On the new A&E series, Secrets of Miss America, key players in the bombshell emails made public in 2017 that led to the pageant CEO’s resignation broke down what led up to that moment, and how it impacted them afterward.
The new four-part series promises to take viewers behind the scenes with a look at the inner workings of the long-standing franchise with more than 20 former contestants speaking out.
Monday’s premiere episode largely featured former Miss America Mallory Hagan, who discussed her allegations that she was bullied, body-shamed and slut-shamed by former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell, along with some of his colleagues.
Hagan set the stage for what would later be shown in a series of leaked emails, discussing how she first heard about some of the hateful things being said about her and the overall culture that had been created within the organization. The mistreatment and later career sabotage that she was experiencing at the hands of Haskell pushed her to a dark place.
“There was a lot of time that I didn’t want to be here anymore,” Hagan said on the show. “But I would say the worst moment was, I drank a lot of alcohol and I stood on top of my building. And if it wasn’t for my relationship with my parents, I probably would have made a very different decision than I did.”
Instead, what happened is that in 2017, a whistleblower named Brent Adams, who was Hagan’s ex-boyfriend and also a former employee of Haskell, leaked internal emails that showed Haskell mocking the appearance, intelligence and sex lives of past pageant winners. The messages were printed by Huffpo.
“I wanted people to understand who they were dealing with,” Hagan said about Haskell and the emails.
The series also got the reactions of a few other former Miss Americas about the email leaks and Haskell’s words.
Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008: “I, like all the other Miss Americas, had stood up and defended this man as the savior of this organization for so many years. And at that point I was just almost completely done with the organization.”
Angela Perez Baraquio, Miss America 2001: “To see it in writing was just shocking because I did not expect that of him. Being protective of the sisterhood was like, ‘What? This was said about our sisters?’ And of course, all the Miss Americas were up in arms.”
Betty Maxwell, Miss America 2016: “It was almost like being captive and your captor is finally caught and you’re finally allowed to be like, ‘Hey, let me tell ya’ll the things this dude did.’”
The emails also included specific language showing how Haskell targeted Hagan’s pageant-coaching business and tried to hinder it. After the messages were leaked, eventually some of the top executives, including Haskell, resigned. A statement from Haskell that was shown in Monday’s Secrets of Miss America, read as follows:
“Much of what was reported is dishonest, deceptive, and despicable. The material is based on private emails that were stolen […] by ex-employees. Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character, nor is it indicative of my business acumen. I had the utmost respect for the women of this program and contestants at every level.”
Building up new leadership in the years since the emails has been a bit of a roller coaster, including former Miss Americas Regina Hopper and Gretchen Carlson coming in and then eventually leaving. The latest change came in January when Robin Fleming was named the new CEO. And in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter recently, she responded to Secrets of Miss America, and more specifically the Haskell emails.“I would hope that Miss America’s kind of a mirror [for] America. And obviously, [when Haskell was CEO] that was pretty much the #MeToo era — women standing up and saying, ‘Hey, men sitting in these power positions are abusing their power. I think that’s a story that people can relate to because they’ve heard it already and there’s been continuing conversations, obviously, about that,” Fleming told THR.
Secrets of Miss America airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.
#series #Secrets #America #unpacks #bombshell #email #leak #upended #pageant