Say what you will about the Miss USA pageants, but when I learned today that the winner of the beauty pageant competition was Rima Fakih (who won Miss Michigan on September 19th, 2009), I whooped at my computer screen and jumped for joy. Why the enthusiastic burst of excessive expression?
With the crowning of the Miss USA title, Rima Fakih, of Lebanese descent, is the first Muslim and Arab American to ever hold that distinction. That, my friends, deserves some serious recognition. As a Michigan person myself, I am proud of Rima Fakih, who with her victory, provides a strong testament of breaking out of the conventional “American” beauty standard. It is significant because being beautiful does not mean you need to be white or have blonde hair. While some may bring up concerns that this will objectify Arab American women in the mainstream media spotlight, this is a victory worth celebrating.
As long as the majority of roles designated for Arabs and Muslims involve being terrorist #1 or #2,Muslim women constantly being seen as victims of oppression, this Miss USA victory provides another perspective on the closer pursuit of seeing Muslim and Arab women as normal individuals. Until those things and perceptions change, being an Arab-American beauty queen is a big frakkin’ deal. At the end of the day feminism is about the individual’s choices and that is something that must be acknowledged. Being Arab-American also means being an American who happens to be just as proud as anyone of their heritage. When post-racial and post-feminist America exists, we can then discuss how degrading beauty competitions are supposed to be to women. In reality, for women who don’t have mommy and daddy to pay for their aspirations, Miss America remains the largest accessible scholarship contest and Miss USA is not far behind.
Rima Fakih, you are beautiful, smart, funny, and absolutely gorgeous. Your victory is a celebration to women of color all over the nation. Alhamdulillah (Praise to God!)