(Trinidad Express) STRIPPED beauty queen Sherrece Villafana broke her silence yesterday to accuse pageant director, Athaliah Samuel, of being a bully who withheld funding from sponsors for the 2013 Miss World Pageant in September.
Villafana has been accused by Samuel of failing to hand over TT$200,000 sponsored by the Sport and Culture Fund of the Office of the Prime Minister.
She was stripped of her crown last week and, after a mostly silent response to Samuel’s statements against her, Villafana issued a press release from the office of her attorney in Port of Spain denying the allegations and claiming a portion of the money was given to Samuel.
Villafana painted a picture of a nightmarish preparation period, during which she alleged she was threatened by a male acquaintance of Samuel when she refused to sign over a percentage of her earnings.
She said working with a certain pageant official “was one of the most horrendous and traumatic experiences I have ever had in my life and never have I been bullied and threatened to the extent of crying all night and being scared,” the 19-year-old Villafana stated.
Villafana said she did in fact apply to the PM’s Office for funding on her own and received a cheque in her name for TT$200,000, two weeks before the event in Indonesia.
After receiving the funds, she claimed she was forced to transfer TT$45,000 of the monies into a pageant official’s account at First Citizens, Independence Square, “for which I have the transfer slip and bank statement”.
Villafana said it is her understanding that past representatives, including Samuel, also personally accepted Government funding, which was spent on pageant necessities.
“At no time was I obligated to Ms Samuel or the Miss Trinidad and Tobago Pageant Company to give them part of the funding that I personally applied for from the Sports and Culture Fund, to put my wardrobe and self together and for which I was accountable,” Villafana said.
She further claimed to have heard of other funding being collected by Samuel as pageant director, to which she, Villafana, was not given access, including funds from the Tourism Development Company (TDC) and the Office of the Mayor of San Fernando.
The former Miss T&T said Samuel gave her two dresses, from designer Peter Elias and the Carnaby Street clothing chain, but nothing else.
Villafana said she, along with friends, acquired the clothing, accessories and other supplies she felt she needed for the pageant and a 30-day stay in Indonesia, with the remaining money from the Sport and Culture Fund.
“I have receipts and bills to account for all of these items,” Villafana stated.
“I did not give any monies to any committee members but instead asked them to assist in putting my wardrobe together which I paid for from the funds, my bank records will show exactly how I spent the funds.”
She also claimed Samuel told her “everything had been cancelled” three hours before they were due to board a flight to London, en route to Indonesia.
“One hour later she called back telling me to meet her at the airport,” Samuel said.
While in London, Villafana claimed she was threatened and bullied every day by a T&T pageant official and a gentleman claiming to be the official’s attorney to sign a contract, saying it was part of the Miss World requirement.
“When I refused to sign, the gentleman told me, ‘I know where you live and I know your family and I will deal with them’. I was scared and did not know what to do, as this was my first time out of Trinidad.”
Villafana said she eventually refused to sign the document and claimed the pageant official harassed her daily while in Indonesia.
“This was all added pressure placed on me during an already high-pressure competition,” Villafana said.
She added that Samuel who asked to become a chaperone during the show was “constantly pushing herself into the spotlight with the other girls, as if she were a contestant”.
Samuel did not return calls by the Express for a comment.