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Arab Americans

Rima Fakih

Rima Fakih

Rima Fakih (Arabicريما فقيه‎) (born September 22, 1985) is an Lebanese-American actressmodelwrestler and beauty pageant titleholder who won Miss USA 2010. She represented the state of Michigan in the national pageant, having previously won the 2010 Miss Michigan USA pageant. Fakih trained to be a WWE Diva in WWE. She competed on the fifth season of WWE Tough Enough but was eliminated from the show on the fourth episode.

Personal life

Fakih was born in Srifa, a small city in the Jabal Amel region of Southern Lebanon, to a Muslim family. As a young child, she lived in the village of Souk El Gharb in Mount Lebanon, and attended St. Rita’s, a Catholic school near Beirut.[2][3] In 1993, her parents, Hussein and Nadia Fakih,[4] moved their family to New York in order to escape effects of the Lebanese Civil War.[5] Fakih attended St. John’s Preparatory School, a Catholic high school in Queens,[6] and her father ran a restaurant inManhattan.[5] In New York, Fakih’s family felt they were subjected to threats and vandalism based on events in the Middle East, and business at her father’s restaurant declined following the September 11, 2001, attacks.[5] In 2003, her family moved to the large Arab-American community in Dearborn, Michigan.[2][5] Fakih and her family are Shia, but they also celebrate elements of Christianity, such as Christmas.[4][7][8] Fakih resides in Dearborn.[9] She graduated from Henry Ford Community College, went on to earn degrees in economics and business management from the University of Michigan–Dearborn, and plans to attend law school after her year-long reign.[8][10] She has a sister, who returned to live in Lebanon, and two brothers.[2] Prior to winning the Miss USA title she worked as a sales associate at the Detroit Medical Center, developing and recruiting in the Arab American community.[11]


Fakih competed in her first pageant when she was nineteen, placing fourth runner-up at Miss Wayne County, a preliminary pageant for Miss Michigan in the Miss America system. She also competed in three smaller international pageants.[12]

Miss Lebanon Emigrant

In 2008, Fakih was selected to represent Michigan in the Miss Lebanon Emigrant competition.[5] The event is part of the Miss Lebanon pageant, and is open to young women who are Lebanese or of Lebanese origin, living in countries of the overseas Lebanese community.[13] Fakih placed third in the contest, held August 13 in Batroun, Lebanon, finishing behind Carina El Kaddissi of Brazil and Jessica Kahawaty of Australia.[14]

Miss USA

File:Rimah Fakih, The First Muslim Miss USA, is Touted and Criticized by Arab Americans.ogv
 VOA report about Rima Fakih

Fakih won the Miss Michigan USA pageant on September 19, 2009 at the McMorran Place Theater Port Huron. In May 2010 she represented Michigan at the Miss USA 2010 pageant held at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las VegasNevada. She won the Miss USA title on May 16, 2010, breaking a 5 year streak of Southern states winning and becoming the first Miss Michigan USA to win the national title since Kenya Moore in 1993.[6]

Fakih is widely believed to be the first Lebanese American, the first Arab American and the first Muslim to win the Miss USA title; however, pageant officials stated their records are not detailed enough to confirm these claims.[15] The first Michigan delegate to win the Miss USA title, Carole Gist, became the first African-American Miss USA in 1990.[4]

During and after the Miss USA pageant, Fakih’s religious and ethnic identity became the subject of widespread discussion. On the subject of identity, she was quoted as saying “I’d like to say I’m American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American.”[16]

Many Arab Americans celebrated Fakih’s victory,[7] but some Muslims felt she did not properly represent their religion. Muslim scholar Ghazal Omid wrote “To say that she is a Muslim is inaccurate. No Muslim woman can call herself a … Muslim and be on stage with her bikini”.[17] Responding to the issue in interviews, Fakih said she and her family are Muslims and respect the religion, but they may not be as strict as many people and do not define themselves by their religion; they view themselves as more “spiritual” than “religious” and appreciate all religions.[18][19] Her religion and role in the pageant were further put under the microscope two weeks after being crowned, when photos surfaced of Fakih participating in a “Stripper 101” contest hosted by Detroit radio morning show Mojo In The Morning.[20][21] On the subject of the planned Park51 Islamic community center in New York, Fakih stated, “I totally agree with President Obama with the statement on the constitutional rights of freedom of religion. [But] it shouldn’t be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion.”[22]

Miss Universe

As holder of the Miss USA title, Fakih represented the United States in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant, held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on August 23. Fakih did not place as a semi-finalist and was the first Miss USA since Shauntay Hinton, Miss USA 2002, to not place at the Miss Universe pageant.[21][23]

Legal issues

Fakih was arrested for drunk driving in Highland Park, Michigan, on December 3, 2011. She was convicted and sentenced to 6 months of probation, $600 fine and 20 hours of community service on May 9, 2012.[24]

Other media

 Rima Fakih on WrestleMania Axxess.

Fakih appeared as a guest star on the November 29, 2010, edition of WWE Raw, where she crowned Sheamus, the winner of theKing of the Ring tournament. In December 2010, at WWE Tribute to the Troops she served as the ring announcer for the matches. She later competed on WWE Tough Enough on USA and was eliminated in week four.[25] Due to conflicting schedule with promotional events for Miss USA 2011, Fakih was the only contestant not to appear on the live final episode. In 2012, she participated in Fox‘s dating game show The Choice.[26]

She is listed number 86 on‘s top 99 women 2011 edition.[27] On May 24, 2011, The Roots performed a freestyle song about her during her appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. She also appears in the movie Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, which premiered on October 7, 2011. Fakih revealed that she is receiving wrestling training.[28]

Awards and Recognition


  1. Jump up^ Rima Fakih Official Facebook
  2. Jump up to:a b c “Miss USA hails from powerful Shiite family”msnbc.comAssociated Press, May 17, 2010, retrieved May 17, 2010
  3. Jump up^ Ghaddar, Hanin (May 21, 2010), “The Not-So-Radical Roots of Miss USA”,Foreign Policy, retrieved May 24, 2010
  4. Jump up to:a b c Warikoo, Niraj (May 15, 2010), “Miss Michigan shows Arabs’ diversity”,Detroit Free Press, retrieved May 16, 2010[dead link]
  5. Jump up to:a b c d e AlHajal, Khalil (July 26, 2008), “Local student to represent Michigan in Miss Lebanon Emigrant contest”The Arab American News (Dearborn, MichiganProQuest), retrieved May 21, 2010
  6. Jump up to:a b Miss Michigan USA 2010 – Rima Fakih – BioMiss Michigan USA, retrievedMay 17, 2010
  7. Jump up to:a b Noveck, Jocelyn (May 17, 2010), “Arab-Americans delight in Miss USA victory”Daily NewsAssociated Press (New York), retrieved May 17, 2010
  8. Jump up to:a b Hutchinson, Bill (May 16, 2010, updated May 17, 2010), “Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010 winner: Lebanon-born Miss Michigan is first Arab-American to take crown”Daily News (New York), retrieved May 17, 2010 Check date values in:|date= (help)
  9. Jump up^ David, Ameera (September 2009), “Arab American Rima Fakih Wins Miss Michigan USA”Arab Detroit, retrieved April 28, 2010
  10. Jump up^ Rempala, Jodi (May 28, 2010), “Miss USA Rima Fakih: Living a dream”Press & Guide (Dearborn, Michigan: 21st Century Newspapers), retrieved July 6, 2010
  11. Jump up^ Meyer, Nick (November 20, 2009), “Arab American seeks Miss USA crown after capturing Miss Michigan title”The Arab American News (Dearborn, Michigan), retrieved May 29, 2010
  12. Jump up^ Dybis, Karen (March 17, 2010), “Q&A: Miss Michigan USA Rima Fakih on Serving Others”The Detroit Blog (Time), retrieved May 29, 2010
  13. Jump up^ Miss Lebanon EmigrantWorld Lebanese Cultural Union, March 21, 2008, retrieved May 21, 2010
  14. Jump up^ Miss Lebanon lists – Miss EmigrantMiss Lebanon, retrieved May 21, 2010
  15. Jump up^ Warikoo, Niraj (May 16, 2010), “Dearborn’s Miss Michigan wins Miss USA pageant”Detroit Free Press, retrieved May 16, 2010
  16. Jump up^ Duke, Alan (May 21, 2010), “Miss USA says ‘American’ is her preferred label”,This Just In (CNN), retrieved May 24, 2010
  17. Jump up^ Nasr, Octavia (May 20, 2010), “Is Miss USA a Muslim trailblazer?”This Just In(CNN), retrieved May 24, 2010
  18. Jump up^ Byrd, David (May 21, 2010), Arab American Miss USA at Center of Controversy (TEXT & FLASH AUDIO [11:10]), Voice of America, 2:35–3:00, retrievedMay 22, 2010
  19. Jump up^ Gilgoff, Dan (May 21, 2010), “Crash course in Islam from Miss USA”Belief Blog (CNN), retrieved May 24, 2010
  20. Jump up^ “New Miss USA Once Won Pole Dancing Contest”ABC News, August 20, 2010
  21. Jump up to:a b “Miss USA to Behar: Pole-dancing pictures were all in fun” (TEXT & FLASH VIDEO [5:33]), The Joy Behar Show (CNN), May 20, 2010, retrieved May 22, 2010
  22. Jump up^ “Miss USA Weighs in on Mosque Controversy”Inside Edition. August 20, 2010. Archived from the original on November 11, 2013.
  23. Jump up^ “Miss Universe”Official Site (Miss Universe L.P., LLLP), retrieved May 25,2010
  24. Jump up^ Scott, Melanie D. (May 9, 2012). “Former Miss USA Rima Fakih sentenced to 6 months probation, 20 hours community service”Detroit Free Press. RetrievedJune 4, 2013.
  25. Jump up^ Gorman, Bill (2011-02-17). “Miss USA To Be A Contestant On USA’s Upcoming ‘WWE Tough Enough'”. Retrieved 2011-02-17.
  26. Jump up^ Hibberd, James (May 8, 2012). “Fox’s ‘The Choice’ cast revealed! Joe Jonas, Dean Cain, The Situation, many more – EXCLUSIVE”Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 11, 2013.
  27. Jump up^ “Rima Fakih – Top 99 Women”. AskMen. 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  28. Jump up^ “Rima Fakih Not Giving Up On Being A WWE Diva”. 2011-09-10. Retrieved 2012-08-25.