social media director, Claudia Michelle, announced in yet another Instagram post that she was leaving her role on May 3 due to poor working conditions and what she said was an apparent “decline” in Voigt’s mental health.

Voigt, 24, was the first Venezuelan American woman to win the Miss USA title and the second contestant from Utah to do so.

“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 and never be afraid of what the future holds,” she wrote in her resignation post.

In a comment left on the Instagram post, Voigt’s mother, Jacky, wrote, “As your mother, it has been a huge relief to see my Noelia’s personality restored. … I observed how your personality changed and how your light faded. It broke our hearts.”

Internet sleuths speculated Voigt was trying to say more with her statement, finding that the first letters of the first 11 sentences in her statement spelled, “I AM SILENCED.”

Multiple contestants from Voigt's class posted their own statements on Instagram in response to Voigt stepping down. On Wednesday, Derby Chukwudi, who was Miss New Jersey 2023, wrote that the “majority of the members of the Miss USA class of 2023 supports Noelia Voigt’s decision to resign…. Prioritizing one’s mental health is of the utmost importance, and we all stand behind her.”

Chukwudi also called for the Miss USA organization to “release Noelia from the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract” and “for full transparency for contestants in the class of 2024 and beyond.”

Srivastava, 17, of New Jersey was the first Miss Teen USA winner of mixed Mexican and Indian descent. In her statement announcing her resignation, Srivastava said she would continue her advocacy work on behalf of the Lotus Petal Foundation and the Bridge of Books Foundation. She also added what seemed like thinly veiled criticism of the Miss Teen USA organization when she thanked “those who support me for who I am and have always been, not for who I’ve momentarily become.”

This is the first time in 72 years of the pageants that there isn't a Miss USA or a Miss Teen USA titleholder.

Michelle, the former social media director, said in her resignation post that she had not signed any contracts or nondisclosure agreements and was therefore free to speak about what she experienced. In addition to noting what she described as Voigt’s declining mental health, she said Srivastava and her family had been treated with “disrespect” — although she did not specify by whom — and was critical of the overall culture of the organization.

“I feel the way current management speaks about their titleholders is unprofessional and inappropriate; I disavow workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind,” she wrote. “I believe Noeila and Uma’s mental health and happiness has taken a toll and I cannot remain silent about that.”

This is not the first controversy for the pageants. As recently as 2022, some Miss USA contestants claimed the competition had been rigged to crown R’Bonney Gabriel. After that accusation, the Miss Universe Organization suspended Miss USA President Crystle Stewart pending an internal investigation. Stewart later stepped down in August 2023. Her husband, Max Sebrechts, who served as vice president of Miss USA, was forced to step down in 2022 following allegations that he sexually harassed contestants a year earlier.

In a statement, the organizers of the Miss USA pageant said they respected Voigt’s decision and were planning a “transition of responsibilities to a successor,” although that successor has not yet been named.

“We respect and support former Miss USA Noelia Voigt’s decision to step down from her duties,” the statement read. “The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time.”

Miss Teen USA shared a post in support of Srivastava on Instagram wishing her the best.

“We respect and support UmaSofia’s decision to step down from her duties,” the Instagram post said. The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority. We are currently reviewing plans for the transition of responsibilities to a successor, and we will soon announce the crowning of the new Miss Teen USA.”