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. davonskevort

    this chick is HOT... how many tons of sperm have been drained from the flesh of men for the sake of her.... this is what mohamidin had in mind when he was talkin about his 72 virgin!!!!!!! all you got to do to get with girls like this is kill some people in the name of Allah !!!! ok fokes who wants to die first!!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. tony russo

    In this country we are all from different country execpt the native Indians, that's why we called them the native Americans, so every body els SHU DA FA CUP.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Q

    Is it wrong for a Muslim to celebrate Christmas?

    Well lets see, the justification by some Muslims here was that we celebrate Jesus' birthday like any other prophet's birthday. For all the historicall-challenged people out there, Jesus was born sometime during Spring, not in December. This view is shared by many Historians(of all faiths) and by the majority of all Muslims. This is the reason why Muslims dont celebrate Christmas, not because they do/don't respect Jesus.

    And let me ask one last question –how many people in your local mall during the month of december are there because they are remembering jesus and celebrating his "birthday"

    May 22, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. karen

    When was the last time a beauty pagent winner had an impact on your life? Me? Never. This is more non-issue BS.

    May 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Q

    @Karen –i whole-heartedly agree 😀

    May 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MO


    May 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Monaem

    Proud that fakih is MISS AMERICA ...this is what America is for and is about and only in America everything is possible.Yes it's still hard for minority, yet you can be what and whoever you want to be.America what can I do for you because you are beautiful and you are the land of the free.On behalf of all responsible immigrants, we come here because we believe in the people who are shaping this nation starting from the Founding fathers to Barrak Hussein OBAMA .This has been and always be the land OF can and possibly can.I myself one day,i will be a millionaire and that's what I want to be then i will start building schools with American touch in my home town Tunisia then in all over the world.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MO

    I also Arab-American originally from Jordan. I don’t think this girl resemble our culture in any way, shape or form. Beauty I have seen many Arab women are much more beautiful than that, brains she has none. One thing I am really wondering about where were her parents when she was doing the strip dancing shown many of her privet parts?

    May 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anisa Khan

      You do realize the swimsuit and lingerie shoots show more than those "pole" photos, right?

      May 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • nnc

      shut up,

      May 22, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      The Jordanian has spoken. Truly classy Mr. "Mo".

      May 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • GET A LIFE


      May 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sandra Lee Baker

    I grew up in Dearborn MI and had several Arab friends. Our (meaing the blue-collar bigots) warned us not to associate with the Arabs. Some of us, including myself, didn't understand that; they were just friends!! In fact, some of the most fun parties I went to, were when I (and several friends) snuk down to the south end and really were welcomed and we enjoyed ourselves totally. To this day, I seek out the yummy Arab cuisine, which quite honestly doesnt measure up to that of my youth, and appreciate the diverse cultures I experienced growing up there. Not to forget my hillbilly shame, which was even more denigrated that "forgeniors", there was Italian, Polish, and as mentioned before, Arabic influence. We of my generation thought nothing of it. Our parents, ignorant newcomers, tried to and sometimes did make it an issue. As for me, living as I do now in Oklahoma, I celebrate my heritage and tolerances of others. It is hard at times to relate to these insulated people here. I am escatic over the new MS USA. She is gorgeous, and I guess that's what that stuff is all about. Even more, from what I've read she is beautiful on the inside, and that's what counts.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anisa Khan

    Yes there are plenty of Arab women who are prettier than her, but she is certainly not ugly! She is still a pretty girl and and Miss USAs are not the most gorgeous women in America. They are simply good looking women who choose to enter the pagent. Anyone could finger point one woman in a city, country, or in the world and label her the most beautiful because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it doesn't make it true. Someone calling this young woman ugly doesn't make it true either.

    As to her being American, she should not have to produce her passport to prove that solely because of the color of her skin or because she was not born here. I'm a naturalized American as well and if anyone demanded to see my "papers" I'd laugh in their face and tell them to show theirs. If she wants to be called Lebanese American or Arab American or whatever she desires, so be it. It's her ethnicity and labeling yourself as your ethnicity is not wrong. It's embracing your culture. Her nationality is American, her ethnicity isn't. All you nationalist fools seem to want a 21st century ethnic cleansing these days.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin

      Two of the most beautiful girls/women I have ever known in my life went to high school with me – both of them were children of 1st generation immigrants from Afghanistan.

      I was raised by my parents (Black Americans) to see no color in the beauty of people. As such, I have friends of all races, and I'm an equal opportunity employer when it comes to dating 🙂

      May 22, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. greenhands

    How great this country is, any one with vision and goals can get there if they want, ( even if we dont agree with its forgien policies) NOOOOOOOO matter where you came from, or what's your faith is. In all religions there are librals and conservatives, so Rima is a libral like millions of other muslims. I can bet all of you that there is abt 10-20% max muslims that cover their bodies, hair...or whatever... It's sad how we value others based on their ethnics, color or faith. The ironic thing, they all believe in the same GOD. no matter what you name him. God/Allah/Jesus/...they all are one, & have the same message...I just wish we focus on these messages not practices. Prayers, and looks are just a personal thing, and only god will judge you, not human like me & u.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rahul Laxman Iyer

    Hooray to all. This article shows that there is a diversity among Americans. That is what makes America, America. An American is black, white, asian, latino, middle eastern. It does not matter. That is America. I am a US Citizen by birth, and my wife is a naturalized US citizen. I look very much Asian Indian, and I have been harassed as such, and I do the following:

    1) Produce my passport
    2) Produce my DD 214

    Usually that shuts them up. Otherwise, I just laugh at them. Many times when I was in school I was the butt of ignorant "Green Card" jokes. Maybe in retrospect I should not have taken it seriously, and rather just laughed in their face and walked away.

    Likewise, my wife is Vietnamese background, and many times people fail to compute that she is American. She is just as American as me. She is ready to laid down her life for the USA.

    Anyway, this is my thought. Hooray for diversity. Now, let us hope that the those who have issues with this become more educated.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • shah vania

      you stay away from these garbage talk, we are smart people, we are not cheap people like muslim

      May 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DNA

    The real controversy here is that this objectification of women is treated like some sanctified cultural ritual when in fact it is just an opportunity to sell advertisements to T&A watchers... not that *I* really care... I'm just disappointed there is no Mr. America, where I can watch some hot beef strut THEIR stuff!
    Then perhaps the winners of both pageants could be forced to copulate. I envision their genetically perfect and beautiful children leading us into a future of everlasting utopia.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tony

    Can we just be tolerant and celebrate a gorgeous human being.
    Human beauty has no religion.
    Religion is made by humans.
    Who determines what is right or wrong? Fundamentalists of all types of religions?
    Does religion determine beauty?
    95% of all humans are convinced of a Creator. Who determines the language how to address the Creator?
    Can we get out of blindness and start seeing, seeing human beauty?
    Not more, not less!?

    May 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • greenhands

      well said Tony, agree with u 100%.

      May 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. In The Name of Jesus

    There are more extreme muslims than any other extremist from other religions. They want to control the impossible. just think if they controlled are country.....i would be trying to commit....peace.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • CivilUS

      Yes, just think if they controlled are county. I bet her speling and grammer is better then youres.

      May 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • greenhands

      they cannot control their own counties........, how you want them to control you??
      you better research to find out who realy control whom...
      well,...... I like the Peace part. Good luck.

      May 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • In The Name of Jesus

      and yeah idiot you spelled youres yours dumb _ss

      May 22, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
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