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Caroline Schwitzky: Porn and the beauty queen

Dethroned beauty queen Caroline Schwitzky takes criticism in stride.
Michael McElroy

Caroline Schwitzky is tall, slender, and naturally busty — not in that tired, Miami put-an-eye-out-on-biscayne-boulevard kind of way. She has dark, playful eyes; coal-black eyebrows that somehow connote character; and olive skin. She's Peruvian and Brazilian, but you might guess she's of Indian descent. Simply put, she's the hot girlfriend from an '80s movie.

Schwitzky is certainly beautiful enough to be Miss Florida. But apparently she's just not sanitized enough.

In February, the saga of this 21-year-old beauty pageant exile made headlines from Shanghai to Brisbane. She forfeited a Miss Weston title — and a shot at the statewide crown — amid online death threats and brutal name-calling from a pageant honcho, she says. Her crime: She had previously rocked a sash reading, "Miss Exxxotica," her award for conquering a pageant at a porn convention.

She's still bitter. "They want to call me a whore for wearing a thong at a porn convention," she says, "but when we're wearing bikinis onstage at a pageant, they always make sure we turn around so that the judges can see our asses."

She also takes a power saw to the moral pedestal of nemesis Grant Gravitt Jr., executive producer and director of Tel-Air Interests. The Hollywood-based outfit is the 50-year-old production company that runs the Miss Florida Pageant. As word of the Miss Exxxotica win spread and letters of complaint poured into the Tel-Air offices in late February, Schwitzky contends, Gravitt called and menacingly urged her to resign. "You've done things in your past that are really disgusting," he allegedly said. "If I don't do something about it, people are going to ask, 'Why did I leave a whore with the title?'"

(Her manager, 37-year-old Charlie Diaz, says he was with Schwitzky for the speakerphone conversation and confirms Gravitt called her a whore several times: "It was insane, bro.")

Reached at his office, Gravitt denies saying whore ever in his life. "I did not cause this situation," the short and tan 48-year-old scoffs. "She was Miss Exxxotica with three x's; that's her issue."

Schwitzky calls Gravitt — who stands to inherit Tel-Air from his father, the company's founder — a "daddy's-boy pothead."

Asked if he tokes ganja, Gravitt is stunned: "That's libel territory."

Except that in 1995, one Grant H. Gravitt Jr. — then age 33 — was cuffed in Miami Beach for possession of marijuana. He initially denied the arrest and then protested the case "was sealed." Turns out the charge was dropped after he entered a deferred prosecution program.

Additionally, the royal family of Florida pageantry has a pattern of landing in court for allegedly not paying bills. In 1996, collection agency Barnett Recovery Corporation won a $2,200 judgment against Gravitt Jr. in a case that has been mostly destroyed. Since then, the Gravitts and their firm have been named as defendants in four other cases for contract indebtedness or property foreclosures. In 2003, Tel-Air even received a warning from the state after a check renewing its business license was returned for insufficient funds.

The younger Gravitt bristles when the character of the family business is called into question. "We're family, apple pie," he protests. "We've been in business since 1960, and that's because everything we do is aboveboard."

But if we're comparing all-American pedigrees, Schwitzky might win again. Unlike most beauty queens, she wasn't raised in the Toddlers & Tiaras world of children's pageants. The daughter of Peruvian and Brazilian immigrants moved to Miami Lakes with her family when she was 11. Her dad, Valmir, works for Miami-Dade Water & Sewer, and her mom, Elizabeth, delivers mail for the post office.

The opposite of her bookish younger sister, Gabriela, Caroline Schwitzky has always been addicted to admiration. "I have pictures of her when she's 3 years old, wearing makeup in front of the mirror," her mother says. "That's what makes her happy."

After her parents divorced in 2003, modeling became an obsession for Schwitzky, who attended Hialeah-Miami Lakes High but was never very interested in studies. At age 16, she began donning bikinis for department store ads without her mother's permission.

Such a path can lead to only one place: a porn convention. At age 18, Schwitzky made a pilgrimage to New York City and entered the 2008 Exxxotica Expo's pageant. The contest is relatively staid considering the setting: The girls wear G-strings and tiny bikini tops. Though slowly bending over with one's rump to the audience is encouraged, there is no nudity.

Schwitzky vanquished her opponents and took home the $2,000 prize before returning home to gingerly explain the victory to her mother. The next year, Schwitzky won another sash: that of Miss March Hardbody, bequeathed by 305HipHop.com, an honor for which her bare chest was painted with the website's logo.

Schwitzky regrets the dubious pageantry — sort of. "I made mistakes when I was young. So what? We're in Miami, for God's sake."

Worried about her daughter's future, Elizabeth Schwitzky began dragging Caroline to the Baptist Potential Church in Fort Lauderdale, where Pastor Troy Gramling wears jeans, sermonizes with an accompanying rock band, and sends out holy tweets.

Every Sunday, Mom says, Caroline was so moved that she would sob and run from the church. In July 2010, Pastor Gramling baptized Caroline in a hot tub. "[The Lord] wiped me clean as snow," Schwitzky explains, "and told me that all your sins and all your mistakes are done."

Next Schwitzky set her sights on a more audacious title: Miss Miami USA. It was all she talked about, says Elizabeth: "She had a big dream. She said, 'Mom, I want to be a queen.'"

She scraped together the $1,750 entry fee and won first runnerup. It was then that Miss Weston USA contest administrator Rafael Gallego called and persuaded her to enter his pageant, which can lead to the Miss Florida USA — and eventually Miss Universe — competition. (Gallego didn't return a call seeking comment.)

Prior to entry, all contestants must sign a contract promising, "I am of good moral character." (The next stipulation: "I am a naturally born female.") There are no explicit rules regarding past modeling gigs. Schwitzky says she never made any effort to conceal her past.

On February 20, she won. But within hours, photos of Schwitzky in her Miss Exxxotica and Hardbody trappings were posted on catty pageant message board Voy.com. "The threats started going up," manager Diaz remembers. "We were reading stuff like 'You're going to Hell, you bitch.'"

Schwitzky said she felt as if her crown was under siege. That's when Gravitt called her a whore and demanded she come to his office, she claims.

She made her decision then. On March 9, she penned a letter of resignation to Tel-Air. "My moral character has been questioned and I was judged unfairly," she wrote. "Mr. Grant Gravitt, I will not hold anything against you regarding your unprofessional behavior, comments, and harsh words."

Major media outlets devoured the story: "Florida Beauty Pageant Winner Loses Crown for Immorality," trumpeted Fox News. The New York Daily News said she had been "stripped" of the title for "semi-nude" modeling. Almost every outlet took the opportunity to feature pictures of Schwitzky wearing a thong.

Gravitt says he simply wanted to talk to Schwitzky. "I have 140 daughters, and I love them all," he says. Miss Universe honchos didn't return a call seeking comment.

These days, Schwitzky — who since 2010 has studied at Miami Dade College — says she wants to use modeling to fund charity work for kids. She'll stay away from the beauty pageantry industry, which she calls "evil" and "hypocritical."

"My daughter, she's still a young girl," Elizabeth Schwitzky says. "She has her dreams. Modeling is not a life that God wants her in. But I know for now that it's a dream."


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