Shaya Tayefe Mohajer, AP, April 11, 2008
A Hispanic woman who won the Miss California USA contest only to have her crown yanked days later sued the pageant Thursday for half a million dollars, alleging rigging and racial bias.
The pageant director rejected the claims, saying winners during his tenure have been some of the pageant’s most racially diverse ever.
Christina Silva, 24, was crowned Miss California USA on Nov. 25. Three days later, the pageant’s executive director, Keith Lewis, told her “there has been a mistake and you are not the winner,” according to the lawsuit filed in Superior Court.
Raquel Beezley, 21, was subsequently crowned.
Silva is of Ecuadorean and Mexican descent. The lawsuit claims 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.”
Silva alleges that Lewis, the pageant, its producer K2 Productions and the Miss Universe Organization engaged in fraud, negligence, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other charges.