New Miss USA Reveals Bullying Since Accepting Resigned Predecessor's Crown

By Jason Hall

May 23, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

Newly crowned Miss USA 2023 Savannah Gankiewicz said she's received online bullying since accepting the crown following the resignation of her predecessor Noelia Voigt.

Gankiewicz, 28, the former Miss Hawaii who finished as the runner-up in the 2023 pageant and was crowned on May 15, one week after Voigt's sudden resignation, said the recent backlash "breaks her heart" while delivering a speech during a visit with Lahaina wildfire victims.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen on social media, but since I’ve gotten this title I’ve dealt with a lot of bullying and harassment,” Gankiewicz said while holding back tears. “I didn’t want to cry, but I just feel like it’s hard because I wish people saw where my heart is coming from.”

Gankiewicz's social media accounts have been flooded with negative comments since she was announced as the replacement Miss USA, which includes people accusing her of being undeserving, as well as threats calling for her to be injured for accepting the role. One social media user was reported to have told Gankiewicz's mother that they "hope your daughter gets shot & dies" on her social media channels.

Gankiewicz said she plans to take the negativity in stride and continue for the remaining five months as the titleholder.

“It’s about helping Lahaina and helping Maui residents and having a platform but also showing young women that you can get bullied and you can get hurt but you stand back up and you keep going and you keep using your voice,” Gankiewicz said, which was met with a heavy round of applause.

Voigt, 24, who represented Utah while winning the Miss USA 2023 crown at the pageant held in September, placed in the top 20 in the Miss Universe 2023 pageant in November and is the first Venezuelan-American woman to win the Miss USA crown in the pageant's history, announced her sudden resignation, becoming the first Miss USA to voluntarily step down in the pageant's 72-year history, on May 6. The 24-year-old specifically mentioned Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava, who announced her own resignation on May 8, while expressing gratitude for support in her statement.

Several users acknowledged that the first letter in the first 10 of 11 sentences of the statement shared by Voigt spelled out the phrase "I AM SILENCED."

Last week, Voigt's friend, Claudia Michelle, told the Independent that the Miss USA winner was subjected to "inappropriate advances" by a driver prior to her sudden resignation. Voigt was reportedly traveling in the backseat of a car during a Christmas parade in Sarasota, Florida, when a driver, described as an older man, aggressively suggested that he wanted a relationship with her.

“He was saying, how he was older and he had money, that kind of thing,” Michelle claimed. “She literally couldn’t escape it. What was she going to do, step out of the car and walk away in the middle of the parade? She was stuck.”

Both Voigt and Srivastava's resignations followed Miss USA social media manager Claudia Michelle's decision to step down from her position on May 3. An insider told the New York Post that the three women decided to quit together and strategically worked out the timing of their respective resignations amid reported "harmful workplace conditions."

“The decision was not easy. Noelia and UmaSofia are extremely dedicated people who worked incredibly hard for the pageant. The decisions were not taken lightly. They all decided to do this together,” the insider said. “They are afraid of speaking out more at this time because of the organization. They don’t want this to have any lasting harmful effect on their futures.”

The source added that the alleged harassment and bullying was so bad that Srivastava's parents reportedly prohibited Miss USA Organization CEO & President Laylah Rose from speaking to their daughter.

“All correspondence had to go through her parents. Her parents meet weekly with the Miss Universe Organization to try and get things to change with Miss USA but nothing ever gets done. No changes, no nothing,” the source claimed.

A spokesperson for the Miss USA organization said “the well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time" in a statement to CNN following her resignation.

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