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Former Miss USA alleges toxic workplace under current president

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Dive Brief:

  • Now-former Miss USA Noelia Voigt gave up her title on May 6, but the fallout is still being felt more than a week later. Two days after Voigt’s announcement, Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava resigned in solidarity
  • Voigt alleged that Miss USA CEO and President Laylah Rose was “unnecessarily aggressive” in her interactions, and had allegedly been dismissive of Voigt when she reported sexual harassment on the job, per an internal resignation letter obtained by NBC News.
  • The former social media director for Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, Claudia Michelle, had resigned previously on May 3, citing the organization’s problems with compensation and provision of adequate resources.

Dive Insight:

In the resignation letter obtained by NBC, Voigt claimed that Rose made derogatory remarks against her, “weaponiz[ed her] mental health struggles” and wished violence on her. Voigt said that the stressful work environment exacerbated her physical and mental health issues.

Michelle expressed a similar view in her public statement: “I have had the privilege of getting to work with [Voigt] closely and have unfortunately seen a decline in her mental health since we [first] met.” She added, “I have firsthand seen the disrespect towards [Srivastava] and her family.”

Toxic workplaces are far from limited to entertainment or tech, although employers in those industries often make headlines

A human resources strategist previously told HR Dive that a hallmark of toxic workplaces is fear of retaliation and dismissal. Often, a leader who is condescending or explosive will be the one driving the toxicity, the strategist said. Her advice? Give that “toxic rockstar,” who may be a high achiever but a difficult co-worker, the boot — but not without the chance to adhere to an improvement plan, too.

That strategist and an employee experience tech expert emphasized the importance of feedback. Keeping abreast of feedback through pulse surveys and even avenues like Glassdoor could prove helpful, the engagement expert said.

Back in the pageant world: Miss USA’s former social media director expressed both exasperation for being understaffed and allegedly working without pay for the first two months of her role. Michelle also hinted that a possible nondisparagement agreement may make it difficult for Voigt and Srivastava to speak out. 

“Having not signed any contracts or [NDAs], I feel as if I am in the position to speak on what I have witnessed,” Michelle said.   

This may be why, as some social media users have pointed out, the first letter in each sentence of Voigt’s Instagram resignation spells “I AM SILENCED.”

“I feel like her ability to share her story and her platform have been diminished,” Michelle said of Voigt in her statement.

A representative for Miss USA and Miss Teen USA did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. Claudia Michelle also did not respond in time for publication.

Miss Hawaii USA Savannah Gankiewicz took the national title on May 16. 

The Miss Teen USA position remains unfilled following runner-up Miss Teen New York USA Stephanie Skinner’s decision to turn it down, citing preexisting obligations. 



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