TOMBALL, TX -- Pageant organizers are standing by a newly crowned Miss Teen USA after racially insensitive messages that she posted to Twitter surfaced Sunday.
Shortly after Tomball native Karlie Hay was crowned on Saturday evening, screenshots of tweets were circulated that appear to show Hay using racial slurs in 2013.
Hay's personal Twitter account has since been made private.
In a statement obtained by Eyewitness News, The Miss Universe Organization, which oversees Miss Teen USA, called Hay's language "unacceptable at any age," but noted that "was in a different place in her life and made a serious mistake she regrets and for which she sincerely apologizes."
"We as an organization are committed to supporting her continued growth," the statement concludes.
Hay, of Tomball, Texas, says she will use her platform to advocate for those affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Hay did not return any of Eyewitness News' requests for comment, but she posted a series of tweets in which she admitted using language she is "not proud of" and that "there is no excuse for." She also added that she is a better person today thanks to education, hard work and the "sisterhood" of pageants.
Hay's tweets with the racial slur ignited controversy online and got people talking around Hermann Park.
"It looks like she is joking about it, but on social media you should never use those words," said Aziz Surani, after viewing the tweets.
"I think she was trying to be funny or stir up something, but it's just kind of ignorant in not knowing what that really means," Morgan Alt said.
After viewing her tweets, at least one questioned why she still had the title.
"To acknowledge that is wrong is an okay thing, but why is she still crowned Miss Teen and not stripped for using language like that?" asked Evett Simpson.
Full statement from The Miss Universe Organization:
The language Karlie Hay used is unacceptable at any age and in no way reflects the values of The Miss Universe Organization. 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. We as an organization are committed to supporting her continued growth.
Full statement from Karlie Hay:
A few years ago, I used language that is inexcusable, and I sincerely apologize for my actions. At the time, due to a number of personal struggles, I was in a place that is not representative of who I am now. Through hard work, education, maturity 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. I am honored to hold this title and I will use the Miss Teen USA platform to promote messages of confidence, inclusion and perseverance.
Miss Teen USA stands by winner after racially insensitive tweets surface