Held on Oct. 3rd, this year’s Miss USA pageant is now mired in scandal galore thanks to accusations that the pageant was “rigged” and thus as fake as fake boobs.
The scandal erupted after Miss Montana, Heather Lee O’Keefe, posted a series of TikTok videos mid-last week revealing that she and “most” of her fellow contestants believe that there’d been “favoritism” toward the winner.
“Most of the Miss USA contestants feel very strongly that there was favoritism towards Miss Texas USA and we have the receipts to prove it,” she said in the video.
Miss Texas USA, R’Bonney Gabriel, was this year’s winner, as well as the first Filipina American and first Asian American to win the Miss Texas USA title.
One of O’Keefe’s TikTok videos can be seen below:
@heatherleeokeefe Replying to @dridge97 ♬ original sound – Heather Lee O’Keefe, J.D.
After Miss Montana spoke out, Miss New York, Heather Nunez, jumped on the bandwagon.
“I am lost for words. The way I entered this pageant and gave it every last bit of my heart and soul. I had limiting beliefs of the outcome and did everything to ignore ALL the signs,” she wrote in an Instagram Story post.
“We were humiliated, thinking we entered something with a fair chance. However, I’m not here to create a sob story, you also don’t have to believe what we are saying. The ONLY reason I am speaking up is the prevent future contestants from feeling the same way that I do. For all the little girls who watch Miss USA with the same dreams I had of working hard to be in that position. You deserve a fair chance.”
All this happened last week.
Now fast-forward to this weekend, when O’Keefe doubled down on her accusations during an interview with the Daily Mail.
“I do feel like we were all used as puppets to just put on this show of Miss USA, just to put on the show of a pageant,” she said.
“I feel like, and a lot of other contestants feel like, they had already predetermined the winner. We were just there as puppets to put on this show for them to make it seem like there was a pageant. That’s how we feel. That’s our own opinion,” she added.
Asked for her opinion on why Miss Texas was chosen as the winner, O’Keefe again repeated her accusation of favoritism.
“The only thing I know was that there was clear and convincing favoritism toward her in the competition and leading up to the competition. She received more resources than we did. That is the root of the issue,” she said.
@heatherleeokeefe Replying to @iivonnemoreno #greenscreenvideo ♬ original sound – Heather Lee O’Keefe, J.D.
What sort of resources?
Citing O’Keefe’s TikTok videos, People magazine notes that she’d “pointed to a series of social media posts from the Nizuc Resort and Spa, which is a sponsor of the national Miss USA Pageant. One video was shared less than 24 hours after Gabriel was crowned, while an Instagram story highlight featuring Gabriel was posted nine weeks earlier.”
“In one video, O’Keefe claimed that Gabriel was allegedly flown to Mexico on United Airlines, a sponsor of both Miss Texas USA and Miss USA, in July to visit MIA Beauté, which is a sponsor of the national Miss USA Pageant and the State Miss Texas USA Pageant, at their location at Nizuc Resort and Spa,” according to People.
But there’s more.
“The founder of MIA Beaute, a sponsor of the Miss USA pageant, is also reportedly a judge in the competition … and posted clips of Gabriel on his Instagram stories, further fueling speculation,” the New York Post notes.
And this: “O’Keefe [in her accusations] also referenced the president of the Miss USA organization, Crystle Stewart, and shared an alleged screenshot of an Instagram story showing Stewart doing Gabriel’s hair. Stewart also runs the pageant coaching business Miss Academy.”
Continuing her remarks to the Daily Mail, O’Keefe said, “It’s very messy, but I think all the facts point to the fact that she was a favorite, and she did receive preferential treatment. I have absolutely nothing against Miss USA 2022 as a person. I think she’s absolutely stunning. She’s gorgeous. She also worked so hard for this.”
“But I think it’s unfortunate that the surrounding circumstances have tainted her win because we all agree she could have won on her own merit. We just wish that there wasn’t so much favoritism towards her beforehand, and we wish that it just would have seemed like a more fair competition,” she added.
@heatherleeokeefe There’s more to the story on @ABC News @Good Morning America #missusa #missusa2022 #missusadrama ♬ original sound – Heather Lee O’Keefe, J.D.
Gabriel, Miss Texas USA, says otherwise. In an interview with People magazine, she adamantly asserted that the competition was not rigged.
“The current allegations are based on perception and not the truth. I would never want to enter a competition that was rigged. I know all of the contestants worked really hard to prepare and I don’t want these allegations to overshadow the accomplishments of all the women who participated in this year’s Miss USA competition,” she said.
“I know how hard every woman worked and I want their efforts to also be acknowledged. At this time, I am excited to move forward with training for the Miss Universe and all of the opportunities that the Miss USA Organization will provide, while expanding on my personal platform for sustainable fashion and advocating for charity partners Best Buddies and Smile Train.”
In a statement to People magazine, Miss USA Organization president Crystle Stewart also claimed the competition wasn’t rigged.
“As the first African American woman in this leadership role, I take this position with all seriousness and regard. When I won Miss Texas USA, Miss USA, and more recently, became President of the Miss USA Organization many women of color were inspired and filled with hope. I would not do not anything, such as ‘rig a competition’ that I fought so hard for,” she said.
“The allegations against the Miss USA Organization are misleading and against everything I stand for personally and professionally. 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.”
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