New Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz crowned after Noelia Voigt steps down

New Miss USA Savannah Gankiewicz crowned after Noelia Voigt steps down

Savannah Gankiewicz has been crowned the new Miss USA, days after Noelia Voigt stepped down to focus on her mental health.

The Miss Hawaii USA winner – who was the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant in October  – officially took the title during a coronation on Wednesday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Gankiewicz acknowledged that accepting the title wasn’t an easy choice for her, before describing some of the differences she hopes to make.

“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 organisation that I hold dear to my heart,” she said during her speech, as reported by CNN. “I am dedicated to taking action and making a difference. With my background as a certified mental health first aid responder and training in anti-bullying suicide prevention.”

Gankiewicz emphasised that she wants to advocate for mental health awareness as the 2023 Miss USA winner.

“I understand the importance of prioritising your well-being and advocating for those in need. 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,” she concluded.

Last week, Gankiewicz also issued a statement on Instagram to confirm that she’d be taking the title of Miss USA. In her post, she once again noted that she did not come to this decision lightly, before expressing her support for Voigt.

“I stand with Noliea and admire her strength to step down and prioritise her mental health,” she wrote. “Noelia, it was an honour of a lifetime to share the stage with you during your crowning moment, and I wish you all the best in your next chapter.”

The coronation came days after Voigt revealed that she was stepping down as Miss USA to prioritise her mental health. The 24-year-old model won the annual beauty pageant last year as Miss Utah, before representing the United States in the Miss Universe competition in November.

“In life, I strongly value the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health,” she wrote in her statement. “As individuals, we grow through experiencing different things in life that lead us to learning more about ourselves. My journey as Miss USA has been incredibly meaningful, representing Utah with pride, and later the USA at Miss Universe. Sadly, I have made the very tough decision to resign from the title of Miss USA 2023.”

Voigt – who resigned amid accusations of toxic workplace conditions at the Miss USA Organization – continued her post by reflecting on her moments of pride throughout her seven-month reign as Miss USA, including advocating for anti-bullying schemes and working with the cleft palate correction charity Smile Train. She also expressed how grateful she was to shed light “on [her] roots as the first Venezuelan-American woman to win Miss USA”.

She concluded her message by expressing her hope for others, saying: “Remain steadfast, prioritise your mental health, advocate for yourself and others by using your voice, and never be afraid of what the future holds, even if it feels uncertain.”

Days later, Miss Teen USA winner, UmaSofia Srivastava, also shared that she would be relinquishing her crown. When announcing her resignation on Instagram on 8 May, Srivastava wrote that she felt her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organisation”.

After months of grappling with this decision, I have made the choice to resign from the title of Miss Teen USA 2023,” she wrote. “I am grateful for all the support from my family, my state directors, my sister queens, and the fans who have cheered me on since I won my state title. I will always look back on my time as Miss NJ Teen USA fondly, and the experience of representing my state as a first generation, Mexican-Indian American at the national level was fulfilling in itself.”

She added:  “However, I will continue my relentless advocacy for education and acceptance, with my multilingual children’s book ‘The White Jaguar’ and with the organisations that I have had the privilege to work with long before starting competing.”

On 12 May, the first-runner up for Miss Teen USA, Stephanie Skinner, revealed on Instagram that she was offered the winner title. However, she explained that she turned the position down because she’d already committed to another project for the summer.

“In light of recent events, I have decided to decline the title of Miss Teen USA. This is not an easy decision. I hope for respect of my choice as this was a decision I never asked to make,” she wrote in a statement. “My word is everything. I gave my commitment to a global research career opportunity in Thailand that will require me to live abroad for the summer.”

Both Voigt and Srivastava’s posts came after the resignation of Miss USA social media director Claudia Michelle, who voiced a number of her own concerns about the Miss Universe Organization (MUO). In her resignation post on Instagram, Michelle said she had seen first-hand experience of poor treatment of Voigt and Srivastava and their families. “I disavow workplace toxicity and bullying of any kind,” she wrote.

“I feel the way current management speaks about their titleholders is unprofessional and inappropriate,” she said, adding that “not enough time and attention” was given to the teenager. “I have firsthand seen the disrespect towards Uma and her family. In my opinion, not enough time and attention was given to our national teen titleholder, especially on social media.”

Michelle also claimed that Voigt and Srivastava had been “threatened” by MUO about sharing personal advocacies on social media due to the organisation’s policies, which she said she had still yet to have seen. She also claimed that the power of the titleholders to use their social media platforms to champion causes had been “diminished” by oversight from the MUO management.

She then claimed that when she was the social media director for MUO, there “was no social media team to manage,” and that she had been brought in with “zero in-house team members” to assist her. She went on to allege that she went unpaid for the first two months, and that multiple decisions were taken by higher-ups instead of allowing her control and agency in her role.

The Independent has contacted a representative for the Miss Universe Organization and Miss USA for comment.