A former Coastal Carolina pageant winner is suing the university and the Miss S.C. Scholarship Organization, claiming she was deemed ineligible to participate for being too old — despite relaying her age to both on several occasions.
Allura Cheyenne Westberry of Irmo filed suit in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas last July. The case has since been moved to Horry County.
According to court documents, Westberry was awarded the title of Miss Coastal Carolina in October 2016, making her eligible to represent the school in the Miss South Carolina pageant months later.
Prior to participating in the Miss Coastal Carolina pagaent, the woman claims she was asked to provide “biographical information to Coastal and its agents, including her birth date of July 27, 1992.” During a camping trip in May 2017 sponsored by the organization tasked with hosting the Miss South Carolina pageant, the lawsuit claims Westberry’s age somehow again became a subject of conversation.
“On this trip, (Westberry) and other contestants were talking when the subject of her age came up,” the lawsuit states. “When she told the group about her birthday, one asked, ‘How are you even in the pageant?’ (Westberry) stated she had informed everyone of her age throughout the process and was told it would not be an issue.”
Weeks after the camping trip, Westberry was deemed ineligible for the Miss South Carolina pageant “despite the prior assurances that she would be allowed to do so.”
“The stated reason for this denial was the fact she would turn 25 prior to Dec. 31, 2017,” the lawsuit states.
In addition to time and finances spent fulfilling duties as Miss Coastal Carolina, the suit claims she travelled “to other pageants to appear and perform by advancing her platform of ocean conservation.” Initially planning to skip the Miss South Carolina pageant to focus on school, she was told participation was required and she would “forfeit her title and return her sash and trophy” if she did not.
Westberry has asked the court for in excess of $25,000 in actual damages.
In response to the lawsuit, Coastal Carolina — through its attorneys — stated: “(Westberry) in this matter had ample opportunity to avoid and/or mitigate any alleged damage arising out of the above-mentioned matter, but failed to do so.”
The university also offered another statement through university spokesperson Martha Hunn.
“Coastal Carolina University is an institution of higher learning, focused on guiding students to become educated individuals and encouraging them to make informed decisions,” she said. “We disagree with the student's characterization of events that are alleged in the complaint, and we believe the University handled these circumstances appropriately.”