Who Are the Arab Women Competing in This Year’s Miss Universe
By: Arab America Contributing Writer / Mariam Alyakoob
What is Miss Universe
The Miss Universe competition is a yearly international beauty pageant that brings women from across the world and gives them the opportunity to win the coveted title and job of being Miss Universe. The pageant is hosted by the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) which is a global organization that aims to “celebrate all cultures, backgrounds and religions”. The competition allows women from across the world to share their stories as well as advocate for the causes that they are fighting for.
The pageant’s history dates back to 1952, the year it was first held. The pageant was first started by Catalina Swimwear, who founded Miss Universe as a marketing tactic to promote their bathing suits after 1951’s Miss America refused to do so. That first year there were only 30 contestants, and the winner of the competition was Armi Kuusela of Finland.
In order to compete, countries have to submit a fee for franchising rights for the Miss Universe brand. Many countries are unable to compete due to this. In the Arab World, we have only seen a handful of Arab countries that have consistently competed including Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and some others. Only one Arab woman has won the competition being Georgina Rizk of Lebanon, winning in 1971.
The 2023 Miss Universe Pageant will be the 71st installment of the competition and will be hosted on January 14th in New Orleans, Louisiana. This year’s competition has two Arab delegates competing for the coveted title: Evlin Khalifa from Bahrain and Yasmina Zaytoun from Lebanon.
Evlin Khalifa, Bahrain
The beauty queen representing Bahrain is 24 year old Evlin Khalifa. Khalifa is half Bahraini, from her father’s side, and half Russian, from her mother’s side.
She is not the first representative from Bahrain, following in the footsteps of the Bahraini contestant in the 2021 pageant, Manar Nadeem Deyani, who garnered international media attention for wearing activewear during the swimsuit round of the competition, keeping a modest image. Khalifa plans to wear a burkini during this portion of the competition.
Khalifa is a model, social media influencer, and pianist who was able to reach the Miss Universe by winning the 2022 Miss Universe Bahrain contest in September, which she says has changed her life. She views the competition as an opportunity to represent the strength and capabilities of Arab Women.
Khalifa is also involved in helping charities, including Smile Train, which helps spread awareness about cleft palates and how it affects children.
Yasmina Zaytoun, Lebanon
Yasmina Zaytoun is a 20 year old model from Kfarchouba, Lebanon. She is also currently a student at Notre Dame University-Louaize in Zouk Mosbeh aiming to receive her Masters in Journalism. Zaytoun also has her own instagram show incorporating journalism called the With Yasmina Show, where she interviews a variety of different people.
Zaytoun was able to compete in the Miss Universe Pageant by winning the popular Miss Lebanon 2022 pageant, which occurred for the first time since 2018. Zaytoun sweetly dedicated her winning Miss Lebanon to her parents.
Like Khalifa, Zaytoun is also using her platform for a meaningful cause. She was devastated by the explosion in Lebanon on August 4, 2020, and created her foundation “bemouin.lb.”, to help Lebanese families who were deeply affected by the explosion. Yasmina has a deep love and admiration for her country.
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