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. !!!!!!!

    What I aint reppin you. Better get outa here with that gayness..

    May 22, 2010 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. shorty

    I think hood rat is more suitable..

    May 22, 2010 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. okc

    It is beyond me to understand how anyone can be rude and hateful about a young woman who is representing the best of what life has to offer. Beauty is good. Being independent and intelligent is what human beings are created to be.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. brit

    Does this mean iraqys are welcome in the usa?

    May 22, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. obama

    Hey its me black obama. Not the white obama you see on tv. This one is way more cooler. Pass me a brewski!! Ill pass you michels @ss hit it and pass it back. Don't mess up the rotation

    May 22, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. lindsey lohan

    There she is..miss terrorist..

    May 22, 2010 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Painful Deceptions

    Most comments prove that the dream of America is still alive and well. Wish those few very vocal prejudice people wake up to the reality and realize that no matter how much they use their mass media for propaganda against Muslims inside and outside America, majority of Americans are open minded, kind hearted, generous and smart people and do not give a dime to the propaganda of mass media to portray all Muslims as monsters

    May 22, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. ttyl

    Americans are lazy cold hearted two-face back stabbers with no sense of dignity whatsoever! Steve wilkos is your hero.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. jon

    Id rather bang kate gosslen

    May 22, 2010 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
    • James Geriman

      Hellllllooooooooooo....Helllllllooooooooooooo Hellllloooooooooo.......she said why did I say hello 3 times and I said I didnt!

      May 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jon

    Loose..but atleast it won't go..KA-BOOM!!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. r_harb

    yeah – It is really at the center of the problem. Especially in America, because of our great system that provides opportunity to everyone there has always been a sort of "neglect" / "mitigation" maybe of the strong, the boisterous, the extrovert , the charismatic. So naturally they try so hard to exert energy "equalizing" / "balancing". One way this is achieved is by inculcating "label" supremacy; our society chafes at those that wish to exercise unorthodox definitions of themselves. For example since I've accepted that human life evolved in the continent we call Africa, I call myself an African american both "white skinned Americans" and "black skinned Americans" revile at that; but whats funny is we forget there has always been "white skinned" native Africans they are called Berbers historically.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. smiley face

    Go to sleep berber gerber baby food eater!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. smiley face

    In africa they are called whiteskin africans. In america they are called nazis. In africa they are called black skin africans. In america they are called slaves. Get it right next time.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jon

    She is American first (and whatever else 2nd and 3 rd doesn't matter). Her and her parents choose to move to the USA to live the American dream. She is beautiful as well.

    May 22, 2010 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. vb994p

    She is stunningly beautiful and apparently very intelligent, considerate, and articulate. Go Rima!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
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