As Lebanese-American beauty Rima Fakih glided across the stage in a strapless white evening gown, the crowd in the Miss USA pageant clapped heartily for the Michigan resident.
And it was up on that stage accepting her crown for Miss USA that the Arab-American community in hometown state broke out into whoops of laughter, joy and exultation at the realization that one of their own had captured the quintessential American prize.
Fakih, who beat out 50 other beautiful women, accepted the glittering crown with a huge smile and tears of joy.
The pageant was held in Las Vegas at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in front of a huge crowd and celebrity panel of judges.
Multimillionaire Donald Trump, who owns the pageant along with NBC, praised Fakih. “She’s a great girl,” replied the businessman after her win.
When asked about how she was feeling after winning the title, Fakih replied, “Ask me after I’ve had pizza.”
24-year-old Fakih, formerly Miss Michigan and now Miss USA, immigrated to the US as a baby from Lebanon with the rest of her family. They settled in New York before moving to Michigan in 2003.
She also told pageant officials that her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths, and the Miss USA organization was not sure if Fakih was the first Arab-American or Muslim to win the spirited competition.
Records were not as detailed in the beginning of the competition’s history, when it started in 1952 as a bathing suit competition in a California beach community.
Her family was ecstatic about her win. Her sister, Rana Faqih, who moved back to Lebanon a few months ago, told the Associated Press that “It was a beautiful surprise. It was not easy for Rima to reach this title.” She was busy messaging her sister and father all night, who were attending the event in support of Rima.
“We’re very proud as Lebanese-Americans and as Lebanese that Rima reached the point despite all the pressures and stereotyping about Arabs and Lebanese. She made it.”
Faqih’s sentiments reflect those of the larger Arab-American community, who is proud to see one of their own reach such heights and break barriers.
To see an Arab-American beauty win the title over 50 other women—none of whom were from a similar background, is a feat that the tight-knit community of Dearborn, Michigan is proud of.
In a time when many governments worldwide are trying to implement a ban on the burqa and there are daily bombings in Pakistan, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East, the news that a Lebanese immigrant glided her way to win and American beauty contest is refreshing news.
For the interview segment where a celebrity judge asks each woman a question, Fakih was asked whether she thinks birth control should be paid for by health insurance.
Because of its costs, Fakih said that it should be covered, replying that “I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it’s a controlled substance.”