Former Miss Tennessee USA Speaks Out After 2 Queens Surprisingly Resign: 'Very Courageous'

"We have to stop and listen to what's happening with these young women," Allison DeMarcus tells PEOPLE

<p>Jason Davis/Getty Images</p> Allison DeMarcus arrives at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on April 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee

Jason Davis/Getty Images

Allison DeMarcus arrives at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on April 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee

A former Miss Tennessee USA is speaking out after Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt and Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava suddenly resigned from their titles this week.

Allison DeMarcus, also a former Miss Tennessee Teen USA and Miss Tennessee America and now the CEO of the Miss Volunteer America Pageant System, tells PEOPLE "pageantry has really had a positive impact on the lives of countless young women" and it can continue to "but we have to stop and listen to what's happening with these young women."

"I don't think that either of them would've taken this bold and courageous step if there were not some really compelling reasons to do so," says DeMarcus, the wife of Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus.

She goes on to note that the fact that Voigt that the fact that it "speaks volumes" that Voigt is "also the first woman in their 72-year history to ever resign."

"It's brave, and she's very courageous for speaking out because she had everything to lose," she adds.

Related: Why Are Miss USA and Miss Teen USA Stepping Down? Everything to Know About Their Resignations

Voigt made her announcement via Instagram on Monday, May 6, writing in part, "In life, I strongly value the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health."

Then, just two days later, Srivastava announced her own resignation in a post on Instagram, writing that her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

<p>Slaven Vlasic/Getty</p> (L-R) Noelia Voigt, UmaSofia Srivastava.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty

(L-R) Noelia Voigt, UmaSofia Srivastava.

Reflecting on her decision at PEOPLE’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Exclusive Exhibit on May 9, Voigt said she felt "grateful" to be able to "let people know that if something isn't good for you, it's okay to step away from it."

The Miss USA organization previously issued a statement thanking Voigt for her service, saying that it respects and supports "Noelia’s decision to step down from her duties." On Thursday, they announced that Miss Hawaii USA Savannah Gankiewicz was the new Miss USA 2023.

Related: What Miss USA Pageant Queens Have Said So Far amid Stepping Down

<p>Courtesy Allison DeMarcus</p> Allison DeMarcus.

Courtesy Allison DeMarcus

Allison DeMarcus.

Related: UmaSofia Srivastava Says Resigning Miss Teen USA Title 'Was Not My First Choice' (Exclusive)

DeMarcus believes that another resignation, that of the organization's social media director Claudia Michelle, which was announced on May 4, was meant to empower Voigt and Srivastava.

In her resignation, Michelle criticized the Miss USA organization as a whole, speaking out about alleged "toxicity" and "bullying" at the organization.

Miss USA CEO and President Laylah Rose responded to Michelle’s allegations in a statement provided to PEOPLE at the time, saying she took the allegations "seriously."

"Please be assured that the well-being of all individuals associated with Miss USA is my top priority," Rose added.

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Allegations of toxicity were also made in Voigt's reported resignation letter, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News on May 9.

“There is a toxic work environment within the Miss USA organization that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment,” read Voigt's letter, per the outlet. “This started soon after winning the title of Miss USA 2023.”

The Miss USA organization did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Related: Gracie Hunt, Daughter of Billionaire KC Chiefs Owner, Competes at Miss USA 28 Years After Her Mom

DeMarcus says she created her Miss Volunteer America organization "to create a positive environment for young women to be able to achieve their goals." While she says she doesn't think she needs to offer advice to Srivastava or Voigt, she's been "extremely impressed" by the way the women have handled themselves.

She adds, "I just would encourage other young women, whether it's in pageantry or other aspects of their life, to take note and listen, because the fact is that these women are saying, " 'Advocate for yourself. Don't be afraid. Speak up if something's not right.' "

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