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Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Resign Abruptly: Unpacking the Challenges of Modern Beauty Pageants

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Miss Teen USA 2023, UmaSofia Srivastava, and Miss USA 2023, Noelia Voigt: NBC News

The abrupt resignations of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA have thrust the Miss Universe Organization into a fresh wave of scrutiny. This comes when the organization grapples with what some insiders perceive as an uncertain trajectory.

Beauty pageants, deeply rooted in American history since the 19th century, are struggling to remain relevant amid evolving cultural norms. The Miss America pageant, a primary competitor to the Miss Universe Organization, has encountered similar challenges, with dwindling television ratings and internal leadership controversies.

The Miss Universe Organization, jointly owned by entities in the United States and Thailand, has weathered years of leadership instability. Preceding the current controversy, a series of shake-ups unfolded within the organization. Bankruptcy filings in 2023 by Miss Universe owner JKN Global Group led to the resignation of its longstanding president. This was followed by another resignation in February. Notably, in 2020, the Miss Universe Organization handed control of the Miss USA pageant to former titleholder Crystle Stewart. She was later replaced by fashion designer Layla Rose amid allegations of favoritism in the 2022 competition.

Past incidents, such as the fallout with NBCUniversal in 2015 after remarks by then-owner Donald Trump, have further strained the organization’s standing. NBCUniversal’s decision to sever ties with the pageants came in response to controversial statements made by Trump regarding immigration from Mexico.

The recent resignations of UmaSofia Srivastava and Noelia Voigt have exacerbated concerns surrounding Laylah Rose’s leadership. This development poses another challenge for an organization already facing significant turmoil.

Dani Walker, a former Miss Montana and prominent voice in the pageant community, has highlighted the broader cultural shifts influencing pageantry. She emphasizes a transition from a focus solely on physical appearance to a more holistic evaluation. This, she says, encompasses public speaking skills, diversity, and advocacy.

Financial concerns have also surfaced, with Claudia Michelle, a former social media manager for Miss USA, citing unpaid wages and a lack of resources within the organization. The situation underscores broader apprehensions about the Miss Universe Organization’s viability and stability.

In her resignation letter, Noelia Voigt pointed to Laylah Rose’s alleged unprofessional conduct and the organization’s broader cultural challenges. A former Miss USA, Shanna Moakler, expressed solidarity with Voigt and acknowledged the organization’s ongoing turmoil.

Given the current controversies, Dani Walker has advised prospective contestants to exercise caution before participating in Miss USA. She points to restrictive agreements and uncertainties surrounding the organization’s future under Laylah Rose’s leadership.

What implications do you foresee for the Miss Universe Organization following these resignations? Should there be broader reforms within the pageantry industry to ensure its relevance and sustainability?

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