The newly crowned Miss Teen USA Karlie Hay said in a TV interview Tuesday that she is ashamed and embarrassed about tweets she sent several years ago that used offensive language, calling them a careless but inexcusable mistake.
Shortly after she won the competition Saturday, tweets dating back to 2013 were unearthed, revealing Hay had used the N-word on multiple occasions.
Hay offered a public apology, and The Miss Universe Organization, which oversees Miss Teen USA, issued a statement saying, "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."
Many, including Miss Teen USA 2010 Kamie Crawford, accused the organization of trivializing the racial slur and questioned why Hay's reign should continue.
Hay apologized, and said the tweets are embarrassing, in her first TV appearance since the scandal erupted, speaking Tuesday to George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America."
"It's something I'm ashamed of," the 18-year-old Texan pageant queen said. "I've grown up from that 15-year-old girl who used that type of language. It's never acceptable and now I know how hurtful it is, and it hurts me to know that at one point in my life, I used that language. I said that. It's not me."
Asked why she ever used such language, Hay explained, "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. When the tweet got brought back up, I was just, like, kind of, like, embarrassed, ashamed and just amazed that I actually at one point in my life thought it was OK to use that word, because it's never OK."
"It's not an excuse," Hay added. "There is no excuse to say that word ever, at all."
Stephanopoulos noted that many have called for Hay to be dethroned due to the controversy.
"A lot of people think that, but I've grown from then and I've blossomed into the person I am today," Hay said of wanting to keep her title. "And I think that I can turn this message into a positive message, because there are people that use this word, and it's unacceptable."
"Hopefully people learn from my mistakes, because it is a big mistake," she said. "I'm just going to try to learn from it and move forward."
"Were you prepared to lose the crown?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"Like I said, I was trying to stay positive. I was trying to stay positive through all of this," said Hay, who made her pageant debut at the 2015 Miss Texas Teen competition.
Without providing much context, she told the news anchor, "I've been through a lot of obstacles and this was just another one that I'm going to have to go through. It was an incredibly bad mistake. It's...People go through these obstacles. 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. It goes to show that it can come back and hurt you and it has definitely hurt me on the inside for ever saying it. It has hurt other people as well."