Most pageants by their very nature are a celebration of beauty, talent, and morality. However, six contestants of the first Miss Corpus Christi Latina pageant are of the opinion that morality was not a trait present in the pageant director. Four of the six young women have made statements regarding the lack of honesty and transparency with which the pageant was held on Saturday, June 11 at the Holiday Inn Airport & Convention Center in Corpus Christi.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against pageant director Kayla Alvarez are Valeria Barrera, Erica Cruz, Denise Del Angel, Flor Elizondo, Jessica Garcia, and Christine Luna. These are six of the 17 women who were competing for the crown on that June night.
As stated on the complaint form filed on June 27, the plaintiffs are suing Alvarez to “...seek monetary relief of $100,000 or less, including damages of any kind, penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgement interest, and attorney's fees.” However, Barrera, Cruz, Del Angel, and Luna have stated that they were not interested in money but rather justice. Alvarez did not return phone calls and could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit stems from Alvarez's refusal to disqualify contestant Caitlin Cifuentes from the pageant for violating the rules of the pageant. According to Acirema Alayeto, Founder and National Director of Organizacion Miss America Latina, Inc. (OMALI), Cifuentes was ineligible and Alvarez was supposed to remove her from the pageant.
“I was contacted on June 5 about the issue of the criminal record. I called Miss Alvarez the next day and she said that Cifuentes didn't have a conviction. Yet when you plead guilty that is a conviction,” Alayeto said, “In 30 years of doing these pageants, we have never had a problem like this.”
According to court documents, Cifuentes was given a six month suspended sentence with a 24 month probation for DWI and is also currently on a 120 month deferred adjudication probation stemming from aggravated assault charges in September of 2015. The counts on her criminal record have to do with a drunk driving arrest from August 2013.
Marisol Carvajal-Garcia is a local attorney representing the six contestants in their lawsuit. “Before the contest, I was contacted by one of the contestants about a girl who was previously married and had a criminal record,” she said.
Carvajal-Garcia said she contacted Alayeto about her concerns and after the criminal record came out.
According to Carvajal-Garcia, Caitlin Cifuentes was ineligible to compete due to having a previous criminal. “I spoke to Ms. Alvarez over the phone on one occasion in which she referred me to her representative. I then received a call from the representative who was Martin Cifuentes, the father of Caitlin Cifuentes,” Carvajal-Garcia said.
Carvajal-Garcia stated she has since not had any contact with Alvarez and currently has a process server attempting to serve Alvarez with the lawsuit paperwork.
Plaintiffs Cruz and Del Angel have stated that since the news broke of the lawsuit they have stayed in their homes for fear of being accosted. “I've gotten messages on Facebook calling us filthy names. I haven't been to work for two weeks,” said Cruz in a phone conversation.
Del Angel stated, “It has affected us cause members of the community on her side don't understand the real reason we're doing this. All the time and money and effort spent on the pageant and people are being rude and negative don't know the real story.”
Tickets printed for the pageant state, “Benefitting the Women's Shelter of South Texas.” However, Kellie Addison with the Women's Shelter said, “We have not received any money from the pageant. Before the pageant we were in contact with Miss Alvarez but have not had any contact since.”
In the aftermath of the pageant and impending civil action. The plaintiffs have since banded together to create the Queens of Justice Facebook page. According to Luna, Barrera and Del Angel, the page was created to provide the donations, which were promised to the Women's Shelter that have yet to materialize from the pageant and “right the wrongs from the pageant.”
“We entered the contest thinking it would be fair,” Barrera said. “We're not doing this for a crown, but for the rules and justice.”