Miss USA's resignation letter accuses the organization of toxic work culture

The Miss USA who gave up her crown and title this week accused the pageant’s CEO of failing to take an incident of sexual harassment seriously and creating a toxic work environment, according to a copy of her resignation letter obtained Thursday by NBC News.

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

Voigt announced Monday on Instagram that she was relinquishing her crown, citing her mental health. Two days later, Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, 17, announced she was also stepping down in a statement that said her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

Fans who were shocked by the unprecedented resignations noticed that the first letter in every sentence of Voigt’s online statement spelled out “I am silenced.”

UmaSofia Srivastava and Noelia Voigt, (Craig Barritt / Getty Images file)
UmaSofia Srivastava and Noelia Voigt, (Craig Barritt / Getty Images file)

In her resignation letter, Voigt said that Miss USA CEO and President Laylah Rose consistently failed to communicate and that when she did, she was “often cold and unnecessarily aggressive.”

“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,” Voigt wrote.

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

Rose said in a statement Wednesday 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,” she said.

Voigt included in her letter details about an alleged incident of sexual harassment at a Christmas event in Florida. She wrote that she was left alone in a car with a man who “made several inappropriate statements to me about his desire to enter into a relationship with me.”

Voigt said that when Rose was made aware of the situation, she told Voigt, “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 is also accused in the letter of badmouthing Voigt to others in the organization and painting her as “uninterested” in her job.

“I have heard that comments have ranged from her describing me as difficult to work with for various untrue reasons, to weaponizing my mental health struggles brought on by my experience as Miss USA 2023, calling me ‘mentally ill’ in a derogatory way, to expressing that she hoped I would get hit in the face by a baseball at an event where I would throw out the first pitch at a baseball game,” Voigt wrote in her letter.

Despite the environment, Voigt said, she was committed to the Miss USA brand, but her mental and physical health continued to erode.

“I am now diagnosed with Anxiety and have to take two medications daily to manage the symptoms due to consistently being on edge, worrying about what Laylah will pop up with and choose to harass me about daily,” the letter said.

She wrote that she had flare-ups of a pre-existing condition that is worsened by stress and that she is experiencing “heart palpitations, full body shakes, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, loss of sleep, loss of hair, and more.”

Voigt cited a toxic work environment at Miss USA that she said is unsafe for future Miss Universe Organization title holders.

“Every statement you have ever put out about MUO’s morals and integrity directly contradicts what is happening within the USA organization,” the letter said.

Claudia Michelle, a former social media manager who said she submitted her resignation last week, echoed similar sentiments about Miss USA management in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.

“Leaders in women’s empowerment organizations need to be held accountable,” Michelle said. “How do you not take the mental health of the face of your brand seriously?”

Michelle said she was aware that Voigt had raised concerns over her safety and traveling alone and that she began to travel more with Miss USA in March and April.

Michelle said that Rose was inconsistent with her communication and that the organization’s management was unprofessional.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com