Miss USA Noelia Voigt will compete at Miss Universe on Saturday.
Voigt, who began competing in pageants at 16, won Miss USA while representing Utah.
The new Miss Universe will be crowned by R'Bonney Gabriel, the ninth American to win the pageant.
On Saturday night, Noelia Voigt hopes to become the 10th American to win Miss Universe.
Voigt, 24, is a seasoned pageant queen who began competing when she was 16. But her road to Miss USA wasn't an easy one.
Here's how Voigt made her way to the Miss Universe stage.
Noelia Voigt began watching pageants at an early age, but her mother didn't allow her to compete as a child.
Voigt was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida. Her mother Jackeline Coromoto Briceño is from Venezuela, and her father Jack Voigt is an American former Major League Baseball player. He played as an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A's, Texas Rangers, and Milwaukee Brewers during his 14-year career, according to his website.
After winning Miss USA in September, Voigt told Business Insider that she grew up watching pageants with her mother.
"My mom is from Venezuela, and over there, pageants are their Super Bowl and Olympics — it's a huge deal," Voigt said. "So I had always wanted to do pageants from a really young age."
Voigt said she remembers asking to compete in pageants when she was younger than 10 years old, but her mother was "really protective" and made her wait.
"Depending on the pageant that you're entering at that age, it can be potentially damaging to a young girl if they don't end up winning," Voigt said. "Then they have this negative association with it, and they think that it has something to do with them."
"My mom didn't want that for me," she added. "So she waited until I was old enough to understand that, if I didn't win, it's not a reflection of me or who I am."
Voigt won her first pageant when she was 16 years old.
Voigt was named Miss Sarasota Teen USA in 2017. She went on to compete at Miss Florida Teen USA that year and placed first runner-up.
Although she found early success in the world of pageants, Voigt said her friends made fun of her newfound passion.
"I was really hurt and confused as to why people I thought were my friends were making fun of me for doing something that I was really excited about and that I was doing good things with," Voigt told BI. "At first, it really did sting. But it was clear to me that it was an attempt to steal the joy I had from this accomplishment."
Voigt made anti-bullying part of her platform and has since authored a children's book on the topic called "Maddie the BRAVE."
Voigt also credits pageants with helping her get out of an abusive relationship in high school.
Voigt told BI that competing in pageants was an eye-opening experience as she navigated an abusive relationship during her teenage years.
"When you're in pageants, you're surrounded by women who are really uplifting of one another," she said. "They all have a really good sense of self-respect and they know their worth, and a lot of times if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, that might be something that is lacking."
Voigt became involved with One Love, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending relationship abuse, and learned about the 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship. She has since educated more than 1,000 students across the US on the warning signs of dating violence.
"Once I broke into the pageant world and started to get involved in a lot of community service, I started to realize that anybody that was toxic in my life was simply holding me back," Voigt said. "Pageants absolutely helped me realize my worth."
Voigt moved to Alabama for school and continued to compete in pageants.
During her time in Alabama, Voigt received a diploma in advanced esthetics from the Aveda Institute in Birmingham and studied interior design at the University of Alabama, according to her LinkedIn profile.
She also competed in Miss Alabama 2022 and Miss Alabama 2023, placing first runner-up in both competitions.
"A lot of people ask me if it hurt that I kept getting first runner-up, and I just told them the honest truth — that I was really proud of myself for getting that placement," Voigt told BI. "I always felt very honored that the judges still felt I could do the job if something happened and I needed to step in."
"Every year that I hadn't won the pageant, it gave me another year of opportunity to do good things for my community, so I really wouldn't have traded it for anything," she added.
Voigt moved to Salt Lake City in April and won Miss Utah 2023 in July.
By winning Miss Utah, Voigt had finally accomplished her dream of making it to the Miss USA stage.
"It could have been very easy for me, all those times getting first runner-up, to just say, 'I can't do this anymore, I'm so frustrated,'" Voigt told BI. "But instead, every time I got first runner-up, it was more fuel to the fire for me to keep on going."
Voigt was named the new Miss USA on September 29.
"This is something I've worked toward for a really long time," Voigt told BI. "It's been a journey of perseverance and not giving up."
Voigt will represent the US during the Miss Universe finals in El Salvador on November 18.
The winner of the 72nd annual Miss Universe competition will be crowned by R'Bonney Gabriel, who went on to claim the Miss Universe title in January after a controversial Miss USA win in October 2022.
Voigt wants to use her Miss Universe platform to advocate for immigrant rights in the US, as she shared in a "Voice for Change" video.
"As someone who has several family members who have immigrated to this country, I have seen firsthand not only how difficult the process can be, but how there is a lack of rights and resources for immigrants," she says in the clip. "It is important to me to highlight my heritage and represent all cultures and backgrounds that make USA the diverse land it is."
Voigt told BI she also hopes to show people why pageants are still relevant today.
"We're really wanting to show people what the definition of pageantry is, and educate them that it is different now than it was years ago," Voigt said. "If we want to stay relevant and continue to garner people's support and show people the positive impacts that we make, we can't wait for them to come to us — we have to go to them."
Read the original article on Insider