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Arab beauty queen wins Miss USA title

AN Arab American beat 50 other women to take the Miss USA title, despite nearly stumbling in her evening gown.

Rima Fakih (24), of Michigan, won the pageant in Las Vegas yesterday after strutting confidently in an orange and gold bikini, wearing a strapless white gown like a wedding dress and saying health insurance should cover birth control pills.

When asked how she felt about winning the crown, she said: "Ask me after I've had a pizza."

Fakih, a Lebanese immigrant, told pageant organisers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths.

She arrived in America as a baby and was raised in New York, where she attended a Catholic school.

Pageant officials said records were not detailed enough to show whether Fakih was the first Arab American, Muslim or immigrant to win the Miss USA title.

It started in 1952 as a local bathing suit competition in Long Beach, California.

Fakih told reporters she sold her car after graduating from university to help pay for her run in Miss Michigan.


She said she believed she had won after glancing at pageant owner Donald Trump.

"That's the same look that he gives them when he says, 'You're hired,"' on The Apprentice," she said.

"She's a great girl," said Trump, who owns the pageant with NBC in a joint venture.

In a moment that was replayed during the broadcast, Fakih nearly fell while finishing her walk in her gown because of the length of its train.

But she made it without a spill and went on to win.