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. sealord44

    It is not like the old days when being Miss America mean something, Now they pick up anyone out from the gutter.

    May 23, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Naghmeh

    good for her!

    May 23, 2010 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. hfm5w

    obviously she's not religious, she is a freakin stipper!!

    May 23, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    It's amazing how ridiculous journalists and other Americans will be for the publicity. She is an immigrant just like practically EVERY OTHER American in this country (most of us can date back our family tree to when somebody immigrated) So why in the world does she have to be any different than any other American?

    This is supposed to be a country where we all have the freedom of religion and we all have the freedom to be any color or ethnicity... so scrutinizing any of those things is ABSOLUTELY UN-AMERICAN.

    -Matt from East Troy, WI

    May 23, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pat

    She is not "pretty". Just because she is 18 or 20 doesn't make someone "pretty" and just because someone bought her the crown doesn't make her pretty. Now, the blonde runner up was "beautiful".

    May 23, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • exposo

      You'd think they had given the tiara to a former ss guard!

      May 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • AGuest9

      Why not? They made a former Nazi Pope...

      May 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Homer S

    No if you said that you thought others were prettier, I would buy it. The fact that you say she is not pretty and you play the blond card (you don't even know what states she was representing or anything) shows that you are one racist bigot who cannot accept the success of races or ethnicities other than the anglo-saxon whites.

    May 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. stanilli

    It's a good thing she was raised an American Muslim. If she was raised in most of those mid-east countries she would have been taught in school to hate and kill the inidel (hey, that's most of us). She would have been just as beautiful but her character and spirit would be damaged. As it turned out, both are just as beautiful. Thank any God you believe in.

    May 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zeek

    She is so hot.

    May 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AGuest9

    How 'bout the "Party Girl" label?

    May 23, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rafael

    Phantom: it is still in the eyes of the beholder, my friend. Apparently yours are a little short-sighted.

    May 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. David Stone

    She is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life, and BY FAR the most beautiful in that contest. Me and the wife picked her hands down on first sight.....this is a beauty contest not politics...and she was the best looking woman there.

    May 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Turiddu

    A beauty wins the beauty contest and deservingly so. No phony blonds from Texas, California or Oklahoma with the fake smiles. You can bet that next time, some of the blondies will dye their hair.

    May 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stanilli

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could have the confidence that we are safe, our souls are safe, God loves us all and we are just here because our soul needs a classroom to remember that love is even in a place where there seems to be no love. With that believe in our own deviness, we can chuckle at the lack of wisdom of the 2nd graders in this school. And love them.

    May 23, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Timothy

    Congratulations, You surely deserve you crown and you are a beautiful queen. I am not surpise, its all media propagander and pls just brush it off and enjoy your crown to the fullest.

    May 24, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. suha

    there's no such thing as americans , everyone come from a different background whether italian, spanish or ....... ofcourse everyone of us is pleased and honored to hold the american citizenship.............miss usa 1983 was lebanese too by the way but she was christian lebanese , on the contray to miss usa 2010 who was muslim lebanese and believe me that make no difference, usa is a melting pot of all natinalities, differenr race , color and relegion.......and whatever you guys know about muslim relegion is totally wrong if you only view that through tv or the media .... check lebanon inspecific and u'll be surprised to know , u'll be amazed by the lives of the women there ....freedom , women 's rights and so's even better westernized than the west famous fashion designers e.g:elie saab, zuheir morad and so many more .. visit lebanon and u'll be in shock and u'll change urmind and even start thinking to move there!

    May 24, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
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