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Miss USA from powerful Shiite family

  • Slideshow Photos

    Isaac Brekken / FR159466 AP

    Image: Rima Fakih, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard

    2010 Miss USA

    Fifty-one hopefuls were whittled down to one pageant winner after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview rounds.

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    Miss USA 2010 -

    Fifty-one contestants from every state and the District of Columbia took to the stage Sunday at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino to compete for the title of Miss USA and the opportunity for a place in the Miss Universe pageant.

    Miss Michigan USA Rima Fakih, 24, took home the crown after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions. When asked how she felt about winning, she said, "Ask me after I've had a pizza."

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    Immediate reaction -

    Fakih, from Dearborn, Mich., covers her mouth in shock after winning the Miss USA pageant. Earlier, she nearly fell during the evening gown portion of the competition while finishing her walk in a long, strapless gown because of the length of its train. She made it without a spill.

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    2010 Miss USA

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    Showing off her swimwear -

    Fakih, of Lebanese descent, is believed to be the first Arab American, immigrant and Muslim to become Miss USA. She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. She moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York. Here she is competing in the bathing suit portion of the competition.

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    2010 Miss USA

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    Dreaded interview question -

    During the interview portion, Fakih was asked whether she thought birth control should be paid for by health insurance. "I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it's a controlled substance," Fakih said.

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    Hugs from the hopefuls -

    Fakih is surrounded by contestants after she was crowned Miss USA 2010. The 51 hopefuls became an online sensation during the week after they posed for racy photographs that some thought were too revealing.

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  • Image: Rima Fakih, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard

    2010 Miss USA

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    Awaiting the results -

    Fakih and Miss Oklahoma USA Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, left, stand together seconds before Fakih was named Miss USA. Woolard, the first runner-up, will take over official duties if Fakih is unable to or is relieved of her official duties.

    AP / AP
  • MISS USA 2010

    2010 Miss USA

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    Her final walk -

    Kristen Dalton, the winner in 2009, takes her final walk as Miss USA prior to crowning her successor. Earlier in the program, Dalton said traveling to Haiti to help the earthquake relief efforts was the most memorable part of her year-long reign.

    Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization
  • MISS USA 2010

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    The evening's emcees -

    TODAY's Natalie Morales and celebrity chef Curtis Stone co-hosted the event. Before flying out to Las Vegas, Morales told TODAY it was an "honor" to be asked to be on the stage. "It's always such a glamorous event and I look forward to meeting the gorgeous contestants," she said.

    Miss Universe Organization / Miss Universe Organization
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    2010 Miss USA

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    Letting loose in Las Vegas -

    The 51 contestants were joined by musical guests Trace Adkins and Boys Like Girls during the show. Here they dance to music by Ke$ha at the opening of the pageant.

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    2010 Miss USA

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    Heads above most of the hopefuls -

    Host Curtis Stone teases Miss Maine Katherine Ashley Whittier, about her height during the Miss USA 2010 pageant.

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    2010 Miss USA

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    The beauty from El Paso -

    Miss Texas Kelsey Moore, from El Paso, was one of the youngest contestants in this year's ceremony at 19 years old.

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  • Image: Rosanna Aguilar

    2010 Miss USA

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    A Rose from New Mexico -

    Miss New Mexico Rosanna Aguilar competes in the Miss USA 2010 pageant. A panel of eight judges, including NBA star Carmelo Anthony and Treasure Island casino-hotel owner Phil Ruffin, were judging the girls throughout the night.

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    Crowding the stage -

    Most of the field of contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were eliminated just after the pageant began. Ten more were eliminated after the swimsuit and the evening gown rounds. The winner was selected after the interview portion of the competition.

    AP / AP

The Lebanese immigrant who won the Miss USA 2010 pageant comes from a family that stood out for its tolerance in a religiously divided country, relatives said Monday.

Rima Fakih, 24, was born into a powerful Shiite family in a village in southern Lebanon that was heavily bombed during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. But she and her sister said the family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths and prefer to be referred to as Lebanese, Arabs or Arab-Americans.

"We don't take sides and this is strange in a country like Lebanon," Rana Fakih said, referring to the civil war that was mainly between Muslims and Christians.

Rima Fakih of Dearborn, Michigan, beat out 50 other women to take the 2010 Miss USA title Sunday night at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, despite nearly stumbling in her evening gown.

Her sister said the new Miss USA was born in their southern village of Srifa, near the port-city of Tyre, after her parents could not reach their home near Beirut because of heavy fighting during the 1975-90 civil war.

She then attended the Catholic Saint Rita school near Beirut and immigrated with her family to the U.S. in 1993. She was raised in New York, where she attended another Catholic school, and the family moved to Michigan in 2003. The sisters have two brothers, Rabih and Rami, Rana Fakih said.

Rana Faqih, who moved back to Lebanon a few months ago for a new job, said her sister visits Lebanon regularly. Her last trip here was to celebrate the New Year.

Rana said she spent the night exchanging messages with her father, Hussein, and another sister, Ruba, who were attending the competition in Las Vegas.

"It was a beautiful surprise," Rana told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Srifa.

'Proud' Lebanese-AmericansShe said her sister had to overcome prejudices that often face Arab-Americans in the United States, particularly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"It was not easy for Rima to reach this title," Rana said, adding that her sister faced some criticism for being Arab. She did not elaborate but said the criticism came mainly from some American websites.

"We're very proud as Lebanese-Americans and as Lebanese that Rima reached this point despite all the pressures and stereotyping about Arabs and Lebanese. She made it. She fought and reached her goal," Rana said.

Local officials said the Fakih family is one of the largest in the village that has a population of about 10,000 people and surrounding areas.

As is common among Lebanon's Shiites, Fakih comes from a large, extended clan that includes everything from supporters of the Islamic militant groups Hezbollah and Amal to secular Shiites and even communists.

"We are very happy for this event and we should have done something here to celebrate," said Ali Eid, the head of the municipal council. But, he said, the village was busy preparing for municipal elections on Sunday.

Village Mayor Mohammed Hamed Nazzal also expressed pride.

"It is great news for us here that a woman from Srifa became Miss America."

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