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. Afghan Guy

    The right-winger seem to be only liking her because of her body...sick perverts. I knew right-wingers were loners.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. obama


    May 22, 2010 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Arab guy

    She isn't even that good looking. To Westerns she is good looking because WEsterns are the ugliest people on planet earth. If you go to Lebanon, she's below average.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuureeee...I agree, Lebonese women are beautiful, but she's definately a keeper.

      May 22, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      My friend Arab guy u'r absolute right, these people who say Rima is ugly they never travel outside America, when they will travel to the Middle East then they will find out that Rima is ugly, but compared to other Arabs not compared to Americans.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      Agree but I'm a Westerner and she is NOT pretty.

      May 23, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. obama

    Yup I had some iraqy cave...chet was da bomb!! ALALALALALA!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Eek a Mouse

    How long until some Islamic religious leader declares a fatwa on this woman for exposing herself. They certainly can't be happy with Arab woman, even if just half, displaying skin and independent thought.

    May 22, 2010 at 5:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. obama

    Hey guys its me..OBAMA!! Aren't you gonna say hi to your pal?? Did yall like my speech the otha day?

    May 22, 2010 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. MXD

    This woman is stunningly gorgeous. Very glad to see the judges are recognizing the reality of our multi-ethnic and cultured society and are getting away from the stereo-typical white\blond role model. (could be just a personal taste thing – I think Lebonese-American pole dancers are HOT!!)

    May 22, 2010 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  8. obama

    Well im just sitting here getting some head watchin the ti-hime roll away oooh im just sittin here gettin some head. You guys like my new song? Ill sing it at the park n swap tomora for yuh. Wake up! Its me OBAMA!!

    May 22, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. obama

    Oh yea I wanted to ask all of my fellow citizens..should I start saying OBAMA! CHA! CHA! CHA! At the end of my speechs?

    May 22, 2010 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. obama

    Hey yall ima tell yuh a lil secret but hey yuh didn't hear it from me ready here it goes..michels cave smell like doo doo... hee hee remeber yuh didn't hear it from me OBAMA.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. cu4real

    Rima Fakih is beautiful. America will be cheering for her in the Miss Universe contest. She is a winner!

    May 22, 2010 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. sirkc

    Ms.Rima Fakih, I would like to go on a lunch date with you,. I bet all of America will. You are smart and lovely, you deserve to be Ms. USA. America, the land of opportunity, was founded on the silent consent that we can reach new heights on the muscle of our own abilities. Prejudice on any basis is not American.
    The people who say anything against you just don't want to accept that they cannot achieve what you have achieved, so its their jealous self defense. In East there is a popular proverb, Dog barks at, but the mighty Elephant walks on its own pace.
    Good luck!

    May 22, 2010 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. shorty

    She jus another hood rat ese.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. Scott

    As far as I'm concerned, anyone who chooses to live in this country peacefully, respect others, and do things which better this country for everyone, is by my definition... American.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. !!!!!!!

    Then post my comments pendejo.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
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