GARLAND, Texas – The mother who wrote a fictional essay that won her 6-year-old daughter tickets to a Hannah Montana concert said she never claimed the story she wrote about the child's father dying in Iraq was true.
"We never said anything like this was a true story — never," the mother, Priscilla Ceballos, insisted. "It was just an essay. We do essays all the time. It did not say that it had to be true."
The sponsor of the contest, Chicago-based girls clothing store Club Libby Lu, took the tickets away over the weekend after Ceballos admitted the essay she wrote was fictional. The prize has been awarded to another unnamed winner.
The tale began with the heart-stopping line: "My daddy died this year in Iraq." Ceballos wrote it for her daughter, who initially won the four tickets to the concert.
Additional reporting and video coverage at MyFoxDFW.com
The saga began Friday with company officials surprising Ceballos' daughter at a Club Libby Lu at a mall in suburban Garland, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.
The little girl won a makeover that included a blonde Hannah Montana wig, as well as the grand prize: airfare for four to Albany, N.Y., and four tickets to a sold-out Jan. 9 Hannah Montana concert.
The mother had told company officials that the girl's father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said.
"We did the essay and that's what we did to win," Ceballos said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. "We did whatever we could do to win."
She had identified the soldier as Sgt. Jonathon Menjivar, but the Department of Defense has no record of anyone with that name dying in Iraq. Caulfield said the mother has admitted to the deception.
"We regret that the original intent of the contest, which was to make a little girl's holiday extra special, has not been realized in the way we anticipated," said Mary Drolet, the CEO of Club Libby Lu.
"Hannah Montana" is a TV show named for its lead character, played by Miley Cyrus, about an ordinary girl who leads a secret life as a pop singer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hannah Montana Contest Winner a Fake
12/29/2007 1:00 PM PST
Hannah Montana Contest Winner a Fake
Priscilla Ceballos, the mother of the young girl, had told the company sponsoring the contest that the girl's father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq. When the spokesman asked the girl's mom if the story was true, the mother said no. God bless America.
"We never said this was a true story," Ceballos told FOX 4 in Dallas. "We do essays all the time. My daughter does essays at school all the time. It never did say it had to be true, but [the contest organizer] said, 'That's what we expected.'" Duh! Club Libby Lu, the company behind the contest, has not yet made a decision as to whether the girl will get to keep the tickets.
UPDATE: Club Libby Lu has released the following statement on their website: "Club Libby Lu has been evaluating the situation surrounding our Hannah Montana Rock Your Holidays Essay Contest and is extremely sensitive to the fact we're dealing with a 6-year-old little girl. We wanted to take ample time to gather all the necessary facts in order to make an appropriate decision regarding whether or not we would award the Hannah Montana concert tickets and other prizes to the Ceballos family.
After awarding the grand prize, we unfortunately learned that the statements made in the essay were untrue. Club Libby Lu greatly values honesty and integrity. In order to uphold these values, we have decided to withdraw the award initially given to the Ceballos family.
Consequently, we will award the prize to another winner already identified. With this decision, we hope to revive the intended spirit of the contest, which was designed to make a little girl's holidays extra special. In order to protect the family's privacy, we have decided to not disclose the name of the new winner."