A former beauty queen who lost her crown now is suing an East County beauty pageant as well as the founder of the pageant, El Cajon City Councilman Ben Kalasho.
The lawsuit claims fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. The suit was filed on behalf of Zhala Tawfiq, who on May 19, 2016 was named the winner of the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant, USA.
At the time, she was presented with a $2,000 oversized check. According to the lawsuit, that represented a "cash prize" for winning the pageant.
Instead, the suit claims, three days after the competition, Tawfiq was given a "contract offering $2,000 in wages."
Jimmie Parker, the attorney representing Tawfiq said, “It is a bait and switch, and under the eyes of the law, that’s fraud, very simple. She won a $2,000 prize. She was not given a $2,000 prize.”
Parker also said some of the terms outlined in the contract were unreasonable and onerous.
“The reason he removed her as the pageant winner is because he requested unfettered access to her Facebook and Instagram account.”
According to the contract, the winner will “post on any and all social media any and all requests” made by the pageant, its founder Ben Kalasho, and the Chaldean Chamber.
Kalasho said Tawfiq was “dethroned” because she did not perform duties outlined in the contract she signed. He added those duties included making public appearances, selling tickets to charitable events and posting in a timely fashion on social media.
“She has to post in a timeline of our choosing and that’s pretty typical of beauty pageants,” said Kalasho. “Some pageants request they hand over their logins and passwords. We don’t require that, but we do require a professional relationship and if there’s an event coming up, you have to go to announce the event.”
Kalasho also noted Tawfiq cashed two of the three installments she received.
The lawsuit also alleges defamation. It claims someone published on social media four photos of Tawfiq's likeness on the bodies of nude women.
The suit does not specify who is responsible, only naming "DOE ONE".
Parker said his client has good faith and reason to believe Kalasho and/or his associates are responsible.
But Kalasho denies any involvement with that.
"It's easily disproved. You know, if they want to look up IP addresses or whatever, then they are free to do that. I don't want to comment those," Kalasho said. "It saddens me to see that happen to anybody, let alone a previous queen--whether or not she was decrowned or not."
He said he is sorry it happened and hopes they will find the person responsible.