The Miss Universe Organization has suspended Miss USA President Crystle Stewart and her company, Miss Brand Corporation. This comes days after the 2022 pageant landed in deep waters over allegations that this year's pageant was rigged.
The Miss Universe Organization will lead an independent investigation into the rigging allegations. The organization also issued a statement on the same on Sunday.
“After thorough deliberation, Miss Universe Organization has decided to suspend Miss Brand immediately. Miss Universe Organization will be taking over the Miss USA program while a comprehensive, third-party investigation is conducted.”
The accusations came after Miss Texas USA R'Bonney Gabriel was declared the winner of the national pageant on October 3. Following her crowning, some of this year’s Miss USA contestants took to social media to accuse the organization of giving preferential treatment to Gabriel.
Crystle Stewart won Miss USA in 2008
Born in 1981, the 41-year-old pageant director is an American actress, host, model, and beauty pageant titleholder herself as she won Miss USA in 2008.
After a successful modeling career, she made her acting debut in an episode of Tyler Perry's sitcom House of Payne in 2011. She was then cast in the lead role in For Better or Worse the same year. She was also seen in films such as Good Deeds and Acrimony. Stewart soon re-entered the world of pageantry as the national director of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA in 2020. Prior to that, she hosted multiple Miss Teen USA pageants.
Crystle has a brother, Robert, and a sister, Breana. She tied the knot with Max Sebrechts in 2014.
Miss USA President Crystle Stewart denies the allegations against her and her company
After the accusations came to light, Crystle Stewart shared her statement, where she called out the charges and claims as “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.”
Many noticed that as soon as Bonney was announced as the winner, many contestants just began leaving the stage without congratulating the winner.
The same was highlighted by Jasmine Bruce, the first runner-up, as she spoke to NBC News. She said:
“There's always pageants where maybe some of the girls aren’t happy with the winner — you know, everyone wants to win. But I've never seen all 50 contestants walk off stage or react the way that the contestants reacted in the background. To me, that’s very telling. These girls aren't just upset that they didn’t win. There’s more to the story.”
Many other contestants have also spoken up against Gabriel, the winner of this year's pageant, who also happens to be the first Filipino American to be crowned. The participants claimed that the winner was “heavily favoured” and the content was “entirely rigged.”
Miss Montana 2022, Heather O’Kaffee, alleged in a TikTok video:
“Nothing against Texas as a person, I truly think she could have won fair and square, but unfortunately all of this drama has tainted her win. But, there's too much evidence of favoritism to let this go unnoticed.”
She also spoke about how the winner, Gabriel, was allowed to do different walking patterns on stage whereas everyone else was told to follow the walking pattern assigned by the choreographer. She exclaimed that Gabriel broke several rules, but the organization never paid heed to any of them.
Gabriel addressed the allegations in an interview with E! News and said,
“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.”
The Miss Universe Organization is currently taking over the Miss USA program and is conducting a comprehensive investigation into the same. It is unclear at the moment as to whether Gabriel will remain with Miss USA or if the results will change altogether, post investigations.