Rima Fakih’s path from Lebanon to Las Vegas, where she was crowned Miss USA, is not unlike other immigrant success stories, but she stands out because of one notable first: she is very likely the first Miss USA who is Muslim.
At a time when many Americans view Muslims with suspicion and hostility, Fakih, 24, sees herself as a testament to America’s promise as a land of opportunity. While she insists religion does not define her, the erstwhile Miss Michigan also recognizes that she can challenge stereotypes of the cloaked and dour Muslim woman.
While some people think Muslims are obsessed with modesty, on May 16 Fakih strutted down the Miss USA catwalk in a bikini and says she has received nothing but support from Muslims. (Some of her answers to the following interview questions have been edited for length and clarity.)
Q: What role did religion play in your and your family’s life?