MIAMI – A woman crowned Miss Florida USA last month, only to have her crown taken away, filed a $15 million lawsuit Monday against the owners of the Miss Florida USA pageant.
Genesis Davila and her attorney, Richard Wolfe, both spoke at Monday's news conference.
"The object of our ire is Mr. (Grant) Gravitt. We believe he acted maliciously and intentionally to defame and hurt my client and we have a smoking gun -- and it is rare," Wolfe said. "I have never seen such a strong smoking gun to show one man's malice as I have seen today."
Gravitt, executive producer of the Miss Florida USA pageant, said Davila used professional stylists to help with her hair and makeup in her private room, which is a violation of pageant rules. He also claimed that Davila violated curfew.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy on rules," Gravitt previously told Local 10 News. "Whether it's something major or minor, it's all about keeping an equal and level playing field. Unfortunately, our title holder sought an unfair competitive advantage, and that's just not acceptable in our system."
Gravitt said pageant organizers received multiple complaints from contestants, and there were also eyewitnesses and well as "substantial proof" that linked her and her vendors to her room on an evening when they weren't allowed to be there.
Although Gravitt didn't specifically say what proof he had, he said Davila's social media accounts sealed her fate.
But Wolfe claims that Gravitt wanted to find any excuse to dethrone his client. He said Davila was first confronted by Gravitt for "not being a U.S. citizen," although she is a citizen of Puerto Rico and therefore a citizen of the U.S.
Wolfe said Instagram photos used to incriminate his client were posted to the social media site July 9, before the pageant even started and were taken at a professional shoot, where her hair and makeup were done.
During the news conference, Davila spoke publicly for the first time since being accused of violating pageant regulations.
"I would like to thank my friends and family for providing me with the support system I needed during this very stressful time," Davila said. "I would like to thank those of you from all around the world who have contacted me through social media and emails to offer me kind words. I would first like everyone to know that I am innocent. All of these false allegations have taken me completely by surprise. I have faced many challenges in my life, but nothing like this.
"I am honest, hardworking, who was raised in ideals and principals. I am putting all of my faith in my attorney and the legal system to prove my innocence and save my reputation."
At 5-foot-10-inches tall, Davila is a model with Front Management and was also crowned Miss World Puerto Rico in 2014.
Davila competed with 64 other women for the title.
Wolfe said the lawsuit will seek damages for defamation, and he will also file an emergency injunction asking the court to give Davila her crown and title back.
Miss Sunny Isles Beach USA Linette De Los Santos is expected to represent Florida in the 2017 Miss USA pageant, which is the official qualifier for the Miss Universe pageant.