NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — Former Miss USA Crystle Stewart is now the new President, National Director and licensed owner of Miss Teen USA and Miss USA pageants.
For the first time in the pageant system’s 69-year history, the two national pageants are under separate leadership from the Miss Universe Organization.
Stewart has been making major moves in front of the camera in the modeling, acting and pageant worlds for decades. But this time she is going behind the scenes.
Persistence has paid off for Stewart, who was crowned Miss Texas USA in 2008 after four attempts. Having never won any local titles, she overcame the odds and made history as the first Black woman to win the state crown.
(Chelsi Smith won Miss Texas USA in 1995 and was the first titleholder of African American and multi-racial heritage.)
Stewart went on to capture the national title of Miss USA 2008. But most remember her for the infamous fall — seen around the world on the Miss Universe stage — slipping in front of an audience of 1 billion.
But even in failure, she believes a lesson can be learned.
She says when she first started to compete she never imagined she would end up as owner of the organization.
“I was still trying to find my swimsuit shoes and what lotion to put on. I never thought in a million years that I would take over the Miss USA Organization,” said Stewart.
At 39-years-old, she is the youngest owner and first African American to take on this major role. Until this point, the two national pageants have always been owned and operated by the Miss Universe Organization.
“I don’t think it has all the way hit me yet. This historical moment, being an African American woman, under 40 … running this national organization. It hit me a bit when I had to introduce myself to you,” said Stewart.
In recent years, the pageant system has been marred by controversial behavior by some reigning queens and claims of being outdated.
Despite the criticism, Stewart says she believes there are many positive take away from competing.
“For people that would say that it’s outdated, that it’s anti-feminist or something: I would just have to go off of my experience. Pageants absolutely changed my life. It gave me confidence. I was always insecure about my body. I was always thin, to be honest. Some people would say, ‘Oh well that’s not a problem.’ Yes it is when young people are making fun of you, calling you boney or a skeleton or things like that,” said Stewart.
Stewart says she plans to change the pageants dynamic and provide a new direction.
“A whole new form, a different type of format, showcasing the beauty of women. Not just on the outside, on the inside. I am ready to show the new image and idea of Miss USA and what it can do for young women. And it will have to be through a different format,” said Stewart.
She wants to keep the glamour, but mold the system into a place where all women can feel welcome to compete.
“You don’t have to be 6 feet in order to be in a pageant or do fitness. Bodies come in different shapes, sizes, colors and everything. That’s one thing I want to push,” said Stewart.
Stewart believes this new direction will help prove to the world that beauty is more than skin deep. She would not share exact details of upcoming changes, but said we will see the new format by 2022.