October 4, 2023

New series ‘Secrets of Miss America’ unpacks the jam-packed 2017 email leak that rocked the pageant

About the new A&E series, Secrets of Miss Americakey players in the bombshell emails made public in 2017 that led to the resignation of the election’s CEO explained what led up to that moment and how it affected them afterwards.

The new four-part series promises to take viewers behind the scenes with a glimpse into the inner workings of the long-standing franchise with more than 20 former contestants speaking.

Monday’s premiere episode featured former Miss America Mallory Hagan, along with some of his colleagues, discussing her allegations that she had been bullied, shamed and embarrassed by former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell.

Hagan set the tone for what would later be shown in a series of leaked emails, in which she discussed how she first learned about some hateful things being said about her and the general culture created within the organization. The abuse and later career sabotage she experienced at the hands of Haskell pushed her to a dark place.

Mallory Hagan, Secrets of Miss America

Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, claims she was assaulted and her career sabotaged in the new A&E documentary series “Secrets of Miss America.”

“There was a lot of time when 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 was on top of my building. And if it weren’t for my relationship with my parents, I probably would have made a very different decision than I did.”

What happened instead is that in 2017, a whistleblower named Brent Adams, who was Hagan’s ex-boyfriend and also a former associate of Haskell, leaked internal emails mocking Haskell’s appearance, intelligence, and sex life of winners of previous election contests. The messages are printed by Huffpo.

“I wanted people to understand who they were dealing with,” Hagan said of Haskell and the emails.

The series also received comments from a few other former Miss Americas about the email leaks and Haskell’s words.

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008: “I, like all other Miss Americas, had stood up for so many years and defended this man as the savior of this organization. And at that moment I was just almost done with the organization.”

Angela Perez Baraquio, Miss America 2001: “To see it in writing was just shocking because I didn’t expect that from him. Being protective of the sisterhood was like, ‘What? Was this said about our sisters?’ And of course all the Miss Americas were in revolt.’

Betty Maxwell, Miss America 2016: “It was almost like being imprisoned and your kidnapper finally got caught and you finally get to say, ‘Hey, let me tell you what this guy did.'”

Sam Haskell, CEO Miss America Organization, Secrets of Miss America

Sam Haskell resigned as CEO of the Miss America Organization after emails disparaged the pageant winners were made public in 2017.

The emails also contained specific language that showed Haskell targeting and attempting to obstruct Hagan’s election coaching business. After the reports were leaked, some of the top executives, including Haskell, eventually resigned. A statement from Haskell that appeared in the newspaper on Monday Secrets of Miss Americaread as follows:

“Much of what has been reported is dishonest, deceptive and despicable. The material is based on stolen private emails […] by former employees. Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character nor my business acumen. I had the utmost respect for the women of this program and participants at every level.”

Building new leadership in the years since the emails has been a bit of a rollercoaster, including former Miss America’s Regina Hopper and Gretchen Carlson coming in and eventually leaving. The latest change came in January when Robin Fleming was named the new CEO. And in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter she recently responded to Secrets of Miss Americaand more specifically the Haskell emails. “I hope Miss America is some kind of mirror [for] America. And clear, [when Haskell was CEO] that was pretty much the #MeToo era — women stood up and said, ‘Hey, men who are in these positions of power are abusing their
power. I think that’s a story people can relate to because they’ve already heard it and of course there’s been ongoing conversations about it,” Fleming told THR.

Secrets of Miss America airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.

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