I'm the new Miss USA CEO – it's more modern & inclusive than ever before, we have critics but they don't understand it | The Sun

BEAUTY pageants can get a bad rap, but Miss USA is having a rebrand — and its new CEO is passionate about leading the charge.

Following controversy with the previous director, Laylah Rose, 44, was announced as president and chief executive officer on August 1.

For decades, the mother of six felt like pageantry had been portrayed as face value or exterior — and insists it's none of these things.

The Florida resident, who has competed in pageants herself since she was a baby, told The U.S. Sun: "Critics just don't know the pageant world whatsoever.

"And I'm here to change the mindset of America in that regard."

Laylah is taking on the role at a pivotal time.

Married women and mothers were previously banned from taking part in Miss USA, but that rule was finally changed last year.

As a result, Miss Maine USA 2023, Julianna Morehouse, was able to get married during her reign — and will compete at this year's national pageant.

Earlier this month, the Miss Universe organization also eliminated the age limit that previously barred women over the age of 28 from competing.

The new president backed the move, which was introduced ahead of the 72nd Miss Universe pageant to be held in El Salvador in November.

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Laylah said: "I always say that we are not limiting women, married or not, from being surgeons or lawyers.

"[Those industries] want you as an individual, for who you are and the passion that drives you, and the impact you're going to create in the world.

"We're not telling you that you have to start at 25 [and retire at 28].

"We're telling you — you can start at any time of your life, and you're never going to be finished," she explained.

Laylah even admitted that when she aged out of competing under the old rules, she thought: "Oh man, now I can't compete either."

She said: "There are people who start running marathons at 45 or 55. They're not signing up and they're not being asked if they're married or 'do you have children?'

"No, you're invited to participate, you can go back to school at 50 or at 80.

"And that's exactly what this organization lives and breathes and wants to be highlighted. As it's their journey, their story, their voice."

And as for whether the rule changes will see an immediate impact on the stage, Laylah thinks they absolutely will.

She said: "So many delegates have already told me: 'Oh my gosh, I thought I was in retiring mode. And thank you so much because I'm ready and I'm taking off the retiree hat and shirt. We're coming back to business.'"

Every year, 51 women from across the United States descend upon one location to compete for the crown.

The first Miss USA pageant was held in 1952 in New York City.

This year, the pageant will celebrate its 72nd anniversary in Reno, Nevada on September 29 and be broadcast on The CW.

"I'm here to highlight the Miss USA delegates, and their passion to push forward to break barriers on all levels," Laylah said.

Beauty, both inside and out, has changed from her time competing in the teen division in the '80s and '90s.

"I wasn't what was in style at that time, but that was acceptable for that period," she said.

"We can't disregard that. That's how we evolve and we grow."

As a woman of Hispanic descent with darker features and a curvier body, her look was not as widely accepted and praised as it is today.

Laylah added: "I can see the changes from the '40s, '50s, '60s to today.

"We're accepting diversity of size, height, and background. It's shown by the queens we have crowned in the past decade."

Laylah, who founded NYFW event VIP Pageantry, judged many national pageants in other countries but was never on the panel for Miss Universe.

She said her "bigger picture was to be a partner with the organization."

"I didn't want to place myself in a position where it could look like a conflict. I was extremely mindful of my journey," she admitted.

In March, she sent an email inquiring about becoming the owner of the Miss Universe Organization.

But wheels were already in motion with the present owner Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, based in Thailand.

Laylaid explained: "They called and said: 'Well, Laylah you're second in line. Her deal isn't closed yet, but we think that this could be a really good relationship for you.'"

Within weeks, she had flown to Thailand to meet Anne.

"I felt the biggest impact for me and my assets would be with the Miss USA and Teen USA organization," she divulged.

She took over the brand from the pageant’s former national director, Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart, following rigging and harassment allegations.

She had just six weeks to prepare for the event.

Laylah declared: "I'm the loudest advocate for the Miss USA organization and I will fight all the way, flying around the country, to six states, to get through the right doors, to talk to the right people."

Her most notable achievement so far has been getting the pageant back on live broadcast television after several years off.

"We got demoted, in my personal opinion, when we weren't on primetime TV, but I think it needed to be highlighted in the right ways in order to be relevant," she admitted.

Laylah has made other changes, including cutting the pageant from 14 days long to six.

"I really was mindful of the delegate period, so I have in-house doctors, mental health counselors, and psychologists on hand with downtime schedule every day," she said.

They have also partnered with Best Buddies and Smile Train.

Laylah said it feels amazing to be the leader of an organization that she looked up to her entire life.

"It's not work if you love it and you have a passionate heart for it. It's what you wake up looking forward to every day and you can't wait to finish what you started the night before," she added.



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The current Miss USA Morgan Romano of North Carolina will crown her successor at the Grand Sierra Resort – and it will air live on The CW at 8pm EST.

Additional information and tickets for the live show can be found here.

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