The Who2 Blog

Rima Fakih May or May Not Be the First Arab-American Miss USA

We’re pretty sure she isn’t, but pageant officials are skirting the issue.

This AP story is typical of the pageant’s take on the background of Rima Fakih, who was named Miss USA 2010 on Sunday night:

Pageant officials said their records were not detailed enough to show
whether Fakih was the first Arab-American, Muslim or immigrant to win
the Miss USA title. The pageant started in 1952 as a local bathing suit
competition in Long Beach, Calif.

It doesn’t take much background reading to see that Julie Hayek, Miss USA of 1983, had a father who was Lebanese.  (Hey, she even appeared in Bob Hope‘s USO Christmas in Beirut!)  That makes Hayek a Lebanese-American and Arab-American, if those terms mean anything.

Which is possibly the point: there’s no big win for the Miss USA pageant in trying to arbitrate what “Arab-American” really means — or worse, in being dragged into discussions of whether Rima Fakih is the first to “look” Arab while Hayek didn’t, etc.

The pageant is also soft-pedaling the religious issue, sensibly enough. The original pitch on Fakih was that her family “celebrates both Christian and Muslim traditions.”  But now MSNBC is saying her family is firmly Muslim:

Rima Fakih, 24, was born into a powerful Shiite family in a village in
southern Lebanon that was heavily bombed during the 2006
Israel-Hezbollah war. But she and her sister said the family celebrates
both Muslim and Christian faiths and prefer to be referred to as
Lebanese, Arabs or Arab-Americans.

Maybe “celebrates both faiths” means that Fakih’s family doesn’t actually go to mosque OR to church much — which would, of course, put them firmly in the American mainstream.

Now see pageant photos of Rima Fakih >>

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