The Miss USA pageant system is under scrutiny as this year’s contestants speak out against the organization. On Monday, Oct. 3, R’Bonney Gabriel of Texas won Miss USA, qualifying her to represent the United States at the upcoming Miss Universe pageant in January 2023. Upon getting crowned on stage, viewers noticed that the other contestants immediately walked off instead of giving the traditional congratulatory hugs the winner receives from the state titleholders.
This moment made viewers and pageant fans question what was happening behind the scenes. It didn’t take long for them to get their answers, as in the days following, contestants began to speak out on what they claim was an unfair and pre-determined opportunity.
The tipping point seems to be the morning after the national pageant, in which one of the pageant’s sponsors — a Cancun hotel and its spa services — posted a pre-recorded video of the winner on the facilities. While at surface level, it appears to be regular sponsored post celebrating the winner, the outrage stems from Miss Texas allegedly not being present nor crowned when the Miss USA contestants visited the hotel in June for a retreat. The organization seemingly flew her out individually on a separate occasion and recorded sponsored content, an opportunity that allegedly wasn’t extended to one other contestant (Miss Colorado USA), who also wasn’t crowned in time for the retreat.
“Not even 24 hours after she was crowned, we see video footage of her having a lavish, solo vacay and commercial for Nizuc!!!,” shared Holly Haynes, Miss Georgia USA 2022, on her Instagram Stories.
That’s not all. The contestants are also alleging that Miss Texas USA received favoritism, had alleged connections with sponsors who served as judges, as well as previously received public support from the pageant training school, The Miss Academy, founded by the president of the Miss USA pageant Crystle Stewart.
Among the contestants to speak out are two Latinas, including Miss New York USA 2022, Heather Nunez, and Miss Massachusetts USA 2022, Skarlet Ramirez. “The last 48 hours have been pretty disheartening, thinking that most likely my last time on a pageant stage has been tainted,” wrote Ramirez on her Instagram Stories. Nunez wrote, “We were humiliated, thinking we entered something with a fair chance… The ONLY reason I am speaking up is to prevent future contestants from feeling the way that I do.”
Many contestants are urging pageant fans to direct their anger toward the organization, not R’Bonney Gabriel, this year’s winner. “This is not about one person,” stressed Ramirez. “I do not condone hate in any form.”
Remezcla has reached out to the Miss Universe Organization for comment.