CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – A 25-year-old student who was chosen as Miss Coastal Carolina in October 2016 has sued the university and the Miss South Carolina pageant because she claims she was booted from the competition for being too old.
According to court documents, Allura Cheyenne Westberry filed the suit in July of last year in Richland County. After a motion for a change of venue filed by the attorney representing CCU was granted last month, the case has been moved to Horry County.
In Westberry's complaint, she alleges she provided both CCU and Miss South Carolina with biographical information, including her birth date, on several occasions.
Initially, Westberry alleges she told CCU officials she would not participate in Miss South Carolina since she was scheduled to graduate last summer and the pageant would interfere with her classes, according to court documents.
"Throughout the time prior to and after being named Miss Coastal Carolina University, she had been informed by agents of the university that her participation in Miss South Carolina was not a requirement of her service as Miss Coastal Carolina University," the lawsuit stated.
The suit alleges that after she told her CCU liaison of her decision, Westberry was informed that participating in Miss South Carolina was a requirement and she would have to forfeit her title and return her sash and trophy if she chose not to participate.
Westberry decided to participate and continued spending time and money to make appearances as Miss Coastal Carolina University throughout the winter and spring of 2016 and 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Then, in May 2017, Westberry took part in a camping trip sponsored by Miss South Carolina. It was here that the subject of her age came up.
"When she told the group about her birthday, one asked, 'How are you even in the pageant?'" the lawsuit states. "Plaintiff stated she had informed everyone of her age throughout the process and was told it would not be an issue."
Later that month, Westberry reportedly was told by representatives of Miss South Carolina that she would not be allowed to compete in the pageant due to the fact that she would turn 25 prior to Dec. 31, 2017, according to court documents.
"Plaintiff was induced to compete in the Miss South Carolina Pageant and then deprived of the bargained-for benefit through no fault of her own," the lawsuit states. "At all relevant times before and leading up to the Miss Coastal Carolina University and Miss South Carolina pageants, the plaintiff openly and notoriously stated her age and birthdate."
Westberry has requested the court award her damages in an amount in excess of $25,000 actual damages.
In its response to the lawsuit, CCU, through their attorneys, denied the majority of the allegations.
"The Plaintiff in this matter had ample opportunity to totally avoid and/or mitigate any alleged damage arising out of the above-mentioned matter but failed to do so," a portion of CCU's response stated.
In its response, Miss South Carolina also denied most of the allegations made in the suit. The organization did admit that Westberry supplied biographical information, including her birth date, and her age "was not immediately remarked upon."
The organization did inform Westberry in late May 2017 that she was not eligible to compete in the pageant due to her age, according to the response.
In a statement sent to WMBF News on Tuesday, schools officials said: