Last Friday night, Passion Nightclub was looking to make one lucky girl's dreams come true. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's bump-and-grind palace held a "Free Melons" contest. It was not a produce giveaway. The top honors included a free augmentation. The winner wasn't walking away with just any bargain-basement boob job either but a voucher for the offices of Dr. Leonard Hochstein -- the Miami VIP chest-inflater hitched to Real Housewife Lisa Hochstein.
But anyone at last week's boob-off didn't get to see the front-runner compete. Miamian Maria Salamanca says she wasn't allowed to strut her stuff on the stage, thus denying her a shot at the big prize(s). Now, she's claiming the contest was rigged.
The surgery's always topped Salamanca's wish list. "I'm a very curvy girl. I'm Latin, but I'm missing the main essentials in the front," she says. Also: "I live in Miami, and in Miami, that's all you see. It's stuck in your head."
For a body-conscious girl on a budget, Passion's Free Melons bid seemed like a cost-effective answer. According to the rules, interested girls had to beam a photo over to the club's Facebook page, where the whole stack was put online in an album. The women were encouraged to drum up Facebook "likes" online; the contestants with the most clicks would then be invited onstage Friday night, where audience applause would decide the winner.
Like any supportive boyfriend, Alejandro Del Rivero urged Salamanca to go all-in.
"This wasn't a beauty contest," he tells New Times. "I would have never subjugated my girlfriend to anything like that. This was simply about who could promote the hardest for the nightclub. I thought we had a fair chance. We have a lot of friends, and I know every promoter in the city."
She sent in a picture, and then the couple promoted the hell out of the contest. The online hustle paid off, and on the day of the contest, Salamanca had the most likes of anyone else in the running -- 340 some Facebook likes, nearly 40 more than the second-place finisher.
But Salamanca says that on the day of the contest, she received an email from the promoters changing how the Free Melons would be handed out. In the new arrangement, anyone who showed up at the club that night could be considered for a "staff pick" slot that would also get them onstage for the final contest. The late game switch-up confused the issue some, Salamanca says, but nonetheless she went to Passion with Del Rivero and two girlfriends.
At the club, Salamanca says she let the promoters know who she was and why she was there. But the event didn't start rolling until around 2 a.m., she says, and by then music was blaring and a number of women -- some familiar faces from the online contest, some not -- were milling around onstage. Salamanca says she was onstage shortly before the kick-off when the event's host asked her to step off to the side for a moment. She did, but when the front-runner tried to get back onstage, a security guard blocked her way.
"He wouldn't let me back on," she says. "I was even trying to be nice, play that card. Didn't work. He was very rude, he didn't care at all."
As she stood at the lip of the stage, embarrassed and panicked, Salamanca watched as the contest commenced without her. The audience cheered for the various girls, and eventually the woman with the second-highest number of Facebook likes was awarded the implants. Salamanca was crushed. She bolted for the exit after the event, making one fruitless pit stop to ask the club management what had happened. No one, she says, had any answers.
"I cried the whole way home," she says. "Am I fat? Am I too old? Am I too Latin? I don't understand why didn't they let me compete."
Del Rivero, who's pretty pissed his girl was hosed from competition, says it was an inside job. Further proof, he says, is that the club took down the Facebook photos the next day. In response, he's set up a Facebook page, "Passion Nightclub Cheats," laying out the conspiracy theory that Salamanca was unjustly 86'd from the competition.
According to the club's Andrea Mix, the whole situation was one big misunderstanding. "We are trying to figure out exactly what happened Friday night," she told New Times in an email. "What we do know is we had several people jump on stage before the contest who were escorted off by security. We are thinking she was shuffled off too."
Also: "To put it perfectly clear, she was 100% suppose to be allowed on stage. She was our #1 contestant and we were looking forward to her competing. All contestants were given a yellow wristband to signify they were in fact contestants. I had asked her in the email if she had received a band or perhaps taken it off."
Mix says the club had always planned to take down the Facebook photos after the contest. There was nothing nefarious involved in how the night played out, she says. "We have been in business for over 10 years and would never attempt to hinder our reputation. It appears to be a simple mistake and we are trying to remedy the mishap with no avail. The allegation of even rigging a breast cancer event is just ridiculous."
The club has been trying to get back in touch with Salamanca to see what went wrong. They want to invite her back to another competition next month and comp her a table for the inconvenience.
But Salamanca doesn't sound like she'll be back. She says she's over the episode, but the embarrassment still smarts. Del Rivero, however, is cranked up for a fight. He's talking to lawyers. The couple denies they're tying to squeeze the situation for freebies.
"I'm not going to fold over on this one," he says. "We just got so screwed over on this one."
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.