To err is human. To have to give your crown back because of that error probably really sucks.
Nearly two weeks after the Miss California USA Pageant took place, the mathematically supported winner of the competition, Raquel Beezley, was crowned at a press conference held Thursday to explain the reason why another girl was mistakenly named the winner on Nov. 25.
Officials have said that there was a mix-up when the ballots were counted and that, somehow, the point totals for Beezley and the now crownless Christina Silva got switched around.
"This was a human error," pageant executive director Keith Lewis said. "We've apologized for it. I believe in the integrity by which we must stand. I'm here today to right that wrong of crowning the incorrect person."
Lewis also said that the volunteer accountant who tabulated the votes incorrectly has since quit the post. "We have made the necessary changes to the ballots, computer programs and future staffing requirements to safeguard that this isolated incident will not occur in the future."
"I am overjoyed, excited, emotional," a sash-draped Beezley said Thursday after accepting the crown from outgoing Miss California USA Meagan Tandy.
The 21-year-old former Miss Barstow also acknowledged, however, that this year her title came with a price.
"It is bittersweet," Beezley said. "I just want to tell [Silva] I'm sorry, and to keep her head up."
It was Silva who gave Beezley the good news over the phone, a move the latter beauty queen called classy and dignified but which Silva is now saying she was pressured to make by pageant officials.
It's "unfortunate" that the 24-year-old Miss Los Angeles, who has since hired an attorney to look into the calculation errors, "feels manipulated although she has not returned our calls or emails," Lewis said.
"We support Christina in her quest to seek the truth. At the end of the road, she won't find an ounce of discrimination, preferential treatment or impropriety. What she will find is simple human error."
Silva told the Los Angeles Times this week that, when Lewis broke the news that she was actually only second runner up, he urged her to call Beezley.
"I'm not going to use the word threatened, but I am going to use the words pressured and manipulated," she said. "It was so difficult, I had to hold back tears."
"My advice to her was to take the high ground," Lewis said. "I think she did the right thing. She cried, I cried."
Silva was informed that she could keep her literal crown, her winner's sash and a $4,500 Miss California USA necklace, as well as recoup her $1,500 entry fee. But since being told that she could try for the title again next year, for free, she has said that she wants nothing more to do with the event.
After telling Ellen DeGeneres about her troubles during an appearance on her show, however, Silva has since been set up with a modeling contract and a year's worth of services from celebrity hair stylist Ken Paves and Privé salons.
Beezley, on the other hand, is ready to get with the program.
"When the call came from Christina telling me I was actually the winner, I was in shock," she said in a statement. "Christina is very beautiful and was very kind. The integrity of Mr. Keith Lewis and the pageant officials is apparent. It will be my honor to represent the great and diverse state of California.
"My dream has been to be Miss USA and now I will have that opportunity."
The 2008 Miss USA Pageant is in April.
Further down the pipeline, the contest to become the next Miss Universe is really heating up—literally.
Puerto Rican police are investigating who may have spiked Ingrid Marie Rivera's wardrobe and makeup with pepper spray the night she was crowned Miss Puerto Rico, which pageant officials are claiming someone on the inside did to sabotage her chances.
While initial tests performed on her garments and makeup brush have tested negative for the offensive chemicals, and others have questioned how Rivera managed to stay upright—let alone so smiley and poised—after the alleged attack, police say that they will continue to look into the matter.
Beezley expressed disappointment Thursday that her leg of the competition would probably be lumped into the string of scandals that has plagued Donald Trump's Miss Universe organization in the past year.
"The thing is, we didn't do anything wrong," she said. "We're both innocent in this case. It's crazy. This has been very hard for the both of us."