Mix-Up Strips Miss California-USA of Her Title

Pageant winner demands answers after ballot mix-up strips her of title.

Dec. 5, 2007 — -- An apparent mix-up in vote counting led the wrong woman to be crowned Miss California-USA. Four days after the pageant, Christina Silva, the crowned winner, had to give up her title to the girl who had been named second runner-up.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" Silva, 24, spoke about her ordeal and her fight to uncover the truth.

Silva was ecstatic the night she won. "I saw my family by the balconies and all I could do was cry and wave and say thank you God, thank you God. It was an amazing, amazing feeling."

The president of Ecuador's mom even called Silva's grandmother to congratulate Silva on the accomplishment and to let her know what a great achievement this was for an Ecuadorian-American.

But the euphoria didn't last long. Four days later Silva spoke with Keith Lewis, the executive director of the competition, who broke the news.

Thursday, Silva went to Lewis' house with her parents. "Within 10 minutes he just said, 'I don't know how to say this to you but you are not the winner. Miss [Raquel] Beazley, the second runner-up, is the winner, and there was an accounting error.'"

Silva says Lewis warned her that coming forward about the matter would hurt her career.

"All he kept saying is, 'Christina, you can continue wearing the crown and the sash and go on to Miss USA, but if this leaks your integrity and your acting career could be jeopardized. And we know you're faith-based and a woman of integrity and we know you're going to do the right thing, right?'"

Silva was then further shocked because Lewis told her to call Beazley right away. "It was so bizarre, they kept saying, 'You have to tell her. You have to tell her. You're the honorable one.'"

Overwhelmed and wanting to do the right thing, Silva says she agreed without fully understanding what had happened. "I said OK and they had me call within 30 minutes of dropping this bomb."

"That night he was showing me a bunch of papers, but we're talking four days after the fact." Silva said she had already spoken to Lewis on Monday though and at that point he "didn't have an inkling that anything was wrong."

Now Silva says she just wants justice. "I don't want the title. I want the truth."

"Something does not add up and it's not the votes," said Silva's lawyer, Wilfredo Perez. "First the order was flipped, then there was an addition error, now it's the standard of Miss Universe wasn't used. Lewis told Silva he found out Thursday; now he says he learned the very next day. Something does not add up."

Perez has requested the names of anyone who had any contact with the ballots. He has not yet received a response, but Lewis has said that he will cooperate on several occasions and that he is embarrassed for the pageant.

The contestants at the Nov. 25 competition at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles were scored by five celebrity judges who independently ranked them. The mix-up occurred when the points were reversed, with the lowest point given to the winner and the highest to the fourth runner-up, Lewis told the Associated Press.

The pageant allowed Silva to keep her crown, sash and necklace and returned her $1,500 entry fee after the error was discovered, The Associated Press reported. Duplicates were being made for Beazley.