The saying goes, “Some women fear the fire and others simply become it.” A fitting representation of the women who compete within the Miss America Organization and strive to be advocates for change, voices for those without an outlet to share their own messages, and positive trailblazers in their communities, schools, and work.
As you may have heard, recent allegations surrounding comments made via email by the Miss America Organization’s FORMER CEO, Sam Haskell have caused an uproar from previous and current titleholders and volunteers at the local, state, and national level; and rightfully so. Sorry Sam, you messed with the wrong group of women. P.S. He resigned as of Saturday, December 23 // Click here to read more.
To sum up a series of degrading, hateful comments written by Haskell … let’s just say he spewed body-shaming comments upon a past Miss America, referenced a Miss America he wished death upon, and tarnished a number of other business opportunities for both the program as a whole and previous titleholders (this just skims the very surface of what was revealed). Now, to save myself the frustration and disgust in retyping the details, if you’d like to read the entire article written by the Huffington Post, feel free to do so here: “The Miss America Emails: How the Pageant CEO Really Talks About the Winners”
Former Miss America CEO Leonard Horn also urged Haskell to leave the organization, saying, “Resign Sam…..your attitude towards these women, as expressed in your e-mails, is blatantly antagonistic to the core mission of MAO.” -The Huffington Post
As someone who spent seven years of her young adult life competing in this program, a program that prides itself on providing educational and empowerment opportunities for women to succeed, I write this post to support not only my “sisters,” but the state representatives and Miss Americas I look up to. I write to those who have read this news without prior knowledge about this organization and quickly jump to misconceptions regarding the women who compete in the MAO. Lastly, I write to the hundreds of volunteers that are true leaders and fully understand just how impactful involvement in this program can be. In a statement from Forever Miss Americas they said, “as dedicated members of communities, businesses, and families throughout the U.S., we stand firm against bullying and shaming, especially of women, with derogatory terms meant to belittle and demean.” This group of talented, driven, compassionate women who have gone on to have successful careers in politics, music and performance, medicine, and television have taken action and created a petition in an effort to remove Haskell (check) and other board members who knew what was going on behind-the-scenes and didn’t say anything // Sign for change here
“The behavior of Miss America Organization leadership, specifically Sam Haskell, Josh Randle, Tammy Haddad and Lynn Weidner, is deplorable, as well as those who sat by while such derisive comments were passed around and didn’t object. We collectively call for their immediate resignation.” -Forever Miss Americas
“We have a seat at the table not because of a man, but because of a sisterhood founded on the principle of empowering one another. The cruelty, insensitivity, and misogyny demonstrated by Miss America Leadership is disgusting and there is certainly no place for it in an organization focused on supporting and uplifting women.” -Miss Wisconsin 2017
“These women are the only sisters I’ve ever had. They are strong. They are scholars. They are leaders. They are selfless. They are endearing. They are accomplished. They demand respect. And respect is what they deserve. Big changes are happening in our organization, but the #service #scholarship #style #success and #sisterhood will remain our foundation. I am proud to be a titleholder in the Miss America Organization. Together, we will continue to be women of incredible worth.” -Miss Iowa 2017
I have felt nothing but support throughout my many years of competing at the local and state level in Wisconsin and can attest to the fact that many other women across the country feel the same way. Don’t believe me? Go search “#TheSisterhoodIsReal” on Instagram or Twitter. With that being said, I cannot fathom the devastation the countless women who were targeted in these messages are feeling at this time — iconic Miss Americas like Mallory Hagan, Kate Shindle, and Gretchen Carlson. It’s clear that the program is long overdue for some changes and the time for change is now. No one, especially a person in a leadership position should talk poorly about those who comprise their entire organization. Haskell’s choices to denote his character and share such uncensored thoughts are representative of his personality and malicious intent, but are by no means a depiction of past and current titleholders.
Statement from the Miss America Organization Board of Directors:
“The Miss America Organization Board of Directors today voted to suspend Executive Chairman and CEO Sam Haskell. Mr. Haskell, in support of the organization, has agreed to abide by the Board’s decision. The Board will be conducting an in-depth investigation into alleged inappropriate communications and the nature in which they were obtained. In addition, the Board wishes to reaffirm our commitment to the education and empowerment of young women, supporting them in every way possible.”
Women within this organization possess a desire to share their talents (dancing, singing, musical capabilities, etc.) and accomplishments, make a positive impact in their communities, gain scholarships to further their education, and most importantly — they aspire to grow as successful members of society. Along that journey, inevitably, strong relationships between contestants and volunteers are fostered. The bond between women within the MAO is a unique one, after all, get twenty plus (or more) women together who share the same “Type A” goal-setting, driven, selfless, compassionate attitude and something magnificent is bound to unfold. This organization has and always will hold a special place in my heart as it’s a quintessential part of my life story and I have no doubt that justice will be served, making the program stronger than ever before.
“The Miss America Organization has gone through it’s fair share of ups and downs. But I know that after spending 7 years competing, and willingly the rest of my life helping other women succeed, that this organization at its heart is not about the leadership. It is not about pitiful and hateful words flung between disrespectful people. This organization is about the thousands of women who commit countless hours toward bettering themselves and their communities. My heart is warmed by the fight, power, and poise of how every MAO woman has responded.” -Jessica Johnson, local titleholder in New York and Wisconsin
Jessica added, that during this challenging time, she goes every sister does not forget that “WE are what makes this organization and WE hold the power to mold it how we see it.”
Let us, humanity as a whole revert to the time old phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And God forbid if you do have harsh words to share, find a tactful, private way to do so or know that karma is bound to catch up with you eventually. Let us come together in a time of despair with utmost love and respect as we advocate for change like so many of us titleholders have done time and time again with our platforms. #TogetherWeAre EMPOWERED