Miss Teen USA resigns — days after Miss USA does the same — amid 'workplace toxicity' allegation

UmaSofia Srivastava and Noelia Voigt
Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, left, has resigned days after Miss USA Noelia Voigt announced she was stepping down. (Getty Images)

After Miss USA Noelia Voigt resigned Monday just seven months since winning her crown, Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava has also quit, saying Wednesday that her personal values "no longer fully align with the direction" of the Miss USA Organization.

The 17-year-old former Miss New Jersey Teen USA did not elaborate, but said she will "continue relentless advocacy for education and acceptance" through her children's book, "The White Jaguar." Srivastava said her work involving the book has always been her "TRUE purpose."

"While this was certainly not how I saw my reign coming to a close, I am excited to continue my advocacy for education and acceptance, start applying to colleges, and share some exciting new projects on That’s Fan Behavior with those of you who plan to stick around," the 11th-grader wrote on Instagram, noting that she is a first-generation, Mexican Indian American. "At the end of the day, I am so lucky to have had the privilege of this experience, but if this is just a chapter, I know that the story of my life will truly be incredible."

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Srivastava's resignation comes in the wake of a report that she and Voigt were bullied by the organization and allegations of "workplace toxicity and bullying" last week from an employee as she resigned. Representatives for the Miss USA Organization did not immediately respond Thursday to The Times' request for comment on Srivastava's resignation or on allegations about workplace issues.

Voigt announced her abdication Monday on Instagram, citing mental health concerns for her decision. She is the first title holder in the pageant’s 72-year history to voluntarily step down. And in her statement, she recognized her "darling beloved Miss Teen USA, UmaSofia."

"Lifelong friendships and connections that I had the opportunity to make along the way while attending different events, and competing at state pageants, Miss USA, and Miss Universe are invaluable things I will be forever grateful for," she said, adding that her favorite parts of being Miss USA were working with the Smile Train cleft-palate nonprofit and being a fervent advocate for anti-bullying, dating-violence awareness and prevention, immigration rights and reform, and shedding light on her roots as the first Venezuelan American woman to win Miss USA.

“Never compromise your physical and mental well-being. Our health is our wealth,” the 24-year-old captioned the message, which was posted just days after the start of Mental Health Awareness Month. “My journey as Miss USA has been incredibly meaningful, representing Utah with pride, and later the USA at Miss Universe (held in November). Sadly, I have made the very tough decision to resign from the title of Miss USA 2023.”

The former Miss Utah did not get into specifics about her departure, but added that she hopes to continue to inspire others "to remain steadfast, prioritize your mental health, advocate for yourself and others by using your voice, and never be afraid of what the future holds, even if feels uncertain."

The Miss USA Organization said Monday that it respects and supports Voigt's decision to step down from her duties.

"The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time," the organization said in a statement to The Times. "The organization is currently reviewing plans for the transition of responsibilities to a successor and an announcement regarding the crowning of the new Miss USA will be coming soon."

Read more: Was the historic 2022 Miss USA pageant rigged? Its parent organization investigates

Last Friday, Miss USA social media manager Claudia Michelle stepped down from her position, writing on Instagram that she had worked for the first two months of her tenure without pay and faced "disheartening" issues as the organization's social media director.

"This is a women's empowerment organization and my hope in making this statement is to restore some of the empowerment back to these titleholders that was so deeply lost in their year," she wrote.

Michelle said that she feels "the way current management speaks about their titleholders is unprofessional and inappropriate" and noticed a decline in Voigt's mental health and "disrespect toward Uma and her family."

"I disavow workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind," she wrote. "I don't believe in taking sides. I believe in telling the truth. I believe Noelia and Uma’s mental health and happiness has taken a toll and I cannot remain silent about that. I will always stand for and support the brand that uplifts and empowers its Women. The brand IS the titleholders. Without them, there is no Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. I believe their voices and their stories should be heard and not silenced."

The Miss USA Organization did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment about Michelle's allegations. In a statement to USA Today, the organization said that it was "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," the statement said.

Read more: Rigging allegations be damned, Miss USA won Miss Universe fair and square, CEO says

Insiders told the New York Post that Voigt and Srivastava have been wearing thorny crowns for months — forced into ironclad contracts and made to smile silently despite “harmful workplace conditions." An insider who knows Michelle, Voigt and Srivastava told the Post that they decided to quit together, strategically timing their resignations.

"This toxic atmosphere is a serious concern,” a source close to the situation told the outlet. "There is an urgent need for intervention at the leadership level."

Miss Florida USA Caroline Dixon was among Voigt's vocal supporters this week, calling for Voigt to be released from "the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract" so that she is "free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA."

Several other 2023 titleholders shared the same statement, which Michelle reposted to her Instagram story on Wednesday with a note of gratitude: "There is strength in numbers and your message of support is loud and clear," she wrote.

State directors Caroline Dixon and Debbie Miller also showed their support for Voigt and Srivastava on social media, issuing a statement praising the titleholders.

"We have and will continue to provide a safe space for them filled with love, support and endless possibilities," they wrote in a joint Instagram post. "We love you UmaSofia. You have been the epitome of what a titleholder should be and you such a brave young woman. We are truly heartbroken at this time."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.