Whether you like beauty pageants or loathe them, this one is worthwhile taking note of, because it’s not just about physical appearances and world peace.
Miss Arab USA which started 4 years ago is all about letting Arab women with backgrounds from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Algeria celebrate their identity and not shy away from it in a western culture.
There is no swimsuit category, and hijabs are optional. The contestants wear whatever they feel best represents their culture. The mission statement of the pageant on their website is to “project a positive image for Arabs all over the World.” It’s open to both Christian and Muslim women between the ages of 18-27 and is a charity event.
It is not a political event by any means, instead a way for each female contestant to take pride in their heritage, and focus on inner beauty. Founded by the Arab American Association President Ashraf Elgamal, Miss Arab USA is a platform where these women can be equipped to set goals, become tomorrow’s leaders, celebrate their culture through the arts and most importantly educate the public about the historical and diverse Arab lifestyle.
Yes, the media needs to start balancing out its view of the Arab world by showcasing positive cultural events like this. Seventeen magazine recently made history by featuring a girl wearing a hijab in its pages for the very first time! 22 year old Ainee Fatima is a poet and social activist who calls herself a “badass muslim girl”! The more major media and news platforms can promote diversity in a positive way, it will go a long way into helping young women own their identities and celebrate their unique qualities.
Animal New York interviewed one of the contestants, 23 year old Den Mawaki from Egypt about what this pageant means to her. She admits to being ashamed of her own culture int he past, pretending she was Italian just to stave of negative stigma for her ethnicity. But listen to how her own identity has strengthened over the years and why entering Miss Arab USA is an important step for her.
After that there is a great video trailer made by documentary maker Yossera Bouchtia on the pageant itself. She also talks about changing the public’s perception of the stereotypical Arab woman.
The proceedings took place in Arizona, August 31 and the winner will get to appear in one of Akon’s upcoming Music Videos.
Whether you are an Arab woman, or another nationality. We encourage you to own your identity, and celebrate all the different aspects of who you are. You don’t need to be labeled or fit into anyone’s box to be defined. The many different aspects to our backgrounds and personalities is what makes our lives so exciting and vibrant. Own it!