Savannah Gankiewicz is sworn in as the new Miss USA amid resignation controversy

The Miss USA tiara has been passed on — perhaps earlier than expected.

Savannah Gankiewicz was sworn into the role Wednesday in a ceremony in Honolulu, following former Miss USA Noelia Voigt’s shocking resignation last week.

“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 organization that I hold dear to my heart,” said the 28-year-old Miss Hawaii, who originally placed as first runner-up, per CNN.

Gankiewicz is the program director of What Makes You Feel Beautiful, a philanthropic organization focused on body positivity, self-esteem and mentorship for teenage girls from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds in Maui.

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

Her words were a stark contrast from Voigt’s social-media announcement of her resignation, which emphasized that her fans should “never compromise [their] physical and mental well-being.” The first letters of every sentence in her statement (except the last three) spelled out “I AM SILENCED.” Miss Teen USA, UmaSofia Srivastava, resigned soon after, explaining that her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

Voigt’s resignation letter described a “toxic work environment” perpetuated by the organization that “at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment.” The pageant queen accused Miss USA chief executive Laylah Rose of “slandering” her and calling her “mentally ill” in conversations with people outside of the organization. She continued that Rose was “aggressive” and threatened to withhold her salary.

Both young women have signed nondisclosure agreements with Miss USA, so their mothers spoke to “Good Morning America” on their behalf.

“The job of their dreams turned out to be a nightmare,” Barbara Srivastava said. “We could not continue this charade. The girls decided to step down and give (up) their dream of a lifetime — a crown, a national title. Why would two girls decide to give that up?”

Jackeline Voigt also described a situation in which her daughter was sexually harassed at an official appearance, but was later told by Rose that the potential for harassment is “unfortunately, part of the role.”

The organization’s former social media director, Claudia Engelhardt, also resigned last week, explaining that she worked for two months without pay and had to watch as Voigt’s mental health declined and Srivastava and her family were disrespected.

Gankiewicz’s mother, Yvienne Peterson, wrote in comments on her daughter’s Instagram announcement that “what [Voigt and Srivastava] went through was nothing as detrimental as what media portrays it to be. Yes unfortunately, they may have had to ride Spirit Airlines, yes, they may have had their boss tell them that some of their posts were not of brand, yes, they may have not had a make up artist at an appearance for them, they may have been reprimanded for some of their outfit choices, yes, they may have not gotten their full prize package… but if that was the worst…then im sorry but maybe they have forgotten what their primary role was and that was to be a role model for women.”

The Miss USA Organization seems to hope that Gankiewicz can soothe some of its public relations woes.

“We are proud to crown Savannah Miss USA 2023, A true representation of vision, intelligence, and compassion,” Rose said in a press release. “Her dedication to empowering women through self-love and confidence is inspiring, and we look forward to her impactful reign as Miss USA.”

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