Opelika native Mallory Hagan, known for winning the Miss America pageant, was recently thrown into the spotlight again following the leak of derogatory and sexist emails from Miss America CEO Sam Haskell.
The emails — which were published by The Huffington Post and contained information critiquing former Miss America contestants’ appearances and sex lives — led to a shakeup among the organization’s top leadership.
Hagan, now an evening news anchor for a Columbus, Georgia, NBC affiliate, WLTZ First News, joined dozens of other former Miss America winners and contestants to ask for Haskell to step down along with other pageant officials.
“What we saw in these emails was despicable behavior,” Hagan told The Plainsman. “It does not matter what organization or profession you are in, that type of language being used in interoffice communication is just not OK. It is not OK ever, but it is definitely not OK in the workplace.”
Hagan, who grew up in Opelika and graduated from Opelika High School in 2007 before going on to be Miss New York in 2012 and Miss America in 2013, was the subject of some of Haskell’s emails.
In some of the emails, Haskell was positive about Hagan but in others he wasn’t so cordial.
The former Miss America CEO appeared to have a particularly strong disdain for Hagan, according to The Huffington Post. Three months after winning the 2013 pageant, she was publicly fat-shamed after a bathing suit photo surfaced. Haskell said nothing publicly, but his emails showed him discussing Hagan’s body and private sex life.
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Others insinuated Hagan had a sexually transmitted disease.
When Haskell received one email that said Hagan’s hairdresser in New York had been commenting on Hagan’s sex life and body, he forwarded it to Lewis Friedman, a Miss America telecast lead writer, and said, “Not a single day passes that I am not told some horrible story about Mallory.”
Other email threads between Haskell and top organization officials referred to Hagan as “fat and gross” and used vulgarities.
After the exchanges surfaced, Hagan told national news outlets that Miss America board members were aware of the emails, and she called for a new CEO and board, creating a change.org petition urging board members to be removed. That petition received more than 18,000 signatures.
Since leading the charge for change, Hagan said she has received almost unanimous support at home.
“I understand that this situation can be one that a lot of people do not know what to say,” Hagan said. “I have been hard pressed to run into anyone who has not said the words, ‘I am proud of you.’”
Several officials were later forced to resign, including Haskell, chairman Lynn Weidner and President and Chief Operating Officer Josh Randle.
“That’s why I kept pushing back for all of them to resign because they are all complicit in this behavior, whether they actively knew about it or whether they did not ask enough questions when the issue was brought to light the first time,” Hagan said.
The new leadership of Miss America is led by Chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and Fox News anchor who became a leading advocate for sexual assault issues after she sued Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.
Hagan said she is proud to see the leadership of Miss America change for the better.
“It is important to stand up for yourselves, and it is important to stand up for other people,” Hagan said. “Look at the change it has created. I am hoping people will see that your voice does matter, and you can create change.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated, "Since leading the charge for change, Haskell said she has received almost unanimous support at home." That was intended to be Hagan, not Haskell. The typographical error has been corrected.
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