Cara Mund, the most recent winner of the 97-year-old Miss America title, is speaking out against the organisation.
In the open letter posted to Mund’s Facebook page, Mund wrote that she felt disrespected and belittled by the organisation. She also accused the Miss America Organization (MAO) of using feminine empowerment as a flimsy cover for a dysfunctional company that cares little about actually helping women.
“The rhetoric about empowering women, and openness and transparency, is great; however, the reality is quite different. I am living that difference,” Mund wrote in the letter. “To stay silent is to give away my power and the power of the women who will follow me. I am not comfortable with any of us being controlled, manipulated, silenced, or bullied.”
Mund pinpointed two women in the organisation, CEO Regina Hopper and chair of the board of directors Gretchen Carlson, as being instrumental in the company’s misconduct. She accused Hopper of engaging in behaviour that amounts to Mean Girls style workplace bullying, such as intentionally mispronouncing her name, banning her from wearing pink, and chastising her when she first tried to discuss her unhappiness.
She also wrote that she was expected to bow out of important engagements so Carlson could have a bigger platform and, in some cases, was never even told about certain events. “Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message: there will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn’t me,” Mund wrote.
Mund also claims the organisation blamed her when sponsors dropped the Miss America Organization, saying it was because she is “bad” at social media.
The organisation issued a statement in response on Friday. “It is disappointing that she chose to air her grievances publicly not privately. Her letter contains mischaracterisations and many unfounded accusations. We are reaching out to her privately to address her concerns. The Miss America Organization supports Cara,” the organisation said, according to USA Today.
Carlson, a former Fox News host, also made a statement to People, saying, “I want to be clear that as a proponent of women my entire life, I have never bullied Cara Mund. We have supported Cara for her entire year and we will continue to support her. It’s just disappointing that she chose to air her grievance publicly and not privately.”
Refinery29 has reached out to the Miss America Organization and Cara Mund for additional comment and will update this post as more information becomes available.