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The newly crowned Miss Teen USA quickly got a lesson about how permanent and pervasive social media posts can be after tweets showing her using racial slurs surfaced shortly after her pageant win.
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Karlie Hay won the crown Saturday night and immediately came under fire for allegedly using the N-word repeatedly on Twitter in posts from 2013 and 2014.
The comments were made on a personal account that is now private, but many users posted screen grabs from the account that included Hay's name and photo.
Hay, 18, responded to the allegations on Instagram and a different Twitter account Sunday, saying she regretted using language in the past "which I am not proud of."
“Several years ago, I had many personal struggles and found myself in a place that is not representative of who I am as a person,” she wrote. “I admit that I have used language publicly in the past which I am not proud of and that there is no excuse for. Through hard work, education and thanks in large part to the sisterhood that I have come to know through pageants, I am proud to say that I am today a better person.”
The Miss Universe Organization, which owns Miss Teen USA, issued a statement sticking by the new winner despite calls to strip Hay of her crown.
“The language Karlie Hay used is unacceptable at any age and in no way reflects the values of The Miss Universe Organization,” it said in the statement.
“As Karlie stated, she was in a different place in her life and made a serious mistake she regrets and for which she sincerely apologizes. Karlie learned many lessons through those personal struggles that reshaped her life and values.”
Separately, the pageant organization came under fire Saturday night by critics who noted the lack of diversity among pageant contestants.
Sports Illustrated cover girl Chrissy Teigen took aim at the blaring similarities between the five finalists, all of whom were white, blonde and blue-eyed.
"Wow how can we choose from such a diverse bunch," she wrote on Twitter in a post that was retweeted 84,000 times.