Taylor Hamlin dreamed of winning the Maine Lobster Festival’s prestigious Maine Sea Goddess pageant since she was a little girl, but two social media photos deemed “inappropriate” by competition officials would cause the 18 year old to be stripped of the title just 24 hours after she was crowned.
The problematic pictures in question? Hamlin tells PEOPLE one snapshot shows the teenager with a marijuana cigarette, while another depicted her holding a juuling device (or e-cigarette).
Long story short, student posts a picture of herself doing something illegal, and then gets upset when called on it.
At the time, she posted it to a private Instagram account. “I had deleted it a while ago so someone must have had it and saved it,” recalls Hamlin, who tells PEOPLE she isn’t certain how the photographs came to the attention of the festival. “It’s only my exclusive friends on this private account, so it had to be one of my friends or their parents [who shared it]. It’s frustrating. I don’t know who it is and at this point, and I don’t care.”
The internet never forgets. But, at least Miss Hamlin can use this as a learning moment.
“[The festival] could have used this situation as a positive thing to make it a learning experience for other people out there. Instead, they wanted it to be negative,” she says. “They were determined to make me the example so I have to be suffering.”
Maybe she won’t. And I don’t think the parents are helping the situation.
“My parents asked them, ‘What are we supposed to do with our daughter now? She’s devastated. What do we do?’ And [the coordinator] just said, ‘I’m not your counselor,’ ” Hamlin says.
Lesson to be learned, don’t do illegal things. If you do, don’t post evidence online. And once you do get caught, own up to it and don’t pass the blame!