After a decade of qualifying rounds and near-misses, this year's Miss USA pageant was 27-year-old Sheena Monnin's last shot at winning the contest and going on to compete for the coveted Miss Universe title.
Monnin gained sashes in various Florida and Texas counties in years past and was first runner-up for Miss Pennsylvania USA in 2010 and 2011 before finally taking the state.
But the scorned beauty queen surrendered her crown Monday after losing the national pageant the night before and took to Facebook to furiously allege the outcome was rigged:
In a post the next day, Monnin continued her rant:
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The pageant world is calling the incident a case of sour grapes. "My personal opinion is she didn't crack the top 16 and she didn't know how to deal with not cracking the top 16," said Ralphie Aversa, who judged Miss USA state qualifiers in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. "And then Monday and Tuesday ensued."
Aversa likened the highly-regulated scoring process, which is overseen by an auditor, tabulated by a statistician and watched by security escorts who don't even let judges take a bathroom break unchaperoned, to jury duty.
"I believe they use a computerized system down there," echoed 30-year circuit pageant coach and director of Mrs. Minnesota-America Faith Schway, who also attended Sunday night. "There's no way a contestant in Miss USA or any pageant I'm involved with would have access to anything like that [list]," she said, adding that it's not the first time someone has made such an allegation.
"I know sour grapes the day after a pageant is very common," she said. "Honestly, I feel this was just another ploy by a contestant to get some attention to herself."
Aversa said the spotlight-grab was the real tragedy. "[Monnin] in sense kind of stole the dreams of a lot of other women, some of which would have made just as good, if not better queens," he said.
"I don't think she realized that when she put stuff on her personal Facebook it would make national headlines," he concluded. "Or maybe she did and I'm underestimating her."
The wrath of Trump
Monnin also drew the wrath of Miss Universe Organization co-owner Donald Trump, who made the media rounds yesterday to announce his intention to sue her for her for calling the company "fraudulent."
"When she uses the word 'fraud,' that's pretty strong," Trump said on NBC's Today Show. "So we are suing her on that basis."
He went on to say that Monnin was simply bitter that she didn't win.
"My impression was, she didn't have a chance of being in the top 15, not
even close," he said. "This is a girl who went there, lost ... and
she's angry at the pageant system."
"That's Donald Trump," Aversa said. "Whether you're a businessman, a beauty queen or President of the United States, if you attack Donald Trump, he's going to attack back."
Miss Universe released an email Monnin allegedly sent to state pageant official Randy Sanders Monday that they say reveals her real reason for quitting. The pageant in April changed its rules to allow a transgendered woman Jenna
Talackova, 23, to compete in its Canadian arm. In the message, Monnin feigns moral outrage – two months after the fact:
"We are disappointed that [Monnin] would attempt to steal the spotlight form Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island on her well-deserved Miss USA win," the statement from the Miss Universe Organization reads further. "The contestant she privately sourced as her reference [of the pageant-fixing accusations] has vehemently refuted her most recent claim."
Culpo won the title after answering a question about whether transgendered women should be allowed to take first place in the Miss Universe pageant system.
"I do think that that would be fair, but I can understand that people would be a little apprehensive to take that road because there is a tradition of natural-born women," she said. "But today where there are so many surgeries and so many people out there who have a need to change for a happier life, I do accept that because I believe it’s a free country."