Rima Fakih caused an outcry in the Arab world when she was declared Miss USA 2010 and became not only the first Muslim to win the title but also the first Lebanese-American and the first Arab-American.
Fakih was born in South Lebanon but moved with her family to New York in 1993 to escape the effects of the Lebanese civil war. Following tensions in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Fakih and her family moved again to Michigan.
In 2008, Fakih was selected to represent Michigan in the Miss Lebanon Emigrant competition, where she placed third. Following on from her first success she was awarded the Miss Michigan 2009 title, which earned her the right to represent Michigan at the Miss USA 2010 event.
As holder of the Miss USA title, Fakih represented the USA in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant, where she failed to place as a semi-finalist, becoming the first Miss USA since 2002 not to place at the pageant.
Since her crowning Fakih’s religious and ethnic identity became the subject of widespread discussion with many Muslims claiming she did not properly represent their religion. Responding to the issue, 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.
Despite living in America for many years and embracing the American culture, Fakih has remained true to her Arab roots, claiming to be “American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American.”title