Beauty pageants always bring the drama, but the latest scandal to hit the Miss USA stage is about more than fighting over a crown.
Miss USA President Chrystle Stewart and her company, Miss Brand Corporation, have been suspended until further notice by the Miss Universe Organization following accusations that the 2022 Miss USA pageant was rigged to make Miss Texas USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, the winner of the national pageant.
“After thorough deliberation, Miss Universe Organization has decided to suspend Miss Brand immediately,” the Miss Universe Organization said in a statement. “Miss Universe Organization will be taking over the Miss USA program while a comprehensive, third-party investigation is conducted.”
Stewart is denying the allegations against her and her company (which was founded in December 2021), calling them “not factual.”
“The last thing I would ever want to do is discredit or deny the contestants an equal opportunity to a fair competition. I would never jeopardize my dream of running an organization that empowers these young women,” she maintained in her own statement.
Viewers noticed that something was “off” during the crowning of Miss Texas — usually, contestants all gather around the winner and embrace her, but this year all the contestants walked off the stage instead of offering her support.
Miss Montana USA, Heather Lee O’Keefe, went viral on Instagram and TikTok when she called out that one of the sponsors of the pageant, Nizuc Resort and Spa in Mexico, put up a video of Gabriel at the resort less than 24 hours after she won the Miss USA pageant, which was held in Reno, Nevada.
She then pointed out that the resort had a video of Gabriel receiving treatment there nine weeks prior to the pageant — something that would’ve been included in the winner’s prize package.
Others were quick to notice that Miss Academy, which is owned by Stewart and is a sponsor of Miss USA, was using Gabriel in promotional videos way before the pageant.
Other contestants took to social media to comment on the situation in agreement with O’Keefe, making their voices heard about the alleged corruption within the organization.
Among those publicly speaking out was Gabriel herself, who pleaded that there was no favoritism and that the competition wasn’t rigged.
“I will talk to anybody because I want to be transparent, and I want everybody to know that there was no unfair advantage and nothing was rigged and as a title holder and as Miss USA I don’t want girls to think that this is how pageantry works,” she told E! News in an interview. “This is to celebrate women. We work very hard, and I have respect for all the women that showed up on that stage.”
Gabriel claimed in the same interview that the video of her in Mexico was shot after the competition and that she paid for the trip herself.
Miss USA was filmed on October 3. Miss Universe is set to take place on January 2023, though it is unclear pending the results of the investigation whether or not Gabriel will be eligible to compete.