Tale turns ugly for Ventura County beauty pageant winner
The dispute began two years ago when the pianist philanthropist, in a glistening gown, won the Miss Ventura County crown. Only a week before the October 2004 contest, the stately redhead had a quickie wedding in Las Vegas – later annulled – in violation of pageant rules. The Ventura County Scholarship Association, which runs the competition, then stripped her of her title and sued her for $5,000, alleging that she’d misrepresented herself as single so she could compete. The association was awarded $3,121 by a Ventura County Small Claims Court, which Gushwa paid. Then last month, the association filed a theft report against her for failing to return her crown, commemorative ring and $2,600 in prizes. For deposed 2005 Miss Ventura County winner Hilary Gushwa, beauty never got uglier – or messier. The Camarillo beauty queen stripped of her crown over a drunken wedding has waged a tug-of-war with pageant officials who have accused her of stealing her tiara. And she defended her honor Friday amid allegations that a rival beauty-pageant mom and contest official had abused her law enforcement privileges while trying to repossess the crown. “I have survived much more difficult situations in my life than some angry beauty-pageant mother who is upset that her daughter lost a competition,” said Gushwa, 24, a Cal State Northridge coed. Pageant officials claimed she’d perjured herself in court by telling a judge she’d been too drunk and medicated to remember nuptials with her longtime boyfriend. “Only girls that are entitled to it are deserving to own the crown,” Jackie Youngern, an association committee member, told the Ventura County Star this week. “This program runs on trust, and she’s broken that trust.” Only what Youngern didn’t disclose was that her daughter had competed against Gushwa for the crown. Or that she worked as a specialized peace officer for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, which has declined to bring charges against Gushwa. Ron Bamieh, an attorney for Gushwa, said not only did Youngern make false accusations against his client, she misused her badge to “intimidate witnesses, obtain statements and solicit clerks at government offices to obtain records” on the deposed beauty queen. Legal defense The District Attorney’s Office forbids workers from using their position to conduct unsanctioned investigations. “I understand that some people were upset that their daughter lost a pageant, but at some point their actions become ridiculous and inappropriate,” said Bamieh, a former Ventura County prosecutor who once worked with Youngern. He said Gushwa did not misrepresent herself because she applied as single to compete long before the pageant took place. In addition, she doesn’t owe any further damages because she’s already paid her fine. Youngern, as well as pageant association officials, did not return phone calls seeking comment. A lead D.A.’s investigator said his office is investigating any potential malfeasance by Youngern, but could not comment on personnel issues. “Obviously, we take these types of allegations seriously and we are looking into the matter,” said Rob Briner, chief investigator for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. Gushwa, who says she suffers from two potentially fatal heart conditions, said she’d gone to Las Vegas to visit her boyfriend’s parents the weekend before the beauty competition. Charity concerns She drank on top of her medication and never remembered the wedding chapel, the kiss or the wedding ring, she said. The groom’s family has reportedly said Gushwa was not drunk during the wedding or rehearsal and has purportedly produced photos of a smiling Gushwa getting married in a Las Vegas chapel. “I never believed or thought for one moment that I was married,” insisted Gushwa, who has light blue eyes and flowing eyelashes. “… Later, I found out about the ceremony and immediately took steps to annul the proceedings.” Gushwa said she was especially worried at how the publicity would affect her charity, Heart2Heart, which has raised more than $50,000 for the National Marrow Donor Program. As for her Miss Ventura County tiara? She said she gave it to a girl suffering from lymphoma and will donate the remaining proceeds to her charity. “The girl I gave it to is a true beauty,” Gushwa said, “and I pray that she wears it in good health for the rest of what I hope is a very long life.” firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!