Newly crowned Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz battles death threats, bullying amid pageant controversy and resignations - Hindustan Times
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Newly crowned Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz battles death threats, bullying amid pageant controversy and resignations

May 27, 2024 06:56 AM IST

Savannah Gankiewicz addresses being subjected to harassment since she was crowned the Miss USA following Noelia Voigt's resignation.

In the wake of multiple resignations, the Miss USA Organization crowned its successor, Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz, in Hawaii on May 15. The current crown-holder said in a speech that she received death threats and was subjected to bullying since she acquired the title, post her predecessor Noelia Voigt's departure.

In this image provided by the Office of Governor Josh Green, Miss USA 2023 Savannah Gankiewicz poses for a photo after being crowned on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Honolulu. As the first runner-up, Gankiewicz was announced as the replacement for former Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt, who stepped aside May 6. (Office of Governor Josh Green, M.D. via AP)(AP)
In this image provided by the Office of Governor Josh Green, Miss USA 2023 Savannah Gankiewicz poses for a photo after being crowned on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Honolulu. As the first runner-up, Gankiewicz was announced as the replacement for former Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt, who stepped aside May 6. (Office of Governor Josh Green, M.D. via AP)(AP)

In a video shared on X/Twitter last week, Gankiewicz addressed the backlash and hateful comments she's received since May 15: “Since I've gotten this title, I've health with a lot of bullying and harassment, and it really does, it breaks my heart.”

“I wish people saw where my heart is coming from. And it's helping Lahaina and helping Maui residents… having a platform, but also showing women that you can get bullied and you can hurt, but you can stand back up, and you keep going, and you keep using your voice,” she added.

Gankiewicz is expected to hold the title upon her special coronation until August. A new Miss USA will be announced after that.

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Ongoing Miss USA controversy explored:

Gankiewicz's mentions of public backlash emerged weeks after the former Miss USA Noelia Voigt stepped down from her post on May 6. Announcing her resignation via Instagram, Voigt foregrounded that she was walking a different walk to prioritize her mental health.

However, her subtle comments were later backed up by a copy of her resignation letter obtained by NBC News. In it, she accused the organization's CEO of perpetuating a toxic work environment. Voigt rose to the ranks to clinch the Miss USA title in 2023, whereas Gankiewicz trailed behind her as the competition's first runner-up.

An extract from Voigt's resignation letters reads: “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 highlighted that this onslaught of abuse “started soon after” she won the title of Miss USA 2023.

She supposedly set the example for other involved parties at the pageant as the list of celebrities stepping down from their posts grew. Just days after Voigt gave up her crown, Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, who was crowned last September, also resigned mid-reign, citing her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

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Their resignations also drew attention to Miss USA social media director Claudia Michelle's exit, who bowed out just days before Miss USA and Miss Teen USA voluntarily relinquished their posts. Disavowing "workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind," Michelle alleged that the current management inappropriately spoke about their titleholders. She also reported that titleholders were held back and threatened by Miss USA's social media rules, rendering them unable to voice their personal ideologies.

Alongside Michelle, who couldn't stand as a witness to Voigt's declining mental health, Miss Colorado USA Arianna Lemus also called for a severe shake-up in the organization, announcing her resignation in May. Asserting the “need for reform within the Miss USA organization,” she stood in solidarity with Voigt and Srivastava. She said, “Noelia and UmaSofia's voices have been stifled by the constraints of a contract that undermines their rights and dignity.”

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