Glamouria - Miss USA Rima Fakih Opens Up… By Hayat Ammouri

Miss USA Rima Fakih Opens Up…
February 23, 2015
Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih
Hair: Tony Sawaya
Makeup: Ahmad Al Assir
Stylist: Hayat Ammouri
Photography: Sharbel BouMansour


This is a very personal interview, because Rima means a lot to me. The first time I interviewed her was in 2010, after she won the title of Miss USA. I remember I did the interview over the phone, I was in the car, at the Gym parking in Boca Raton. Shortly after, I flew to Vegas to support her in Miss Universe. Rima had all what she needed to win, but she didn’t, which was kind of frustrating, to me…
Winning the Miss USA title is not easy, let alone, being a Muslim Arab winning the title.

You ask me why do I love her so much? Clearly because she’s real. She’s a strong young woman who is not afraid to speak her mind (and I love women who speak their mind); self confident, with a wicked sense of humour; she’s not only a dreamer, but also an achiever and the norm breaker.
Gorgeous Rima came to Lebanon a while ago; she had some projects, but all of a sudden she left. What has she been up to this whole time?
Rima, It’s so nice to talk to you again! Are you happy?
I am happy every time I come to Lebanon and happy to take a piece of Lebanon with me to Hollywood. On a personal level, I am always torn between living in Lebanon and living in the USA, but then I decided, why can’t I be in both?
Do you consider yourself successful?
On a personal level, I am not sure. I am 29. I will be 30 in September, and my mother is worried. She knew since I was a kid, that at 30, I was going to publish my autobiography, but she knows that I never thought about marriage and kids. As I said, I am going to be 30. Did I do what I had to do? I did. As a woman, I did, and I was very successful. But as an Arab woman, on a personal level, I didn’t. I have not gotten yet in a serious relationship to the point that I asked anybody to meet my parents. I feel I am neglecting my personal life.

Does this scare you?
No. Not yet. I carry nothing in my life with regret. There might be mistakes, but everything happens for a reason. I have goals in my hand, and I am closer to achieving them. I might think about it when I feel I am in my comfort zone. And let’s be honest, you can’t plan love and you can’t plan kids. You and I can’t plan kids. But here in the Middle East, they do, and this is why women and men are not always happy. If the right person comes along, great, but if not then what.. There is this person now for example who maybe likes me. But then he does not like the fact that I have meetings, that sometimes I finish working late, quite the opposite, he complains, and he’s a celebrity! I want to find an Arab man, but I want an understanding one.
What about a non Arab man?
Western men understand career, but they suck when it comes to family. I want a real man, but it’s hard. Career wise I feel very accomplished, but when I think about marriage and kids and buying a house, it scares the hell out of me.

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih
Hair: Tony Sawaya
Makeup: Ahmad Al Assir
Stylist: Hayat Ammouri
Photography: Sharbel BouMansour


How did you manage to achieve your goals so far?
I used to believe that every 5 years, not every year and every month, every 5 years, you should
know what you should be working on. I would write 5 to 10 things, and put them away on a shelf. I would go with my life normally but knowing that I have my goals in the back of my mind.
I keep my goals to myself, because let’s say I write that I want to win the oscars, or write a cookbook, people here won’t take me seriously, and the conversation goes like that “oh, great, and how is Johnny, did you meet his mom?”…
To be honest, I don’t share my dreams with people. If your dreams are not big enough to scare you, then they are not dreams.  My dreams are big, no one is going to take them seriously. I learnt this from Denzel Washington who told me once: “Let me tell you something young woman, there is no successful idea, be it a movie, or an application, or whatever, without people telling us man it’s a crazy idea. Everyone will think you’re crazy, and that’s Ok, this is how you will succeed.”
You want to do a workout video and you think there are 20,000 girls who did it before, and they are all more important than you, but inside you believe in it, then just go for it.  If you don’t believe in yourself no one will.
When I came to Lebanon, I had a project, and I failed. I failed because I worked with the wrong people, but I thought this happened for a reason, this was boot camp, now watch what I am gonna do. Nothing can stop me. I sound ballsy right now, but there are lots of times when I sit and I feel like I want to cry, it’s Ok to cry. It’s fine to be frustrated, but the next day I will get back up. “Haters” ( the famous new word that is now everywhere on billboards in Lebanon)- haters will see you walk on water and say “haram, you can’t swim?”… Truth is if you’re not ballsy you don’t reach your goals.
How do you handle disappointments?
I believe that negativity has a deadline. You know how they say everything will come to an end? Negativity too. But you have to give it time to understand why it happened. When I am faced with failure, I don’t react to it right away. I used to, and my emotions were up my sleeves, and I would get upset, why me?
Then I realized that I had to calm down, and I learnt meditation from Russel Simmons, and I started taking care of my body..
When I feel nervous or when angry, I don’t react anymore. I don’t send emails. I do yoga, and the next day I wake up and I am fine. Failure does not exist, there is no such thing, there is a always a reason for it.
What were you doing in L.A lately?
I finished the movie mossaa, with Sami El Sheikh who is in American Sniper. I finished a pilot for a very funny comedy: it’s something I executive produced, wrote and starred in, and Russel Simmons has taken the project from us. I also worked on my book, and I starred in the reality TV show The Apartment in Asia and it’s now airing on TV.
Let’s start with the book. You told me you went everyday in the afternoon to the beach to write..
I always knew I was going to publish a book, and now is the time. When I won Miss USA I thought I would wait 5 years, and see where success will bring me. When I was at school in the USA, we were forced to read the book The Diary of A Young Girl, by Anne Frank. Why? Why do all 10 year old in the USA have to read this story about a jewish girl who was a victim of the holocaust? so one day, in 2012, I met my cousin, Amanda Saeed; this cousin is always quiet, and very smart, she has never asked me for anything. She told me she was writing a paper on me, and I thought she was kidding. When she told me how the kids reacted, I was very honoured.
What is your book about?
I am writing about the American Dream: How we suffered, we moved, all what we went through, and making it in America. In the United States, the Miss has a voice. I know my book will be successful in the USA, but I also would like to translate it to Arabic. At the same time, I am scared, because they always find something that has to do with politics, but I don’t care. You have to take your chances.
What’s your goal from the book?
My book is a lesson. My goal is that I want people to know we suffer too. This book is empowering for young women, empowering for immigrants, and also a lesson for people who do not understand us. We are February 2015. I posted a picture in a dress up to the knees, and someone asked me where is my burqa’ . This is a kid in college in Michigan state. How is that possible? He has on his page lyrics for Drake, and he has images with P.Diddy. Does he know that Drake’s Manager is Lebanese, and Diddy’s Manager is Lebanese, and Justin Bieber’s songwriter and composer is Lebanese, and the one who accompanies Selena Gomez in the studio is Syrian… Arabs are everywhere but people don’t know that.
Before I came to Beirut now, I was with Justin Bieber at the movies, and I said one Arabic word to his producer, Justin said you’re Arab? Why doesn’t he know? We are scared of being judged. To be back to the book, my autobiography will be released in September 2015; the proposal went out, and it’s getting a lot of attention, but it’s scary. I have to be careful about the publishing company I choose, because I don’t want them to change my story. 
What about the movie?
Mesa’a (مسقعة) is a true story. The producer Mohammed Karawia wanted to do a short movie in Hollywood, in Arabic. It’s about a girl with a veil who is in love with a man in Egypt. She has to choose if she should follow her heart or her mind, like a lot of people I know here. Should she listen to her heart and marry the person she loves or listen to her mom, or listen to herself and be the confused woman she wants to be? Is she good, bad? She takes her scarf off and goes to school without it… A lot of girls are facing this problem, choosing between the heart or the mind?
What would Rima follow?
Before I would say I would follow my heart. But after I won Miss USA and I had a real heartbreak with Nick Romero, I started following my mind, but this didn’t work either, it didn’t make me happy. So I am at the point where I am very confused.

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih
Hair: Tony Sawaya
Makeup: Ahmad Al Assir
Stylist: Hayat Ammouri
Photography: Sharbel BouMansour


What lesson did you learn from your movie as an actress?
I learnt to concentrate. If you are able to let it go, you could really ace it. When I started, I was very nervous, because I did not speak Egyptian. So I went to a real Egyptian woman, and I was practicing with her for at least 3 days a week to learn the accent in order to concentrate on acting. Then again, as Hugh Jackman puts it “No matter how many classes you take, how much acting coaching you get, if you don’t have that natural feeling to apply to the character you won’t succeed”… People take acting like an art. Heath Ledger lost it, because he really got into character. But you also have to learn to lose yourself, to live the scene.
The movie is done, Muhammad is a very good director, he’s similar to Quentin Tarantino with his movies.
Do you dream of being a Hollywood actress?
Now I am, with the comedy show, I even became an executive producer. It was upsetting how easy it was for me to succeed in the US, and how hard it is over here. With my connections and my respect in the industry and the help of Russel simmons, I was able to meet the right people, and to succeed in the US.
Why do you think you’re successful?
I am very ballsy. It takes a lot for me to be scared. And the more you scare me the better it is. I feel I am the person who’s responsible to break the rules. I was suffering a lot while competing for Miss USA. A blogger wrote a lot about me, she would write that I am a terrorist, I am Muslim, asking Donald Trump to fire me. I was very sad, but I couldn’t give up. I spoke to my dad and asked him if I was crazy or If I was doing anything bad. My dad told me that “in life everyone is unique.  Every Miss USA  is pretty and smart, but in this life, everyone has something unique, and then there are also a very few superheroes, and these are the ones who stand in front of the protest line and say let’s go. They are willing to die for a cause, willing to risk it all, it’s in your blood. You are a superhero”… When people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I would say help Lebanon. When we left Lebanon, we got hurt a lot. Recently, someone put a gun in my mom’s head. But she was not scared, because she lived in the war, and a little gun in her face was not going to affect her.
I lead with example. If someone tells me I can’t, I believe that I am an exception to the rule, and I like to open doors for other people. I know I made mistakes. I am not perfect. I believe that young people are the future, and those are the ones that look up for me, and those are the people I care about. If they are judging you it’s ok. If they are talking about you it means you’re doing something right.
You have to have a very strong positive thinking and you have to practice it. I want to feel good in my skin, I do yoga, I meditate, I exercise, but I eat what I want. I don’t want to go back home and feel bad about myself looking at the mirror!
What’s your advice for the ambitious generation?
I do meditation and yoga, and every day I thank God for 3 things in my life. If I have problems, it’s ok to write your thoughts or think or talk about it. But not to your friends. it’s very important not to talk about deep and important issues. Ask your family, not even your partner. You have to exercise how to believe in yourself and have confidence before you go out in the world. No one is out there to look out for you. I am weak, and I am a very sensitive girl. But when I feel weak, I want my mom, and I will want her forever; If I feel weak I call my parents, they understand me. I love my friends, but I know what my friends will tell me. My parents on the other hand know me best.
The other day I was telling my dad that I have pain balancing on my knee; he laughed at me. He said yes, you always had this. Go get a knee brace, google it. When you participated in Miss Universe, and you had your “bubble butt” you researched all the fruits and vegetables and exercises you could do to change it. Why can’t can’t you do this now? He’s right. Now I do jump rope, I do all the necessary exercises, and I can stand on it for 3 seconds. He’s right. There is no problem without a solution.
How do you know who your real friends are?
Friends are great, but every friend is good for something. They are all real. When it comes to sadness, your real friends are the ones that when you are not trending on google and no one is liking your pictures on facebook, they are there for you, double tapping YOU!
I have friends who are all of a sudden sending me messages because they saw the Dancing with The Stars promos. They pretend to care, but I wish they would say we saw the promo, this is why we are kissing your a***. I don’t respond to them.
Does this make you sad?
No. When you strengthen your thinking and your positivity you will be Ok. I was not always like that. I read books like 40 laws of power. I highlighted it and practiced it. Then I started hanging around people that are extremely positive, like Russell Simmons and Jamie Fox. From that I strengthened my beliefs in life. Now when I have issues, I enjoy not to defend myself. I sit back and let them talk. I don’t flash my life, my home, my relationships…
How come you have almost 400,000 followers on twitter, whereas other beauty queens, except for Olivia (Nick Jonas’ girlfriend) don’t have as many?
Because I speak my mind, I network. You invite me to a nightclub, no thank you. A Weinstein party? Ok, I will be there. I go there, I am professional, I have my business cards, I network, I introduce myself, but passed midnight, I am home. I keep my professionalism but I network my butt off. I learnt things the hard way.
What scares you the most? 
Not reaching my goals and showing my dad that I am successful. I want my dad to see me succeed and I want him to have his house in the mountain; I want him to see that I am Ok. My dad is now 72. I want him to see me married with kids. He has a fear, even though he never speaks about it: My grandpa had a dream, his family was poor. When my dad moved to NY, he was helping his family and sending them money to build their home, and he wanted to give my grandpa his dream, but my grandpa died a week before the house was finished. I want the house and the kids.
Would you ever consider freezing your eggs?
If I reach 40 and I don’t have kids yet, yes, I will consider it, but I always see myself as Angelina Jolie. Having babies and adopting. If in 5 years, I am not ready,I will do the JLO movie. Just kidding of course! I am kidding… I have been concentrating on my career, and every time I meet a guy, the second I feel there is a negativity that could interrupt my career I let him go. It’s funny, I met someone and after 3 days, he started asking me where are you, with who, why are you in the studio.. Etc…Then I thought, wait a second, I am here to work, not to have boyfriends or friends. I dropped it right right away. This is the story of my life. I intimidate men, I do. It’s such a turnoff.
Did you always like dancing?
I always loved dancing, since we were kids. My mom and my sister used to choreograph dances. When we moved to the US my mom tried to put me in dancing classes but it was too expensive at the time. And in New York my mom would worry if I have to go by myself. Then I got older, so I started self defense for women, and MMa and WWE. I promote women to be tough. I like that. I was in a taxi last night with my niece. The driver was very rude, and he was texting and driving. I asked him to stop on the side, he laughed and said what are you capable of doing? In one second, I had him in chokehold. He was not able to move his hands. I reported him to his company, but could you imagine? When a woman is tough nothing will scare her. We should rely on ourselves. I can travel and do anything I want because I know I am strong. He said he did not know I was Rima Fakih! What kind of excuse is that?
What are the things that you would like to see better in Lebanon?
Traffic and women empowerment.  A lot of women here have no dreams, no ambitions. Some of them feel they need to marry someone, and it has to be of the same religion.
Even health and beauty, we have different standards. No offense, but here they sell garbage and false hopes to women. Women don’t need that. You have to know your body. Women here feel they are judged by their Louboutin Shoes on their feet. They can’t go out with no make up on. What is that??? Go out , have fun!

Arab women in America feel invincible. Beauty starts inside. I am sick now, but I go out, I am having a bad day, a sick day, it’s fine, this is me, this is Rima. I like who I am. The biggest beauty secret, you got to looove yourself. Stand in front of the mirror, Mirror mirror on the wall, Jean claude Van dammmmm I look good! But it does not come over night.

For me to walk in a bikini on Miss USA or Miss Universe was not easy! It’s not the colour of my eyes that mattered, it was the way I was looking to the cameras. I worked on myself, I transformed my body. When I was walking, in my head it was “Ex boyfriend, look at me, I am here!”… That’s the truth.
Someone has to love themselves and love challenges. But don’t love it too much like me because I make it too hard on myself. I am not used anymore to easy things, so when easy things come my way, I want them harder.
You have to love challenges, nothing comes easy, you have to battle it, go to war.. But here is my advice, don’t share it with anyone, they would say you’re wasting your time, “hmara” … We all have opinions, even the kitty cat I adopted!
Be positive, and if you are bothered, go straight to the source and talk it out, directly.

…. and about Kris Jenner

She is one of the superheroes. She became a superhero since she convinced her husband to represent O.J. Simpson. She pushed him to take this case. This woman has realized the power of media before facebook and instagram existed. She used her networking to reach her goals. She is an entrepreneur, a leader. She taught me something: Don’t ever refer to yourself as a woman. There is no more man or woman anymore. There are human beings. Those who want it and those who think they can get anything. She asked me what’s your favourite car, and I said Bentley. She said do you want Bently? I said yes, she said, no Bentley wants you. You have to learn to think that way, but you also have to separate between your career and life. Their life is on TV but believe it or not, they do have a life. She knows what she’s doing.
…. and the Donald Trump lessons
He influenced me big time. What you see on Donald Trump in the media is for the media. This is what he used to tell me every time something bad happens, “now show me how you’re gonna flip it Fakih!”…

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