Dethroned Miss Florida USA 2017 sues for $15 million and her crown back
True to the social media age, Genesis Davila only learned she had been stripped of her crown as Miss Florida USA when she saw a Facebook post featuring the runner-up accepting the title.
Now, she’s hoping social media will be her salvation.
The key evidence: an Instagram post cited by pageant management that purportedly showed Davila getting professional hair and makeup help, a supposed no-no under contest rules. But at a press conference Monday, her lawyer held up a blown-up photo of the post, pointing out the pic was dated more than a week before July’s Miss Florida contest.
Pageant boss Grant Gravitt Jr. cropped out the date on the Instagram post to falsely smear Davila, lawyer Richard Wolfe said in announcing a defamation lawsuit seeking $15 million — and a return of her crown.
“She didn’t have a professional hair and makeup person. She did it herself,” Wolfe told a press conference. “No one is going to have their hair and makeup done nine days in advance of a pageant.”
“I did my own hair and makeup today,” Davila proudly said as she at next to Wolfe inside a gleaming Miami legal conference room.
“If any of you are worried, I did my own hair too,” joked Wolfe, who is bald.
Gravitt and his company, TelAir, which produces the pageant, declined to comment because of the pending lawsuit, according a spokesman. The suit also names IMG Universe, which owns the Miss Florida and Miss USA pageants.
Monday’s lawsuit added another reality-show style plot twist to the drama over the Miss Florida USA 2017 pageant, which later awarded the title to Sunny Isles’ Linette de los Santos. Whomever wears the crown will represent Florida at the Miss USA pageant, which is a separate contest from the Miss America pageant.
Many subplots have emerged since judges crowned Davila on July 16 at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale. The following day, she went to Gravitt’s Hollywood office to sign the contract worth up to $100,000 in benefits and endorsements, including a La Casa Hermosa competition evening gown, cocktail wear fashion wardrobe by Elan International and a Carroll’s Jewelers custom-designed necklace.
But according to the lawsuit, Gravitt angrily accused her of lying about her U.S. citizenship. His tirade smacked of xenophobia and ignorance, Wolfe said.
Davila, 24, was born in Puerto Rico. “Let me remind you, Puerto Rico is part of this country,” her lawyer said.
A few days later, Gravitt began giving reporters other reasons — including that her hair and nails had been done professionally, and that she was seen in the hotel lobby the night before the show, another apparent violation of rules.
Gravitt told GossipExtra that he received “30 to 40 complaints” from other contestants and their relatives after the pageant. He insisted she wasn’t technically the winner anyway.
“As far as we’re concerned, she was never really Miss Florida USA since she never signed on the dotted line,” Gravitt said. “Those are the rules, too.”
He lobbed another bombshell — alleging that Davila’s immigration lawyer, Mayra Joli, was behind the legal action.
“Do you realize her lawyer Joli is a volunteer for the Miss America pagent?” Gravitt told GossipExtra. “They’re our arch-rivals, and there’s no doubt Ms. Joli wants to embarrass us.
“In the end of the day, they [Davila and her reps] asked us to look the other way simply because she is pretty,” Gravitt said. “We deal with a lot of pretty women, and we don’t look the other way.”
But TelAir’s motivations are more sinister, according to Davila’s camp.
She believes TelAir is siding with a sponsor called Pageant Ready, which coached a slew of participants, including the runner-up who wound up with the crown. “My client is not one of the insiders,” Wolfe said. “This was all done to get rid of my client so one of the insiders could be propped up as Miss Florida.”
Davila will be asking a Miami-Dade circuit court judge to issue an emergency injunction restoring her title.
“I am innocent. All these false allegations have taken me completely by surprise,” Davila said, wiping a tear from her eye. “I am honest and hard-working.”