Text messages and a resignation letter paint a picture of a toxic work environment at Miss USA.

Former members of the Miss USA Organization have criticized its leadership, specifically targeting president and CEO Laylah Rose. They claim that Rose created a toxic environment, leading to a high-profile exodus within the organization behind one of the country’s longest-running pageants.

Noelia Voigt, who resigned as Miss USA on Monday, expressed her grievances in a scathing, eight-page resignation letter obtained by Yahoo News. She cited “stress, instability and lack of support” from Rose, which she claimed “greatly impacted my physical health.” NBC News first published excerpts of the letter on Thursday.

“I am experiencing heart palpitations, full body shakes, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, loss of sleep, loss of hair and more,” Voigt wrote.

Voigt attributed her resignation to Rose’s leadership style and a pattern of abusive behavior. These accusations were corroborated by former Miss USA social media director Claudia Engelhardt, who was identified in previous reports by her Instagram name Claudia Michelle.

“So-called leaders who seem to have too big of an ego, lack humility, lack self-awareness, and seem willing to lie, gaslight, manipulate, throw people under the bus to serve their narrative, and only care about their self-image alone are dangerous and cowardly and should never be allowed to be in charge of a women’s empowerment organization,” Voigt said in the letter.

The accusations against Rose follow the sudden resignations of Voigt and Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, who stepped down two days after Voigt. Voigt’s initial social media post announcing her resignation emphasized the importance of making decisions for one’s mental health. Internet sleuths noted that the first letters of the first 11 sentences in her post spelled out “I AM SILENCED,” suggesting an encoded message. Srivastava’s post announcing her resignation stated that her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

Rose and the Miss USA Organization did not respond to Yahoo News’ repeated requests for comment. In comments to the media on Wednesday, Rose stated, “Please be assured that the well-being of all individuals associated with Miss USA is my top priority.”

Responding to a critical post by Engelhardt, the Miss USA Organization told USA Today: “We are troubled to hear the false accusations made by a former Miss USA employee. Miss USA is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment, and we take these allegations seriously. Indeed, we have and will continue to prioritize the well-being of all individuals involved with Miss USA.”

Several people have left or alleged dismissal from the organization in recent weeks. Miss Colorado Arianna Lemus announced her resignation in solidarity with Voigt and Srivastava.

Current state titleholders have also expressed support, calling for Voigt to be released from a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) she allegedly signed with the organization.

Voigt’s resignation letter described the work environment as “at best, poor management and, at worst, bullying and harassment.” She claimed Rose was often “inaccessible for communication,” leading Voigt to miss public events and feel unsafe at some events she attended. Voigt recounted an instance where she was sexually harassed at a parade due to insufficient support from her designated handler.

Text messages reviewed by Yahoo News also show Voigt raising concerns about unauthorized use of the Miss USA Instagram account. Engelhardt confirmed that Rose micromanaged the accounts herself, rather than consulting with her as the brand’s social media director.

Engelhardt alleged that Rose would quote contract excerpts to Voigt and Srivastava if their social media posts did not meet her personal preferences, often threatening to withhold their salaries.

Voigt’s letter also accused Rose of attempting to defame her character to the national Miss USA team. Rose allegedly commented to someone that she hoped Voigt would get hit in the face by a baseball when throwing out the first pitch at a game.

Rose took over as president in August 2023, following accusations of a rigged pageant under former national director Crystle Stewart. The Miss Universe Organization later determined those accusations were false. In 2022, former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst died by suicide.

Miss Hawaii Savannah Gankiewicz was announced as the new Miss USA on Thursday, replacing Voigt. Gankiewicz expressed support for Voigt’s decision to prioritize her mental health.

The Miss USA pageant has a history spanning over 70 years. The winner typically represents the country in the Miss Universe competition.

Both Engelhardt and Voigt hope their departures will lead to necessary changes within the organization.

“This needs to be a wake-up call to the Miss Universe Organization and the Miss USA Organization,” Engelhardt said. “Better management needs to be in place. … Especially in a women’s empowerment organization, you have to practice what you preach. And this is the furthest thing from it.”



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