By Cynthia de Castro/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Last Nov. 25, a Hispanic woman, Christina Silva, was crowned Miss California USA. Days later, her crown was yanked back and the second runner up, Raquel Beezley, a Filipino American from Barstow, was subsequently crowned. A few days ago, Silva sued the pageant organizers for half a million dollars in damages for public humiliation and lost prizes.
Alleging rigging and racial bias, the lawsuit claims the pageant’s executive director, Keith Lewis was “”uncomfortable with the fact that Miss Silva spoke Spanish with certain vendors. He felt that it may detract from the caliber of the pageant and some of the ‘all American girls’ may not opt to compete in the following year.”
The pageant director rejected the claims. He said winners during his tenure have been some of the pageant’s most racially diverse ever. Lewis told The Associated Press the allegations of racial bias were unfounded.
“I’ve had three winners since I’ve been a director. Two have been African American, two of four in the history of the state pageant. And the current Miss California USA is 25 percent Filipino,” Lewis said, referring to Raquel Beezley. “I think my record speaks for itself.”
According to the lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Silva was told by Lewis that “there has been a mistake and you are not the winner,” three days after being crowned Miss California USA.
Silva, who is of Ecuadorean and Mexican descent, alleges that Lewis, the pageant, its producer K2 Productions and the Miss Universe Organization (which controls Miss Teen USA and Miss USA pageants) engaged in fraud, negligence, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges.
The Miss Universe pageant is co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC, a unit of General Electric Company.
“They never could explain their accounting error, but told me that if I didn’t give up my crown to Miss Barstow (Raquel Beezley), my personal integrity could be questioned, and my career could potentially suffer,” Silva said.
Earlier reports revealed that several judges questioned the results of the competition at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles so the ballots were opened and recounted the next day. They then realized an error has been made and the true winner should have been Beezely. “It was a simple human error,” Lewis said.
The fiasco has generated a controversy with some people saying the title should have remained with the first woman and the pageant officials should have had to shoulder and take blame for the mistake. Other people, on the other hand, agreed with the decision saying Beezly should be crowned since she is really the judges’ choice.