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An ugly aftermath for beauty pageant

Miss Los Angeles aced the swimsuit competition.

Looked great in an evening gown.

Poise?

You be the judge:

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When Christina Silva of Koreatown was asked on the final day of the Miss California USA beauty pageant 10 days ago in Los Angeles if she was a leader or a follower, she said:

“I’m a leader. I’m on top and in front.”

Silva’s adoring family was in attendance at the Orpheum Theatre, sweating it out as she made the cut to the final 15, the final 10, the final five. And then, the impossible dream:

Silva, a 24-year-old actress, was crowned Miss California.

Her first thought: Miss USA or bust!

Imagine, then, the crushing blow that came just four days later. Silva said she was summoned to the Los Angeles home of pageant director Keith Lewis. She thought she would be signing a contract that would open doors to unlimited opportunity. Instead, she was told the unimaginable.

Due to a so-called error in the tabulation of voting by pageant judges, she was not a winner, after all. Nice try and see you later.

Instead, the crown belonged to Miss Barstow, Raquel Beez- ley, who had been second runner-up.

“It was the shock of my life,” says Silva, who didn’t understand the explanation that judges’ point totals had been accidentally reversed.

“I went there with such joy and happiness in my heart, and when I was told I didn’t win, I just broke down and cried. My mom held me and I said, ‘Why me? Why is this happening?’ ”

Excellent questions, if you ask me. And here’s another: “What kind of Mickey Mouse operation is the pageant, anyway?”

Let’s not forget this is all part of some Donald Trump fantasy. His Miss Everything operation includes Miss Universe and Miss USA, and the most interesting news always seems to come out after the winners are crowned. Trump fired one Miss Universe and almost dumped last year’s Miss USA when she entered rehab.

How about firing some of the people running the show?

To add insult to injury, Silva says Lewis pushed her to play the role of Miss Congeniality and personally call Miss Barstow to break the news. This would have been like asking Jennifer Aniston to call Angelina Jolie and offer to turn over her wedding ring.

“I’m not going to use the word threatened, but I am going to use the words pressured and manipulated,” says Silva, who has since hired an attorney to argue her case.

I’ll get to Lewis’ response in a moment.

But Silva says he told her she could continue to wear “the crown and the sash, but if this leaks out somehow, your career and your integrity will be completely jeopardized. You don’t want to be that kind of girl. You’re a girl of faith, right?”

Silva says she had nothing against Beezley, the new winner. So she placed the call and delivered the news.

“It was so difficult, I had to hold back tears,” said Silva, who then went home, locked herself in her room and cried for days.

In a statement, the pageant said “a mistake was made by the volunteer accountant who tabulated the votes” on the night in question, the night on which Christina Silva’s future looked so gloriously bright.

The release said Silva was told she could keep her crown, the sash, “and the $4,500 Miss California USA necklace,” and that she could have her $1,500 entry fee back.

Lewis seems to express surprise that Silva wasn’t playing the good sport.

“It is unfortunate that now, several days later, we have heard reports that Miss Silva feels manipulated although she has not returned our calls or e-mails,” he says in the news release.

“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.”

Reached last evening at his home, Lewis said the audience reacted disapprovingly when Silva was announced as the queen of California. He didn’t think anything of it, he said, until a judging coordinator told him, “The judges are talking, and they’re surprised at the winner.”

Lewis said further examination of the ballots revealed that point totals were assigned to the wrong contestants.

Nice going.

This could be the biggest voting scandal since the hanging chads. And, as with Florida in 2000, I’m not even sure what to believe. The more Lewis attempted to explain how it all went wrong, the more confused I got.

How hard can this be?

Hot in Bathing Suit - 5 points.

Frumpy in Bathing Suit - 1 point.

Quick Witted- 5 points.

Barely Verbal - 1 point.

Pencil them in and move on to the next contestant.

Lewis denied telling Silva that refusing to give up the crown would hurt her career, and he still thinks he was right to encourage her to call Miss Barstow with the news.

“My advice to her was to take the high ground,” said Lewis. “I think she did the right thing. She cried, I cried.”

There’s nothing to cry about, Miss Los Angeles.

I mean no disrespect to Miss Barstow, nor am I suggesting that her dusty, drive-by town couldn’t produce a beauty worthy of the crown. All I’m saying is that until a better explanation of this fiasco is offered, this column will continue to recognize Christina Silva as the official Miss California.

You got a problem with that, Donald Trump?

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steve.lopez@latimes.com


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