Lebanese-born woman crowned first Arab-American 'Miss USA'

A Lebanese-American woman beat out 50 other contestants late Sunday to be crowned "Miss USA," the first woman of Arab descent to win the coveted beauty pageant title.

Rima Fakih, 24, a resident of the city of Dearborn, Michigan was selected by a panel of celebrity judges including real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump, who also is one of the organizers of the annual event, which was held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

US news report said Fakih's family moved to the United States while she was a baby and that she was raised in New York City, where she attended a Catholic school, until 2003 when her family moved to Michigan.

She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths.

Fakih, who earned a college degree in economics from the University of Michigan, said she hopes to become an attorney. Her favorite past times are travel, running, dancing and kickboxing, according to pageant officials.

Pageant officials said the pageant in which contestants competed in three categories - swimsuit, evening gown and interview - was seen by an estimated worldwide audience of more than 250 million television viewers.

Fakih nudged out first runner-up Miss Oklahoma to claim the Miss USA title, and now wins the chance to represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant to be held in Las Vegas later this year.

She competed against contestants from all 50 US states and Washington DC.

Her package of prizes that go along with her custom diamond tiara include a one-year scholarship, a year-long lease on a New York apartment including living expenses, an undisclosed salary, a clothing and shoe wardrobe and various other health and beauty related perks and prizes.

The Detroit Free Press newspaper reported that a large crowd gathered at a restaurant in Dearborn, which is heavily Arab-American to watch the contest and cheering Fakih and dancing and singing late into the night Sunday.

"This is historic," the daily wrote, quoting Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, according to the Free Press.

"This shows the greatness of America, how everyone can have a chance to make it."

Another Dearborn resident, Zouheir Alawieh, 51, told the Free Press, "This is the real face of Arab Americans, not the stereotypes you hear about.

"We have culture. We have beauty. We have history, and today we made history. ... She believed in her dreams."

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