Former Miss USA president Crystle Stewart, who was removed from her position amid allegations of rigging the 2022 pageant in favor of Miss Texas, has strongly criticized the contestants for accusing her of preselecting R’Bonney Gabriel as the winner.
It is the first time the former beauty queen has commented on the scandal since it broke last year. She used the opportunity to address the numerous allegations made by contestants against her person. Despite her seemingly reserved demeanor during an interview with filmmakers from The New York Times and FX documentary, Stewart lauded the contestants for using their voices and uniting to address the issue. But, she was quick to add that they used their unified voices for the wrong reasons, as reported by the New York Post.
Following the 2022 pageant, contestants used social media to allege that the competition had been unfairly manipulated in favor of the then-Miss Texas, Gabriel, who ultimately won Miss Universe. One contestant, Miss DC Faith Porter, recalled how her family had informed her about rumors suggesting Miss Texas would win. She opened up about doubts that were raised about Gabriel’s chances of winning due to concerns about potential backlash from pageant directors.
Contestants alleged that Miss Texas received preferential treatment, such as having a dedicated hair and makeup team, and they had heard rumors during pageant week suggesting that she was the predetermined winner.
Stewart, however, denied any involvement in favoritism or rigging, emphatically stating that she had no role in selecting the winner. An independent investigation conducted by Holland & Knight, though not publicly disclosing their findings, concluded that there was no evidence of rigging in the pageant.
She explained that at some point she was overwhelmed by the serious allegations made by certain contestants, particularly Miss Montana Heather Lee O’Keefe, who was the most vocal critic.
She said that everything appeared normal after the winner was chosen, but she received a concerning phone call regarding a video at Nizuc Spa. This video with Nizuc, a national sponsor, featured Gabriel, and it was released shortly after her crowning, violating the rule that contestants cannot collaborate with national sponsors before winning Miss USA. Many contestants suspected that pageant officials had preselected Gabriel, enabling her to film the video in advance, which triggered their accusations.