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Organizers of Miss USA Suspended Amid Probe into Accusation of Pre-Selected Winner

'Our commitment to contestants and fans is our priority' said the Miss Universe Organization

The organizers of the Miss USA pageant have been suspended by the Miss Universe Organization.

The move comes after accusations that the current title holder – Miss Texas R’Bonney Gabriel – had been pre-selected by the organization to win. She was crowned Miss USA on Oct. 3 and was the first Filipina American to win the title.

Last week, the Miss Universe Organization suspended Crystle Stewart, who heads the pageant’s operating company Miss Brand Corp. The Miss Universe Organization also launched an investigation into the allegation which is being led by a third party, the law firm Holland & Knight. The organization will take over the Miss USA program until the investigation is complete and action is taken based on the findings.

“We are appreciative of the cooperation from Miss USA Director Crystle Stewart as we work through the process,” the Miss Universe Organization said in a statement to Fox News. “Our commitment to contestants and fans is our priority, and we will keep them top of mind as we move forward.”

“We commend the women for bringing these issues to our attention and will always be an organization that encourages women to use their voice,” the organization added.

Several contestants at this year’s Miss USA told NBC News they felt Gabriel was treated with favoritism, noting a number of specific incidents, but declined to speculate on the organizers’ motives.

Miss Montana 2022 Heather Lee O’Keefe told the outlet Gabriel “was allowed to do different walking patterns on stage” when the other contestants were “told to strictly follow the walking pattern” created by the choreographer and that Gabriel’s “coaches were allowed to sit in on the rehearsals, and anyone whose coach was outside of the Miss Academy wasn’t allowed to be there.” 

Stewart owns the Miss Academy pageant training schools and has said some volunteers were allowed to attend rehearsals. Stewart won Miss USA in 2008.

“We are proud to have the first Phillipina-American represent Miss USA,” said Stewart while speaking with The New York Post. “I hope the Class of 2022 will embrace this historical win and try to understand my mission and vision for the Miss USA Organization; which is to provide resources, experiences, and opportunities to be productive and successful women… This is how I imagine pageantry.”

“We want to make it very clear that we are not in any way attacking R’Bonney as a person,” O’Keefe added during an hour-long video on Instagram. “We have no hard feelings against her. It is not her fault. These are our issues that we are bringing up with the organization as a whole.”

“I think that [Miss USA] are in a state where they are trying to revamp and re-glamorize pageantry here in the United States, because we’ve been seeing a constant drop off in enrollment for pageants, and not just in the Miss USA system,” Mikala McGhee, Miss Missouri 2022, told the media

Miss New York 2022 Heather Nunez wrote on her Instagram Story that she felt “humiliated” because she had believed she had “a fair chance.”

Gabriel has said she would cooperate with the investigation into Miss Brand, but does not believe the allegations that the competition was rigged in her favor.

“I want to start by saying it was not rigged because I would never enter any pageant or any competition that I know I would win. I have a lot of integrity,” she told E! News on Oct. 6.

Talent agency and entertainment company WME/IMG bought the Miss Universe Organization – including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA – in September of 2015 from former President Donald Trump, who co-owned the organization with NBC since 2002. Trump had owned the organization for a total of 19 years.

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