Florida native Noelia Voigt steps down as Miss USA to prioritize mental health. Were there signs?

Last year, ecstatic Sarasota native Noelia Voigt said “my mind is blown” in an Instagram post when she was crowned Miss USA to represent the country in the Miss Universe contest after years of effort.

On Monday she posted again, but this time to announce she was stepping down to preserve her mental health.

“My journey as Miss USA has been incredibly meaningful, representing Utah with pride, and later the USA at Miss Universe (held in November),” Voigt said. “Sadly, I have made the very tough decision to resign from the title of Miss USA 2023.”

Two days later Miss Teen USA 2023 UmaSofia Srivastava of New Jersey, also crowned in September, stepped down saying her “personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization.”

Voigt acknowledged that her resignation might “come as a large shock to many” in her post’s caption and advised readers to “Never compromise your physical and mental well-being. Our health is our wealth.”

But fans believe her message may have contained a clue to her decision.

Here’s what to know about the former Miss USA.

Who is Miss USA Noelia Voigt?

She represented Utah in the pageant, but Voigt, 24, was born in Sarasota to a Venezuelan mother, Jackeline Coromoto Briceño from Maracaibo, and an American father, Sarasota-Venice native Jack David Voigt, a professional baseball player who played for the played as an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Oakland As before coaching for teams in the U.S. and Venezuela according to his website.

Voigt attended Pine View High School in Osprey and then attended Aveda Institute Birmingham, Jefferson State Community College, and the University of Alabama, according to her LinkedIn profile. A licensed esthetician, she co-founded the Iron City Lash Bar in Birmingham, Alabama before working as an interior design consultant for RH Design in Alabama.

But her other passion was beauty pageants. Her mother made her wait until she was a teenager, she told Business Insider, and then she was bullied by her friends for it.

“It’s been a journey of perseverance and not giving up,” she said.

She needed that perseverance. She won Miss Sarasota Teen USA in 2015, was first runner-up in Miss Florida Teen USA in 2017 and won Miss Florida Teen USA in Daytona Beach in 2018. She was first runner-up for Miss Alabama USA in both 2022 and 2023. In 2023, she moved to Salt Lake City to compete in the Miss Utah competition and won. She went on to win Miss USA 2023 in September in Reno, Nevada, the first Venezuelan-American woman to do so.

“To think that seven years ago I was just starting my pageant journey and now I am Miss USA 2023,” Voigt said in an Instagram post at the time. “My mind is blown.”

In November, Voigt represented the U.S. in the Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador, where she placed in the top 20.

Why did Noelia Voigt step down as Miss USA?

Voigt did not provide specifics in her lengthy Instagram post.

In a comment, her mother posted, “As your mother, it has been a huge relief to see my Noelia’s personality restored. We are extremely proud of you for your selflessness in standing up for what is right while also prioritizing what is best for you. I observed how your personality changed and how your light faded. It broke our hearts. We are so happy today to see you being you again. Welcome home. ❤️”

“We respect and support former Miss USA Noelia Voigt’s decision to step down from her duties,” the Miss USA organization said in a statement shared with USA TODAY. “The well-being of our titleholders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time.”

Were there clues to Noelia Voigt’s resignation?

Voigt’s resignation came days after the Miss USA’s social media director, Claudia Michelle, resigned. She cited a lack of support and compensation from the organization but took the opportunity to say that she was worried about a decline in the mental health of Voigt and Miss Teen USA Uma Sofia.

“I don’t believe in taking sides. I believe in telling the truth,” she said. “I believe Noelia and Uma’s mental health and happiness has taken a toll and I cannot remain silent about that. I will always stand for and support the brand that uplifts and empowers its women. The brand IS the titleholders. Without them, there is no Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. I believe their voices and their stories should be heard and not silenced.”

Fans commenting on Voigt’s post and elsewhere noticed that the first letter in each sentence of her statement, except for the last three, spells out “I AM SILENCED.” It is not yet known if this was intentional. USA TODAY has reached out to Voigt and the Miss USA Organization for comment.

Voigt has been a strong anti-bullying advocate since she said she was bullied herself after competing in her first pageant when she was 16. While she was a student at UA she wrote a children’s book, “Maddie the Brave,” based on 9-year-old Birmingham girl Madison “Maddie” Whittsett who died by suicide in 2018 after being bullied by other students at her school. In her post Monday, Voigt spoke about her focus on anti-bullying, domestic violence awareness and prevention and immigration reform.

“Deep down I know this is just the beginning of a new chapter for me, and my hope is that I continue to inspire others to remain steadfast, prioritize 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,” Voigt said in her post.

Who will replace Noelia Voigt as Miss USA?

The Miss USA organization is currently reviewing plans for the transition of responsibilities to a successor, a spokesperson said. “An announcement regarding the crowning of the new Miss USA will be coming soon.”

The Miss USA 2023 runner-up was Savannah Gankiewicz, Miss Hawaii USA. KHON2 in Hawaii reported that she has been offered the title but has not yet officially accepted.

What is the difference between Miss USA and Miss America?

Miss America began in 1921 as the “Inter-City Beauty Contest” in Atlantic City, New Jersey and grew into a national event.

Miss USA started in 1952 because a Miss America winner refused to pose in a swimsuit. Yolande Betbeze, who had been educated in a convent school, held her ground under pressure from the Miss America organization (sponsored, in part, by Catalina Swimwear). An angry Catalina founded a competing event in Long Beach and also went on to found Miss Universe, the most-watched beauty contest in the world.

Miss USA has gone through several owners since, including former President Donald Trump, who owned it and the Miss Universe pageant from 1996 to 2015.

Miss USA is open to contestants between the ages of 18 and 28 and includes a swimsuit portion and evening gown presentation, but no talent competition. The competition emphasizes diversity and inclusion. Winners move forward to compete in Miss Universe.

Miss America is open to contestants between the ages of 17 and 26. They compete in a talent competition and may choose what they wear for the evening portion.

In 2018, Miss America dropped the swimsuit competition for the first time. Some of the contestents were pleased, but the event lost a million viewers.

Contributing: Brendon Morrow and Naledi Ushe, USA TODAY

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