Dearborn’s Miss U.S.A. makes national rounds

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The city’s darling is now America’s with Rima Fakih’s victory in the 2010 Miss USA Pageant.

Fakih on May 16 became the first Arab-American to win the coveted title and only the second Michigan woman. In doing so, her supporters say, she has helped to add breadth to the image of the American Arab community and shed a positive light on the city she calls home.

“She’s American first,” said her promoter, Rami Haddad, adding she “broke the stereotype about Arabs, about Dearborn.”

Last week, Fakih became one of the most sought-after figures for the national media and a curious public. On the day she took home the crown, “Rima Fakih” was the second most-searched term on the Internet search engine Google, according to company data. And as of Friday, Fakih was the featured topic of more than 3,700 news articles, according to the site.

Her parade of TV appearances included interviews on “Today” and “Live with Regis and Kelly” as well as several other national talk shows. During a “Top 10” segment on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” where Fakih parodied the things she hopes to accomplish as Miss USA, she gave a nod to Dearborn as the “world headquarters of Ford Motor Co.,” when asked where she lives.

Born in Lebanon and raised in New York City, Fakih moved to the area in 2003. She took up classes at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in economics with a minor in business administration.

While at UM-D, she was involved in the campus community through her position as a student senator, as well as serving as president of the school’s Free Enterprise Group, according to her Miss Michigan biography.

Fakih told reporters she got into the beauty pageant circuit while in college as a way to earn scholarship money, starting in 2005 with a fourth-place finish in the Miss Wayne County contest. She was crowned Miss Michigan in November 2009.

Fakih is a former volunteer at Arab Community Center for Social Services, and most recently worked in the Marketing Department for the Detroit Medical Center. She said she would like to attend law school in the future. But her victory as Miss USA will leave her with a number of upcoming obligations and opportunities that will force her to say goodbye to the area, at least temporarily.

Pageant winners get a year lease in a New York City apartment, along with a living expense stipend, an undisclosed salary and professional beauty services. The time typically is spent promoting social causes. Fakih said her top advocacy issue would be breast and ovarian cancer.