Maui native crowned new Miss USA following pageant controversy

2024 May 15 CTY - Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM Savannah Gankiewicz was crowned Miss USA 2023 by Gov. Josh Green at a brief ceremony at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach on Wednesday, May 15.

2024 May 15 CTY - Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM Savannah Gankiewicz was crowned Miss USA 2023 by Gov. Josh Green at a brief ceremony at the Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach on Wednesday, May 15. Alicia Michioka, Executive Director Miss Hawaii USA Pageant, assisted the governor.

Kihei native Savannah Gankiewicz was crowned Miss USA 2023 at a special coronation ceremony Wednesday, amid controversy surrounding the Miss USA organization after both the former Miss USA 2023 and former Miss Teen USA 2023 resigned last week.

Gankiewicz, who is of Filipino, Polish and Vietnamese descent, was the first runner-up in the Miss USA 2023 pageant held in Reno, Nev., last September. Her coronation comes just over a week after former Miss USA 2023 Noelia Voigt resigned, citing mental health struggles.


“While this decision was not made lightly, I firmly believe that this opportunity was meant for me and I am ready to make a positive impact with this organization that I hold dear to my heart,” Gankiewicz said at the ceremony.

A model, entrepreneur and certified mental health first aid responder, Gankiewicz is the youth program director at What Makes You Feel Beautiful, a Maui-based nonprofit focused on self-love for girls and women, and facilitates the “F.L.Y. First Love Yourself” program, which empowers young women to develop self-love and confidence.

Gankiewicz is the fifth Miss Hawaii USA to hold the Miss USA title in the pageant’s 72-year history. She is also the first contestant from Maui to earn the Miss Hawaii USA title in more than 20 years.

“It’s particularly poignant that we get to honor this Miss USA from Maui. That’s an extraordinary thing. As a representative of our state, Savannah has honorably served our community especially on Maui, which has held a special place in our hearts this past year,” Gov. Josh Green said at the ceremony. “During her reign, Savannah will continue to serve as a symbol of resilience and hope for the people of Hawaii and America.”

Gankiewicz’s coronation ceremony was the first of its kind, and celebrated her local heritage with hula performances and Hawaiian music.

“What we in Hawaii do best is show aloha. We share a bit of our culture, and we take it with us wherever we go,” said Alicia Michioka, executive director of the Miss Hawaii USA pageant. “As Savannah embarks on this incredible journey, we want to send her with love and aloha and show her how much support she has here in our own state.”

Miss USA Organization CEO and President Laylah Rose, who flew in from Florida to attend the coronation ceremony, said the brand’s goal is to “highlight the amazing ladies and their passion projects,” and honoring Gankiewicz with the title aligned with those intentions.

“When I flew in, I felt the ohana that you hear about and the ohana that you see and read about, and it’s a parallel with Savannah and how she radiates that beauty from inside out,” Rose told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “It’s apparent that she gets it from her culture, her family and all of the things that Hawaii brings.”

Naming and crowning a new Miss USA titleholder is unprecedented, as no woman holding the Miss USA title has ever voluntarily resigned before.

Former titleholder Voigt resigned on May 6, posting a statement on social media where she said she “strongly value(s) the importance of making decisions that feel best for you and your mental health.”

“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,” she wrote.

Online followers noticed that the first letter of the first 11 sentences in Voigt’s statement spelled out “I AM SILENCED.”

Two days after Voigt’s resignation, former Miss Teen USA UmaSofia Srivastava also resigned from her title as she found that “(her) personal values no longer fully align with the direction of the organization,” according to her post on social media.

The runner-up from last year’s Miss Teen USA competition, Miss New York Teen USA Stephanie Skinner, announced on social media Saturday that she turned down the offer to succeed Srivastava. The Miss Teen USA organization has not yet announced a successor.

The back-to-back resignations has put the Miss Universe Organization, which owns both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, under intense scrutiny as titleholders call for increased transparency from the organization.

According to a social media statement shared by multiple Miss USA state titleholders, the “majority of the members of the Miss USA class of 2023” supports Voigt’s decision to resign. The statement also asked the Miss USA Organization to “release Noelia from the confidentiality NDA clause of her contract, in perpetuity, so that she is free to speak on her experiences and time as Miss USA.”

The statement posted May 8 asked for a response from the organization within 24 hours.

“Our goal is to give Noelia her voice back,” the statement read. “We are asking for full transparency for contestants in the class of 2024 and beyond.”

Gankiewicz said that all involved with the Miss USA Organization “have their own unique experiences.”

“In my experience, Miss USA has been amazing to me,” she told the Star-Advertiser.

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