Former Miss USA was subject of ‘inappropriate advances’ from parade driver

Noelia Voigt, who recently resigned her Miss USA title, felt she ‘couldn’t escape’ the vehicle, sources told The Independent

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Wednesday 15 May 2024 23:25
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Miss USA Noelia Voigt makes “tough decision” to give up crown

Former Miss USA 2023 was the subject of inappropriate advances by the driver of a car she was traveling in during a Florida Christmas parade, sources have told The Independent.

Noelia Voigt, who last week resigned her title amid accusations of toxic workplace conditions at the Miss USA Organization, felt she “couldn’t escape” the vehicle, and her designated handler allegedly did not intervene.

Miss USA has been held every year since 1952. The winner holds the title for 12 months, taking part in media and philanthropic events, and raising awareness about her chosen cause. She also becomes the American entry for the annual Miss Universe pageant.

Ms Voight, 24, is under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the beauty pageant organization and has been unable to comment on the alleged incident.

Two sources close to the matter shared what she had told them about the incident with The Independent, and raised concerns about the level of support given to the competition winners.

The incident took place during a Christmas parade last December in Sarasota, Florida when Ms Voigt was traveling in the backseat of the car, the sources said.

Former Miss USA 2023, Noelia Voigt, was subject to unwanted advances at a Christmas parade in Sarasota, Florida, last December, sources say (Getty Images)

Claudia Michelle, former social media director for Miss USA and a friend of Ms Voigt, said the driver was an older man who had begun to make “really inappropriate advances”.

“He was saying, how he was older and he had money, that kind of thing,” Ms Michelle told The Independent on Wednesday. The former employee is not bound by an NDA.

She said that the older man suggested that he wanted a relationship with the beauty queen, and made her uncomfortable.

Ms Michelle added: “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.”

The former employee, who also resigned from her role at Miss USA citing reasons of mismanagement and disrespect towards the title holders’ families, said that security for Ms Voigt at the Florida parade, and on multiple other occasions, had been inadequate.

“The role of the handler in the pageant world is to almost be like a bodyguard in the sense where they’re the eyes, ears and voice for Noelia – to kind of speak up,” she said.

“It would have been in that handler’s best interest to speak up and say something, you know, ‘that’s not appropriate, that’s not okay,’ right then and there, and squash it out.”

The incident in Sarasota was thankfully isolated though concerns had been raised previously by Ms Voigt and her family about her mismanagement, Ms Michelle said.

Miss USA president Laylah Rose, who owns the license to the company which falls under the Miss Universe Organization umbrella, did not provide the level of support to Ms Voigt that title holders should expect to receive, Ms Michelle said.

Another source close to the matter told The Independent that they attended several meetings where Ms Voigt had brought up security concerns, and those were “basically dismissed” as though it “wasn’t a big deal”.

“[Ms Rose] did not have the funds to run it [the organization]. It’s really that plain and simple,” Ms Michelle also told The Independent.

“Noelia should have been traveling with a bodyguard, with a handler, at all times. There was not enough staff to help her do what she needed to do for the first four months of her reign.

“Miss USA should be booked and busy and going to all of the important events – an equal mix of philanthropic events, red-carpet events... whatever it is.”

Instead, Ms Voigt was mainly at her boyfriend’s college apartment in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and her family’s house in Sarasota, Florida, because nothing was provided. Miss USAs are typically treated like “celebrities”, Ms Michelle said.

“I’ve seen state pageants run better than the way Miss USA was being handled and run under the current direction,” she added.

The Independent has contacted Ms Rose for comment on the Florida parade allegations, along with the claims of mismanagement and mistreatment of Miss USA title-holders.

Miss Teen USA 2023, UmaSofia Srivastava, left, and Miss USA 2023, Noelia Voigt, right, have both resigned their crowns recently, amid allegations of a toxic work environment against the organization (Getty Images for Supermodels Unl)

The accusations against Miss USA’s president were echoed by Ms Voigt’s mother, Jackeline Voigt, and the mother of Miss Teen USA 2023, UmaSofia Sravistava, who resigned her crown shortly after Ms Voigt.

Miss Teen USA, a pageant for girls aged 14-19, is also owned by Ms Rose and run under the Miss Universe Organization umberella.

Barbara Sravistava told The Independent on Tuesday said the two young women suffered “mental abuse” by Ms Rose.

“That woman tormented them daily and threatened them,” she said.

Both mothers, and Ms Michelle, have said they want Ms Rose to step down as Miss USA president. The CW Network, which airs the contests, said on Monday that it is reevaluating its relationship with the organization.

The Independent has made repeated attempts to contact the Miss USA Organization about the allegations, and the Miss Universe Organization, which encompasses the Miss USA competitions.

In a statement to ABC News’Good Morning America, a representative for the Miss USA Organization said: “We are committed to fostering a healthy, communicative and supportive environment for all contestants, state titleholders, national titleholders and staff.”

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