Rima Fakih of Dearborn, MI took the Miss USA Pageant and along the way took on the prejudice of America
ALO takes an in-depth look at 2010 Miss USA Rima Fakih. Part One focuses on her reign as Miss USA and some of the controversy that surrounded her title win. Part Two will focus on her feelings after her reign ended. Here is Part One...
You have to admire that Rima Fakih arrives at an interview in the kind of standard-issue Victoria’s Secret.com maxi dress with flat sandals and pulled-back pony-tailed hair that Cosmo types rely on when they want to look “regular.” Wearing the slightest suggestion of makeup, she’s soon chatting about facing up to pole dancing, weight loss and living with Miss Universe. “Listen,” she reveals, “some people will always try to bring you down. But they cannot.”
Not that she’s had much time lately to worry about the naysayers. Her 2010 was mammoth. She’s graced numerous magazine covers and TV shows on behalf of her new boss, “The Don”, Donald Trump, the Miss USA Pageant and the Miss Universe Organization and embodied a generation of Middle-Eastern Americans who proudly say that “we are just people, not terrorists.” She’s the Obama for the beautiful people breaking barriers as the first winner of Miss USA contest from the Middle East. In a community void of Hollywood-level stars, she’s shining the brightest taking on new avenues and looking forward to becoming the CEO of her own company one day.
To top it all off, she also campaigns to fund research for breast cancer through the Susan Koman Foundation, raising awareness amongst Middle Eastern women with free mammograms and the need to have regular checkups. But it’s Fakih’s inimitable, lit-from-within class that’s made her everyone’s favorite beauty queen.
ALO: You are described as an entrepreneur of sorts. Did having a large, connected family foster that?
Rima Fakih: We all have different interests. There are five of us and we all supported each other. We give to the community with charity and with a psychologist and big shots on Wall Street in the family, you better believe that I needed to find a way to make it in this world. We moved around a lot. Sometimes there was only us. My father always said “The best friends are your family.” I live with that in my mind after living it my whole life. Really though, at the end of the day I want only two things: to be happy and comfortable.
A: You must be living the dream with a new big fat paycheck from Mr. Trump.
RF: I don’t want for anything, but I am just like a regular employee with a bi-weekly paycheck.
A: And a great roommate too?
RF: Yes! I share a Midtown Manhattan apartment with Stefanía [Fernández, Miss Universe 2009] down the street from Fifth Avenue. We have so little time together, but I really appreciated her insight on what to expect on the Miss Universe Pageant. We don’t really want for anything. There’s a mini office, three bedrooms, three baths with a beautiful view of Central Park. I love Central Park. I knew I had arrived when there was a story on [New York Post’s] page six that said, “Lebanese Beauty Queen Turns Heads” after they snapped pictures of me in the park. How did they even know it was me? Many people say “you’re beautiful, you must have the most blessed life ever.” There’s a lot of bias for being beautiful. I’m still the same Rima.
A: Much was raised after you won the crown that you were from the Middle East. The organizers had to know.
RF: Only the media brought it up. The people at Miss USA never asked. They only asked for citizenship and a driver’s license. They didn’t care; as a matter of fact many thought I was Mexican.
A: It's been quite a year. How do you respond to the negatives of people like blogger Debbie Schlussel who criticized your alleged political ties or the pole dancer controversy?
RF: People want to focus on the negative. I want to focus on the positive. Being Muslim is not something to be ashamed of. Being ashamed is something to be ashamed of. My family is very anyway. We are not defined by religion, we are defined by our actions. My family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths and I attended a Catholic school for some time. I find it funny people write these things without facts. I didn’t get a phone call asking about who I am or my views of politics or religion. They just write what they want and never check facts. There reports of nudity and inappropriateness. I never did anything that would be ethically or morally wrong. At the end you just have to take the poison out of the equation.
A: There are rumors of you using pills to loss the weight to make the pageant requirements. If it wasn’t pills, what was it?
RF: I lost 20 pounds in four months, going from 135 pounds down to 115. I ate five times a day, reduced my carbs and worked out like crazy. It wasn’t a crazy strict diet, but pizza and cupcakes weren’t on the menu. So when the pageant ended, I was craving pizza. Taking pills is an insane notion. More hype from the crowd trying to take the high off a great accomplishment. I don’t worry about what people say. I mean, the people who know me, their opinion matters.
A: But you do believe in some pills right?
RF: If you’re referring to birth control pills, then yes. Birth control should be paid for by health insurance. It’s so costly that women shouldn’t be straddled with that by themselves. I do believe even though it's a controlled substance, birth control is like every other medication. I support laws of the States. Like the Arizona [immigration] law. I’m against illegal immigration. But that shouldn’t be a reason for us to start racial profiling. As you know I'm a huge believer in states' rights. I think that's what's so wonderful about America.
A: You’ve said you love Lebanon. Why?
RF: I admire the beauty of Lebanon. We have so much beauty. And the people. Yes, if we could just be allowed to live, everything would be so wonderful there. Over there you live as you want. Everyone has a style for being themselves. I love that about Lebanon.
A: Have you asked Mr. Trump for advice?
RF: I dreamt of being Miss Universe. I dream of being an actor; who doesn’t right? I want to own my own company and be my own CEO, which means going to law school. That’s where I would love to sit with Mr. Trump and ask his advice. I hope to be on Celebrity Apprentice and win it all.
A: What gives you your energy to rise above it all?
RF: I live with a simple expression “Start to look ahead and nothing will stop you.”
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