The newly-crowned Miss Teen USA said she is “very sorry” for offensive tweets dating back to 2013 that included the repeated use of the N-word.
“I am very sorry. It’s embarrassing,” Karlie Hay, 18, said today on “Good Morning America.” “It’s something I’m ashamed of and I’ve grown up from that 15-year-old girl who used that type of language.”
Hay, a Texas native, found herself embroiled in controversy when her past tweets emerged just hours after she was crowned the new Miss Teen USA Saturday night at The Venetian Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Many on Twitter claimed that Hay used curse words, issued threats and even used the N-word on her personal Twitter account, which is now protected.
Hay took responsibility for writing the tweets but said the language she used then is not representative of who she is today.
“At that age, I was being a follower. I was trying to fit in with my friends. The word was thrown around in the music I listened to, with the friends I hung out with and I had no guidance so it was kind of a careless mistake,” she said. “When the tweet got brought back up I was just like kind of embarrassed, ashamed, and just amazed that I actually at one point in my life thought it was okay to use that word because it’s never okay.”
The pageant queen called the tweets a “careless mistake” and said she plans to turn her situation into something positive.
“I’ve grown from then and I’ve blossomed into the person I am today,” she said. “I think that I can turn this message into a positive message because there are people that use that word and it’s not acceptable ever.”
Hay said she tried to “stay positive” while critics called on pageant organizers to revoke her title.
The Miss Universe Organization, the parent company of Miss Teen USA, said in a statement to ABC News Sunday that though the language Hay used was “unacceptable at any age and in no way reflects the values of The Miss Universe Organization,” she will keep her crown.
“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,” the statement said. “Karlie learned many lessons through those personal struggles that reshaped her life and values. We as an organization are committed to supporting her continued growth.”
Hay went back on Twitter Sunday to explain her past tweets, writing that she had “many personal struggles” at the time. Today, Hay acknowledged that her struggles were no excuse.
“I’ve gone through my own personal struggles, and everyone has their own personal struggles, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to use this type of language or to use any bad language at all,” she said. “It goes to show that it can come back and hurt you.”
She added: “It has definitely hurt me on the inside forever saying it and it has hurt other people as well.”