May 21st, 2010
09:19 PM ET

Miss USA says 'American' is her preferred label

"Religion does not identify me," Miss USA Rima Fakih tells CNN.

Rima Fakih's beauty pageant sash declares that she is Miss USA, but journalists want to find other labels for her.

Questions about Fakih's ethnic and religious identity have been nearly as frequent as questions about photos of her dancing against a stripper's pole.

"I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American," Fakih said. "I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American."

Fakih, 24, was born in Lebanon, but her family moved to New York when she was 7 years old. She later moved to Michigan, where she went to college.

The rarity of a woman born in the Middle East representing the United States in the Miss Universe pageant spurred internet buzz. One rumor was that Fakih had family connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group that the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization.

"Absolutely not," Fakih told CNN's Octavia Nasr. "That is a stereotype and a prejudiced statement made by only one reporter who had made that title before I was crowned Miss USA."

The blogger's accusation "was completely made up out of her own prejudiced mind," she said.

Contrary to some reports, she said, her family did not live in Southern Lebanon, the hub of Hezbollah.

"We lived in the mountain area of Lebanon, which is predominantly Christian-based," she said. "The majority of my family is diverse. It's Muslim and Christian."

Fakih said religion should not be a question for Miss USA winners.

"Religion does not identify me, I would like to say that," she said. "My family is more of a spiritual family rather than religious. We've never been religious, we've been never known to be religious, and on top of everything, we celebrate Christmas."

Fakih attended a Catholic high school in New York, she said.

"We are Muslim," she said. "However, we appreciate and admire all faiths."

The reaction to Fakih's selection was cause for celebration for many in Lebanon, a country she visited just a few months ago.

"I want them to know that the United States is not what they see on TV," she said. "It is still a country of freedom and opportunity."

Fakih said she has been invited to visit Lebanon and meet with leaders there, including President Michel Suleiman.

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Filed under: Lebanon • Showbiz • U.S.
soundoff (450 Responses)
  1. Colin

    She is absolutely gorgeuos and appears to be a smart woman, too.

    Congratulations – you deserve it!

    May 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don in Nevada

    I prefer to be known by the solar system that I came from. I am Don of the Milky Way

    May 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. david

    Of course the news, conservatives and liberals want her to identify her ethnic roots first but when you're born and raised American that's all you see has an ethnic person. An American is an American first their ethnic roots second. Get that right and those people who say they are part of a group don't speak for us.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. seanny

    I bet she likes an American hot dog with cheese.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mms55

    when ever you read remarks that are derogatory or racist just ignore them because you know its just some teenage kids who are outcasts and are just reflcting how they see them selves.

    May 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mms55

    or i should say see them selves.

    May 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • CivilUS

      USUALLY true, but unfortunately I know quite a few Americans of Neandrathal decent (no, really, I believe they are).

      May 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Me

    She looks great. Glad to hear she calls herself American regardless of where her ancestors of long ago came from.

    May 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. HUH?

    @ Deployed Decoy,

    The US does not require people to renounce their citizenship in other countries to become a citizen. I know many people who have dual citizenship. Other countries may require that one renounce their US citizenship, however Uncle Sam doesn't care if you do or not.

    P.S. thank you for your service to our nation

    May 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CivilUS

    I'm not a fan of any beauty pagent. Hey, I know, why don't we give credit to Americans of Arab extraction who are just good people!!! What a concept!! TSK, oh, wait, only white Christians are good people. Darn, my bad.

    http://www.aaiusa.org/arab-americans/23/famous-arab-americans

    May 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zapato

    she wants me to give her a baby

    May 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Samuel

    Had her family chose to stay in Lebanon she would never be crowned as Miss Lebanon for a few reasons. First, she's dark as darkness is not beautiful in Middle Eastern countries. Second, her butt-chin is not considered as beautiful in Lebanon either. In either case, I am happy for the first Lebanese-born Miss USA. I am disappointed that a Muslim was allowed to participate in the pageant.

    May 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lisa

    Miss USA should be an American born of American parents......and she is not beautiful.....she is average...and there are some stunning middle eastern women. I can't believe she wasn't born here. I agree with Samuel she should not have been allowed to enter the pageant. Not because she is Muslim however because she wasn't born here.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Johnnypro

    How long until she becomes radicallized?

    May 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tony russo

    I tell you what, she is better than any other jewish girl I ever seen.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. shia 4 ever

    we the moslem shia disowen her she doesn't represnt shia or islam she just another victim of exploitation of american capitalism this gril lost her way and entered into the meat market owned by Donald Trump
    so you should feel sorry for his father
    and do not be happy for her

    May 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissUSA

      and why are you here you dirty muslim? Get out of my country or tell me your address and I will arrange a way to your Mohhmed and to Allah with 72 virgins. Just give me an address.

      May 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • In The Name of Jesus

      yeah go back to your hateful country so they can continue to brain wash you. you are probably just one of four wives of your master... GO TO HELL

      May 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Homer S

      hahahahahahaha....yes, you indeed have a lot of respect for women with your short-term weddings for money (zawaj el mot3a) which is just a legal term for prost itution, with one difference, the woman has no say and her family gets the money.

      May 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      I am a Muslim and I will tell you to go back into your little dark cave. Please, do mankind a favor, DO NOT reproduce.

      May 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
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