Former Miss America Sabotaged and "Blacklisted," New Doc Claims
Former CEO Sam Haskell badmouthed winner Mallory Hagan to prevent her from getting jobs, she says.
The pageant world has been plagued by several controversies over the years, and a new documentary is looking into the scandalous recent history of one of the most prestigious programs. The four-part A&E series Secrets of Miss America—which premiered July 10—looks into the 102-year-old pageant, including the leaked emails that led the then-CEO to step down back in 2017. The subject of many of those emails was former Miss America Mallory Hagan, who claims that she was blacklisted and sabotaged by former CEO Sam Haskell following her win. Read on to see what Hagan says Haskell did to undermine her career and how a former employee of his exposed him.
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Haskell allegedly tried to control Hagan.
Hagan won the Miss America pageant in 2013 when she competed as Miss New York. At the time, she was 24 years old. As reported by E! News, in the documentary Hagan shared that she became close with Haskell and that he advised her on who she should and shouldn't associate with in the pageant world. She said that she later came to believe that his guidance was less about helping her and more about exerting influence over her.
"It definitely instilled a subconscious fear of, are there other people that I shouldn't admit I have a relationship with?" she said. "I definitely was not prepared for the insanity—the psychological warfare. It truly had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with a person used to being in control of those around him."
He reportedly ordered Hagan's boyfriend to break up with her.
The documentary also includes claims that Haskell also tried to control Hagan's romantic relationship with his assistant, Brent Adams. According to Adams, the former CEO threatened to fire him if he didn't break up with her.
"[Sam] would say these things, she was a [expletive], or like a horrible person, or whatever—I'm like, 'What are you talking about?'" Adams said. "It was about control. He controls everything and everyone else in his life. And if you go against him, you're cut out." Adams said he was scared of not being able to get another job.
Hagan explained that she eventually broke up with Adams because she "didn't want to continue being in a relationship with someone who wasn't standing up for me."
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Haskell allegedly tried to sabotage Hagan's career.
In Secrets of Miss America, Adams said that he heard Haskell speaking poorly about Hagan in business meetings, including with network executives. At the time, the Miss America winner was hoping to get television work, but jobs she thought she had booked kept falling through.
For instance, Adams said that Haskell claimed in executive meetings that Hagan was "trying to hook up" with former Bachelor host Chris Harrison, who also hosted the Miss America pageant.
"It was wild and unsettling, but it also made me incredibly angry," Hagan said of finding out Haskell was badmouthing her. "Like, just what is wrong with you?"
Eventually, Hagan started a pageant coaching business with another Miss America contestant, Claire Buffie Adkisson. They became suspicious when they were left off of a list of approved coaches for Miss America. Other women featured in the docuseries said they were told not to speak to Adkisson or Hagan and that they were on "that black list of Miss Americas."
Hagan said in the documentary that being rejected by the organization led her to become depressed. She said that at one point she considered taking her life after drinking "a lot of alcohol" and going to her rooftop. "And if it wasn't for my relationship with my parents, I probably would have made a very different decision than I did," she said.
Haskell was called out publicly and resigned.
In 2017, HuffPost published a report on three years worth of internal emails from Haskell and others at Miss America having offensive exchanges about Hagan and other Miss America participants. The CEO shamed Hagan in particular for her appearance and her personal life.
Adams was one of the Miss America employees to come forward with proof of Haskell speaking about contestants in a derogatory manner
As reported by E! News, Haskell said in a statement that the HuffPost report included "conveniently edited emails" and said "it is important for you to know that the events are not as described." He added, "Much of what was reported is dishonest, deceptive, and despicable."
Not long after, 49 participants in Miss America events spanning from 1948 to 2017 signed a petition demanding change at the organization. Haskell and other higher-ups resigned.
E! News reports that Secrets of Miss America also includes the same statement from Haskell. "The material is based on private emails that were stolen," it continues. "Those who know my heart know that this is not indicative of my character, nor is it indicative of my business acumen."
Best Life has reached out to Haskell for additional comment.
The current CEO of Miss America, Robin Fleming, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the accusations in the docuseries, which she was able to watch in advance.
"First of all, with any 100-year-old brand, there's definitely going to be organizational missteps, to put it mildly," Fleming said. "I would say my inclination is to support all the women who share their stories with the A&E producers. However, in talking with those same women, I've talked with about 35 different Miss Americas who've indicated they felt the entirety of their voices were not heard. That if you spend eight to 14 hours interviewing and it ends up as a two-minute biting soundbite, there's much more … right?"
Hagan moved on to a new career.
Today, Hagan is a politician. In 2018, she ran for Congress as a democrat in Alabama's 3rd district after winning the primary. Before that, she was working at a local TV station. Hagan ended up losing the election to longtime republican representative Mike Rogers. She then ran, again unsuccessfully, for the Alabama House of Representatives in 2022.
Hagan has been spoken out about her Miss America experiences in more than just the documentary. She talked to the press around the time of the email scandal, and in 2018, she wrote a piece for Vox titled "I'm a former Miss America winner. Good riddance to the swimsuit competition."
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