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Miss Hawaii USA offered the Miss USA title after the 2023 winner stepped down

KYLE TERADA / USA TODAY SPORTS / JAN.  14 Miss Hawaii USA 2023 defending champion Savannah Gankiewicz during the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament at Waialae Country Club.

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KYLE TERADA / USA TODAY SPORTS / JAN. 14

Miss Hawaii USA 2023 defending champion Savannah Gankiewicz during the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament at Waialae Country Club.

Miss Hawaii USA Savannah Gankiewicz was presented with the Miss USA crown after winner Noelia Voigt said Monday she was stepping down from her role to prioritize her mental health.

Voigt, who represented Utah in the 2023 election in Reno, Nevada, said in a statement on Instagram that resigning was “a difficult decision.” Voigt was crowned the title in September.

“In life, I strongly value the importance of making decisions that are best for you and your mental health,” she said.

Gankiewicz was the first runner-up. The three other runners-up came from Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Voigt, a native of Florida, said she was the first Venezuelan-American woman to win Miss USA, which began in 1952. As the winner, Voigt competed in the Miss Universe pageant in El Salvador in November. She placed in the top 20 and for the costume contest she wore an outfit with small models of landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument and the White House.

Her surprise firing sparked questions among pageant fans, including those who noted that the first letters of the first eleven sentences in Voigt’s statement read: “I have been silenced.” (The first letters of the last three sentences spell ‘hip’.)

Voigt and Miss USA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a statement on Miss USA’s Instagram account, the organization said it respected and supported Voigt’s decision to resign.

“The well-being of our rights holders is a top priority, and we understand her need to prioritize herself at this time,” the statement said about Voigt. “We are currently assessing plans for the transfer of responsibilities to a successor, and we will soon announce the crowning of the new Miss USA.”

Voigt said in her statement that her favorite parts of Miss USA include working with Smile Train, a nonprofit organization that supports people with cleft palate, and campaigns against bullying and for immigrant rights.

“Deep down, I know this is just the beginning of a new chapter for me,” she wrote, “and I hope I continue to inspire others to stay steadfast, prioritize your mental health, for yourself and others to stand up by your voice and never be afraid of what the future holds, even if it feels uncertain.”