Miss Teen USA 2023 runner-up Stephanie Skinner declines title days after winner resigns

Stephanie Skinner was crowned Miss New York Teen USA in 2023

Amber Raiken
New York
Monday 13 May 2024 23:22 BST
Related: Miss Teen USA Resigns, Cites Value Misalignment

The runner-up for the 2023 Miss Teen USA, Stephanie Skinner, has turned down the winning title, days after the initial winner – UmaSofia Srivastava – stepped down.

Skinner, who was crowned Miss New York Teen USA in 2023, shared a post to Instagram on 12 May to open up about her career, as she showed her support for Srivastava. Since she was the runner-up to win Miss Teen USA in September 2023, she now has the opportunity to claim the title, since Srivastava has relinquished her crown.

However, after reflecting on everything she’s learned throughout her career, Skinner revealed in a statement that she’s turned down the title of Miss Teen USA. She said this wasn’t a decision she came to lightly.

“In light of recent events, I have decided to decline the title of Miss Teen USA,” she wrote on Instagram. “This is not an easy decision. I hope for respect of my choice as this was a decision I never asked to make.”

She went on to acknowledge that her “word is everything”, before sharing some of the upcoming responsibilities that she’s now focused on. “I gave my commitment to a global research career opportunity in Thailand that will require me to live abroad for the summer,” she added.

Skinner then showed her support for Srivastava, who recently stepped down as Miss Teen USA, and Noelia Vogt, who also recently resigned from Miss USA.

“In addition, although, I do not know exactly what Noelia and Uma went through to led them to resign, I am sending them immense love and support,” the 19-year-old pageant competitor added.

She also expressed how much she “stands for female empowerment,” and believes everyone deserves the “power to use [their] voices”. Skinner – who is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania – concluded her lengthy statement by sharing her hope to inspire young women on social media.

“Yes, I would be grateful for this platform to be a national representation for young women across the country, but I believe this is the right decision to make,” she concluded. “I am even more grateful for the opportunity to make an impact by always supporting and serving those around me as Stephanie.”

In the caption, Skinner reiterated that it wasn’t easy to decline the Miss Teen USA title, writing: “Please know this is such a difficult position to be put in. I pray for respect of my values and my decision. The hardest choices are never easy decisions to make, and I wanted to make this decision on my own. Thank you to everyone who has shown me kindness and love as Stephanie, it is appreciated MORE than you know. Sending love.”

Many of Skinner’s fans and followers took to the comments section to praise her statement, including Srivastava, who wrote: “I am so grateful to call you my friend. You always leave me in awe of your dedication and integrity.”

Vogt added: “Ever since I met you have, I loved and admired you. You continue to set a great example everywhere you go. Proud of you.”

Hannah Lopa, who was crowned Miss New York USA in 2017, also commented: “Wisdom is knowing the right path to take. integrity is taking that path. Ever impressed by you, but not surprised. New York is lucky to have you.”

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

On 8 May, Srivastava revealed on Instagram that she was giving up her title, writing 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.”

She said that she planned on enjoying finishing 11th grade, noting that she was eager to begin the college application process and continue being a part of the National Honour Society. She added that she had a brand “new writing project” that should be released later in the year. While she wrote that this was “certainly not how [she] saw [her] reign coming to a close,” she thanked her supporters who helped her along her journey to victory.

Two days earlier, Noelia 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 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 palette correction charity Smile Train. She also expressed her gratitude for being able to shed light “on my roots as the first Venezuelan-American woman to win Miss USA”.

She concluded her message by expressing her hope that others “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”.

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 first hand 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 both Voigt and Srivastava had been “threatened” by MUO about sharing personal advocacies on social media due to the organisation’s policies. Voigt in particular is an advocate for mental health and a champion for children’s charity Smile Train, which she highlighted in her resignation post.

In addition, Michelle claimed there was a lack of proper management, saying she had been brought in with “zero in-house team members” to assist her and was then not “financially” permitted to hire more. She also claimed to have worked unpaid for the first two months, and that multiple decisions were made by higher-ups instead of allowing her control and agency in her role.

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