New Miss USA Crowned Amidst Contest Confusion

Following a turbulent two weeks filled with resignations and accusations within the Miss USA organization, Savannah Gankiewicz from Hawaii, who was initially the first runner-up in the 2023 Miss USA pageant, has stepped forward to accept the title of Miss USA. “This decision was not made lightly, but I firmly believe that this opportunity was meant for me. I am ready to make a positive impact with this organization, which I hold dear,” stated the 28-year-old. She was officially crowned by Hawaii Governor Josh Green in a ceremony held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Gankiewicz expressed her commitment to making a difference, leveraging her background as a certified mental health first responder and her training in suicide prevention and anti-bullying. “I understand the importance of prioritizing well-being and advocating for those in need. I believe real change starts from within, and I am determined to lead by example to empower the class of 2024 and beyond,” she remarked during her speech at a Waikiki hotel, with a quaint aquarium as the backdrop.

She took over the title from Noelia Voigt, who unexpectedly resigned earlier this month due to mental health concerns. Voigt also accused the CEO, Laylah Rose, of fostering a culture of fear and control within the organization. Among her claims, Voigt highlighted the lack of provided accommodation for travel and an inadequate “controller,” recounting an incident where she was sexually harassed at a Christmas parade in Sarasota, Florida, while alone with an unidentified individual in a vehicle. The Miss Universe organization and Rose, via Miss USA, have not commented on these allegations.

Just days after Voigt’s resignation, Miss Teen USA 2023, Uma Sofia Srivastava, also stepped down, stating that her values no longer aligned with those of the organization. In her first public statement since the controversy, Rose did not address the allegations but welcomed Gankiewicz to the Miss USA family, encouraging her to “embrace this moment of influence and let your words carry the power of positive change.” She also thanked corporate partners and sponsors for their unwavering support. Rose announced that the Miss Teen USA and Miss USA pageants for this year would be hosted in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CW network.

Following these allegations, CW, which had previously secured a multi-year deal to air the pageants, is reportedly “evaluating” its relationship with the Miss USA organization, though the network has not yet responded to inquiries for comment.

Currently, the Miss Teen USA title remains vacant as the first runner-up for 2023, New Yorker Stephanie Skinner, has declined the crown publicly on Instagram. Recently, the mothers of Voigt and Srivastava spoke on “Good Morning America” about their daughters, who were restricted by non-disclosure agreements in their contracts from discussing their experiences, describing their dream job as turning into a nightmare. They recounted how their daughters experienced mistreatment, abuse, intimidation, and cornering during their reign.

Despite numerous requests for comments, the Miss USA and Miss Universe organizations have remained silent on the matter. This week, Miss Colorado USA, Arianna Lemus, also resigned her title, stating, “My values have been compromised. Silencing women is not the definition of a pageant.” She expressed solidarity with Voigt but felt that wasn’t enough, prompting her resignation.

Gankiewicz will hold the Miss USA title for just a few months this summer until a new contestant from the 2024 class of state titleholders is crowned in August at the next Miss USA pageant. On Instagram, she acknowledged the short duration of her reign and shared her intention to use her platform to help rebuild Lahaina on her home island of Maui and to support the 2024 delegates as they transition into a new era for Miss USA. Lemus called for urgent action to protect future candidates from restrictive contracts, while Voigt’s mother, Jackeline Voigt, advised potential contestants to reconsider competing under the current circumstances. “Look at what happened to Noelia and UmaSofia. Now is not the right time to participate,” she asserted.

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