New Miss USA crowned more than a week after winner suddenly resigned, citing mental health

Amid turmoil surrounding the organization, the new titleholder Savannah Gankiewicz said she's dedicated to making a positive impact at Miss USA.
Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz
Posted at 6:36 PM, May 17, 2024

A new Miss USA 2023 has been crowned, more than a week after the previous titleholder suddenly resigned citing her mental health, kickstarting a cluster of serious allegations against the organization.

Though she was appointed the role days after Noelia Voigt stepped down, Miss Hawaii USA Savannah Gankiewicz formally accepted the title Wednesday during a special coronation in her home state. She had placed first runner-up at the September 2023 pageant behind 24-year-old Voigt, who represented Utah.

"While this decision was not made lightly, I firmly believe that this opportunity was meant for me, and I am ready to make a positive impact with this organization that I hold dear to my heart," Gankiewicz said during the ceremony.

The Miss USA website states the Maui native is a model, entrepreneur and program director for What Makes You Beautiful, a nonprofit "dedicated to fostering self-love" for women of all ages.

The 28-year-old also said during her coronation speech that she's a certified mental health first-aid responder and trained in anti-bullying suicide prevention. She told the crowd this helps her understand the "importance of prioritizing your well-being and advocating for those in need" — a timely point after other Miss USA titleholders advocated for the pageant to release Voigt from the NDA she's under "so that she is free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA."

Although Voigt's post to social media announcing her resignation cited mental health, observant viewers pointed out the first letter of each sentence in the statement spelled out, "I AM SILENCED." Then a copy of her resignation letter to Miss Universe CEO Laylah Rose, obtained by CNN and NBC News, accused the head of "actively building a culture of fear and control."

Other allegations made in the letter included that it failed to handle an incident of sexual harassment against Voigt seriously and that it cultivated a toxic work environment through bullying and poor management.

"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 in the letter, per NBC News.

In a statement to the outlet, Rose said the well-being of those associated with the organization is her "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, per NBC News.

Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava

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Days after Voigt's resignation, Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava also resigned her title, writing in a statement that her "personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization." Voigt told People she wasn't aware the New Jersey native had also planned to resign.

The teen title was then offered to runner-up Miss Teen New York Stephanie Skinner, but she declined the title. She said on Instagram the decision wasn't easy but was made "in light of recent events." There is no word yet on an official replacement.

Scripps News has made numerous attempts to contact the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA organizations for comment, but we have not heard back.

Gankiewicz will now hold the title until August, when the next Miss USA pageant scheduled from July 24 to Aug. 4 crowns a new winner.

"I believe that the true change starts from within, and I am determined to lead by example and empower the class of 2024 and beyond," the new Miss USA said in her speech.