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. Ed

    She's hot who cares!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Willie Wo

    How refreshing to have an eloquent and thoughtful Miss USA after the last embarrassment.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ricky

    Even if she is a full Muslim, who cares? When did "Muslim" become such a dirty word? Just because someone is a Muslim, it doesn't mean they are a fundamentalist. Use some common sense people. All I see here is a smoking hot girl that has a great personality. And the media should stop comparing her to girls from Saudi Arabia. She is from Lebanon, the most liberal country in the middle east and one of the world leaders in fashion and nightlife.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • MissUSA

      why then taliban after us not lebanon ???

      May 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MissUSA

    I am so confused. Why is she not in burqa? I thought that true Muslim had to wear burqa and no high heels???

    May 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • shia 4 ever

      you are so confused since you dont belong here you escape germany and its wrath now you dig your own hole to assure a safe place for your hater soul

      May 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • american jewish princess

      she celebrates christmas but not Hanakah that one more reason for me to hate her

      May 22, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. alleygator

    She's drop-dead gorgeous, sharp-witted, and most importantly,she's light years more "real" than any pageant winner in my memory. Congratulations, Rima–don't let the b*stards get you down!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tom

    I agree with the person who used the adjective "refreshing" to describe this Miss USA. If she prefers to be called an "American" without preceeding it with any other descriptive and a dash, she's the real thing, my kind of American.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jihadkilla

    I'm glad she had the guts to say it like it is and not the obama way. AMERICAN first!! Tha's how we should teach our kids, instead of that divisive crap of africa-american, mexica-american, italian- american crap. we are AMERICANS. the other stuffis part of who we are–American first!!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MissUSA

    we have to be carefull, because her dad(who is radical muslim) can start blowing us up for corrapting this holly lady

    May 22, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rani

    I don't get why everyone making such a huge deal about miss USA. Okay so what if she Arab. Is everyone scared of them that's what it seems like or they just don't like them. Also if she wants to be labeled as a American so let it be why are you all making a big deal ( to the people who are against it).

    May 22, 2010 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bayo Davies

    Congratulations for your victory. You won on merits and that is what counts.Jealousy is in the media, society and it is no surprising, people will fabricate things just to tarnish your joy simply because you have mixed roots. F... them all.
    Those who cannot accept te fact that an Arab-American could win a miss USA, should pack thier bags and baggage and go to China! Guess what, you do the pole dance far better than pure americans. Ride on

    May 22, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve6167

    Rima puts ass into the meaning ASSimilation. Go girl go.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. EG

    obamas traitor muslim ass is happy as hell no doubt!!

    May 22, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whiteathame

      You folks should know a troll like AJPeee... when you see/read one.

      Troll- "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response..."

      May 23, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. american jewish princess

    I hate her i donot think she is pretyy or qualified to be a beauty queen
    she should be with her own kind with Burqa

    May 22, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      I wanted to give you some free friendly advice to shut your yap. The more you write the more of an idiot you prove yourself to be.

      May 22, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Geriman

      I second JJ- you are embarassing your jewish community with your comments. By the way, thanks for throwing fuel on the fire with illegal settlements. One of these days America will no longer back you and unfortunately, your country will have to contend for itself. Fast forward- everybody knows the next nuclear bomb will be let off there or Iran...

      May 22, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. USCitizen

    We need to acknowledge the strength of hers. For a lady to be muslim and still be modern and not wearing burga is not a simple thing. Though I am a non-muslim but whatever little knowledge I have of muslim culture that is not easy to do.culturally.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. american jewish princess

    any jewish girl is far more beautiful than her why we do not win
    we should get more involoved

    May 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • arabian queen

      yah yah joan rivers and sarah jessica parker what a beauty hahahahahahah

      May 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      I wanted to give you some free friendly advice to shut your yap. The more you write the more of an idiot you prove yourself to be

      May 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
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