Former Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart is set to take on a new leadership role as the national director for the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageant system.
The Miss Universe Organization is announcing that it is licensing both pageants to the former titleholder, actress and entrepreneur.
“I’m so thrilled, and I’m so excited for the new things and the new ideas that I want to bring to the Miss USA pageant system,” Stewart told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview. "Miss USA will be pageantry re-imagined."
Stewart is the first Black woman and person to ever hold the licensing rights to Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.
Miss Universe President Paula Shugart told "GMA" that Stewart’s new leadership role has been in the talks for over a year and was finalized this summer.
"Crystle is the first to say being Miss USA changed the course of her life forever,” Shugart said. “She is dedicated to bringing the benefits of [the] brand to young women everywhere.”
“I am so happy the future of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA are in such capable hands, and I am really looking forward to working with her,” she added.
Following Stewart's reign as Miss USA 2008, she became a successful actress starring in leading roles for Tyler Perry’s "Acrimony" and the sitcom "For Better or Worse." She also founded the MISS Academy, a Houston-based school dedicated to teaching young women life skills through pageantry.
“I’ve been a part of every aspect of the pageant industry,” Stewart told “GMA." "And now being in this leadership role for Miss USA, I’ll take those things and put it at the forefront."
Stewart said she can relate to both sides of the competition from her previous experience as a former titleholder and as the director of the Miss Houston pageant, in which she said she increased participation rates significantly.
Miss USA should reflect 'diversity of the USA'
For Stewart, being a Black woman in leadership at the organization during a period of racial reckoning in the country is significant.
The leadership announcement comes just one year after Black women made history in the pageant world, winning all the top titles at the same time. In 2019, Toni-Ann Singh was crowned as Miss World, along with Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, Miss America Nia Franklin and Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi.
Stewart applauded Shugart for “inclusion and diversity” in the pageant systems. She said the reigning Miss USA Asya Branch and Miss Teen USA Ki'ilani Arruda being women of color reflects the "diversity of the USA."
Stewart hopes her new role "inspires and influences women like myself of different colors and races, and also men as well, to pursue your dreams without fault and with confidence, go for it and reach higher."
Re-branding the Miss USA system
Stewart said her first step as director will be re-branding the the Miss USA system and making it "more uniform" across the board. She said she plans to focus on how the pageant system helps women gain self-confidence and will work to ensure the system provides young women with that same opportunity she had.
“I want each and every young woman that crosses a Miss USA state, local or national stage to have that same experience, and that comes with building that foundation through that standardization and consistency,” Stewart said.
At the same time, “we can’t forget all the glitz and glam,” she added with excitement. “The trendiness, the glamour, all of that will be heightened times 10!”
“Think of UFC times 'America’s Next Top Model' times the presidential election, that’ll be the new Miss USA,” she said with a smile.
The first pageant that will take place under Stewart’s leadership will be Miss USA 2021 and Miss Teen USA 2021. The winner of the Miss USA competition will move to Los Angeles instead of living in New York City like previous winners.
Overall, Stewart said her priority in her new leadership role will be to show every American "who Miss USA is." She aspires to put future titleholders in the forefront of people’s minds by showing their depth.
"We are looking for confidence, someone that’s authentic, someone that knows how to enhance their natural God-given assets and someone that’s philanthropic," she said. "That’s where I want Miss USA to be, and I know that it can be."