The annual Miss Massachusetts competition was held on June 30 at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, but this year it was more than just a beauty pageant.
It turned into a political controversy.
During the final moments of this year’s Miss Massachusetts competition, a skit was performed mocking the #MeToo movement.
And as a result, Maude Gorman, now former Miss Plymouth County, turned in her tiara.
Gorman, 24, was backstage during the skit. And while it amused the crowd, it horrified her.
The skit poked fun at Miss America’s decision in June to scrap the swimsuit competition.
In the skit, a beauty queen told a man who was dressed up as God that she didn’t understand why the swimsuit competition had to end. The God character responded, “Me too, Amy,” as he held up a sign that read #MeToo.
Less than a week later, Gorman announced on Instagram that she would be giving up her title.
Her post included a picture of her holding out her crown and sash.
“As both a survivor, and advocate for victims rights and sexual violence on a whole, I refuse to stand idly by and simply ‘let this go,’” Gorman wrote in her Instagram caption.
At age 13, Gorman was gang-raped by three men on a playground.
“I will stand up for every individual who has ever had the courage to speak out; and for every person who felt liberated by the #MeToo movement,” she said. “I will not allow ANYONE to take away that empowerment and liberation, or make it anything less than what it is: AMAZING.”
Meagan Fuller, Miss Massachusetts winner in 2015 and an Attleboro native, said she was shocked when she heard the news.
“It seemed uncharacteristic of the competition and organization that I know so well,” Fuller, 26, said.
Now the assistant director of health promotion at Tulane University in New Orleans, Fuller has her master’s degree in public health and specializes in sexual violence prevention for the university.
Her first local pageant title was Miss Plymouth County, the same one that Gorman just gave up.
“I always loved the Miss America organization,” Fuller said. “It catapulted my career.”
She said she owes much of her leadership skills to Miss America, and that she is eternally grateful.
Following the competition in June, the Miss Massachusetts organization posted an apology on Facebook to calm the uproar that followed the skit.
“Moving forward, we will review all content with future emcees and other participants prior to our show to be sure offensive or potentially offensive content is not allowed,” pageant directors wrote in an online post. “We are proud of our contestants and even prouder to be part of an organization that celebrates what makes all of them truly extraordinary.”
And six days later, the master of ceremonies, Rich Allegretto, addressed contestants and families in a Facebook post.
“I would like to set the record straight about the skit I participated in during the Miss Massachusetts finals,” he said. “First and most importantly, our sincere apologies to those who drew any parallels between a joke about the swimsuit competition and sexual assault. The skit was meant as a satirical poke at those who are upset that swimsuit is going away. It was intended to be a nod to the #MeToo movement, not a knock on it.”
Allegretto is also a sexual assault victim, and wrote that it was “never my intention to insult or malign a movement that has done so much good for so many of us.”
Alissa Musto, 23, a Rehoboth native, won the Miss Massachusetts crown in 2016, and spoke only positively of the organization.
“At the end of the day, I’ll still be supportive of the Miss Massachusetts organization,” she said.
Musto is now a professional musician and credits Miss Massachusetts for being her “stepping stone” and helping her find her voice.
While many are still upset about the skit, Musto is more upset about the beating that the organization has taken in response.
“This is a board of volunteers,” she said. “They had no idea about the skit. It was not planned and it was not approved.”
Not only was Musto disturbed by the vulgar comments that have been trending nationwide, but she was also bothered that the focus shifted away from this year’s pageant winner.
“My close friend Gabriela Taveras was the first black woman to be named Miss Massachusetts that Saturday night,” Musto said. “And her accomplishment is being overshadowed by this drama.”
Taveras, 23, of Lawrence, will compete in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City in September.
Musto said Taveras has reached out to Gorman, as Taveras is a victim of sexual assault as well. “Gabby had the idea to collaborate with Maude on a program to help get other victims’ voices heard,” Musto said.