Savannah Gankiewicz steps in as Miss USA amid controversy

Savannah Gankiewicz crowned Miss USA after Noelia Voigt resigned, citing toxic work environment

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Savannah Gankiewicz (left) Steps in as Miss USA following Noelia Voight's (right) resignation

Savannah Gankiewicz of Hawaii Savannah Gankiewicz has stepped into the spotlight, taking on the Miss USA title less than two weeks after Noelia Voight announced her unexpected resignation.

Savannah had initially secured the first runner-up position in the 2023 Miss USA paegent.

On Wednesday, model and activist Savannah was crowned the prestigious title in a ceremony broadcast live from Waikiki in the presence of Miss Hawaii Jonelle Layfield (2008), Miss Hawaii Alicia Michioka (2003), and Hawaii's Governor, Dr. Josh Green, as well as Miss USA president and CEO, Laylah Rose.

Gankiewicz humbly accepted the crown and sash from Hawaii's governor Dr. Josh Green before expressing gratitude with those in attendance -- including her friends, family members and community. However, Savannah gets the role for only 10 weeks.

Savannah addressed the decision on Instagram a week before the coronation ceremony where she expressed her 'shock' at the former Miss USA's resignation from position while feeling that 'accepting the title is the right thing to do' after Noelia's departure.

"I am so shocked right now and I'm just so tremendously grateful," Savannah said. "While this decision was not made lightly, I firmly believe that this opportunity was meant for me and I'm ready to make a positive impact with this organization that I hold dear to my heart."

She continued, "As I embark on this unique reign, I am dedicated to taking action and making a difference"

"Please know that my decision to accept the Miss USA crown was not one that was made lightly," wrote Savannah at the time. "I stand with Noelia and admire her strength to step down and prioritize her mental health. Noelia, it was the honor of a lifetime to share the stage with you during your crowning moment and I will you all the best in your next chapter."

However, her decision to accept the title was met with mixed reactions on social media, with some expressing concerns surrounding Voigt's departure who had cited 'toxic work environment' and 'sexual harassment' in her formal resignation.

"Wow! It seems like you didn’t even needed a moment to think about it, you just said yes immediately they called you. This is wrong, you should help a sister find her voice and not help silence it," one user wrote under a long statement Savannah had shared on Instagram.

"Greed and ambition are seen more than your support for your sister," another user commented.

Despite backlash from some fans, Savannah's mother, Yvienne Peterson, came to her defense, emphasising the difficult nature of the decision and urging critics to reconsider their stance.

However, another user addressed the core issue in the situation in a neutral stance.

"Regardless of who replaces the resigned Miss USA, the core issues in the Miss USA organization remain as long as National Director Layla Rose is in charge. Bashing the new Miss USA achieves nothing. If Savannah declines the title, another girl simply takes her place," the user wrote.

In her resignation letter, reported by Entertainment Tonight, Noelia wrote, “There is a toxic work environment within the Miss USA organization that, at best, is poor management and, at worst, is bullying and harassment.

“I was made to feel unsafe at events without an effective handler, and this culminated in being sexually harassed,” Noelia added.