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One-on-one with former Miss USA Rima Fakih

  AS TOLD TO MICHAEL LLOYD

These days, Rima Fakih has one rule for her life: Don’t put encumbrances on her. And who can blame her! The first Arab-American queen in the history of the Miss USA pageant was put under clamps by the Miss Universe organization when she later ran for that title. She was restricted from speaking her mind about her culture and heritage. She was hounded by the media on a daily basis and haunted by the fact that there was a groundswell of narrow-minded thinkers who wanted her reign to end prematurely and with controversy. It was fitting that we met up with her at an event at Eva Longoria’s Eve Nightclub in Las Vegas, where Fakih and boxing champ Floyd Mayweather hosted a standing room only evening. Perhaps it’s “the gloves are coming off” attitude that prepared her for a tumultuous, yet rewarding year as Miss USA. Read on to find out how tough–and thoughtful–this beauty queen can be.

What was the most difficult aspect about your reign as Miss USA?

Adapting to a situation where there is no personal life. I have always wanted to be in the lights, in front of the camera; I love that, but it was difficult to be under the control of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe organization, which also runs the Miss USA pageant. When you enter that contest, you have no control over your life. When you become Miss USA, you become the “property” of the Miss Universe organization. There is no having a day off or even choosing what to wear or even what event you want to attend. Others make the decisions for you. You’re on a schedule as to when to even eat. At the beginning, it was a little rough for me, but coming from a Lebanese home, where you are disciplined and you always have to follow your mom and dad’s rules, it wasn’t that hard to adapt to.

How was it with your family? Were they around or were you alone?

I couldn’t keep up with them. They were always in Michigan, and I was always traveling. I stayed at the Miss USA apartment in Manhattan, and my roommate was the current Miss Universe; I hardy saw her or my room. I like to be busy; I like to travel. Missing my family was challenging, especially with all of the controversy I went through. I was very afraid that their life would be affected by it. I have to say that if there was anyone stronger than me through this year, it was my family. They had my back, and they supported me every step of the way. There wasn’t a moment when they were not there. They didn’t allow anything to get in the way of my reign.

We spoke previously about the press coming after you with the controversy over your ethnicity. How did you overcome it and gather the strength to move forward?

Being questioned about religion and false rumors about some of my pole dancing contest pictures was an every moment occurrence at the beginning. I had to take the negativity out of it. I remained calm at all times, despite the times I really wanted to speak out and talk more about who I am religiously and how the Middle East really is. But the organization didn’t really want me to talk about it too much. Yet through it all, I kept my culture. I kept making sure that whatever I said was equal on both sides.

Do you find that people ask you about your religion...

 

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