Rima Fakih Slaiby – Breaking the Boundaries
Maxim|September - October 2021
A conversation with trailblazing model and philanthropist Rima Fakih Slaiby
By Jordan Riefe. Photography by Mohamad Seif

Not even her experience as a war refugee and hottie from the hood prepared Rima Fakih for the brutal backstage beauty pageant skirmishes she faced on her way to becoming the first Arab-American Miss America in 2010. This Beirut-born stunner’s strength is rooted in personal struggle, giving her powers far beyond those she’s chosen to reveal in the photo spread.

Rima Fakih was born in Srifa, a small city in Southern Leba non. She and her four siblings were raised in a Shia Muslim household, though she attended Catholic school near Beirut. Fleeing the Lebanese Civil War in 1993, they landed in the Jackson Heights section of Queens and opened a Mediterranean-style restaurant in Manhattan. But business declined following September 11, 2001, and soon they moved to Dearborn, Michigan, one of the nation’s largest Arab-American communities.

As Miss USA, Fakih became involved with WWE events, making appearances and even serving as ring announcer before becoming a contestant on Tough Enough, competing for a contract as a professional wrestler. She lasted until week four, but followed with a 2012 appearance at WrestleMania Axxess. Taking a break from the ring, she landed on the dating show, The Choice, as one of four celebrity bachelorettes, including Carmen Electra.

With her 2016 marriage to music executive and manager Wassim Slaiby, (who handles red-hot acts like The Weeknd and French Montana), Rima has taken time out of the spotlight to focus on her family and charity work. As a board member of Best Buddies International, she also helps the intellectually or developmentally disabled. Not just an Ambassador for The Children’s Cancer Center in Lebanon, she is also an Ambassador for School on Wheels, providing tutoring and mentoring for homeless children. Earlier this year, she was appointed to the USA’s Board of Directors of the United Nations World Food Program.

Here, Rima teaches us how to roll with the punches, whether you’re juggling backstage bitchiness at a beauty pageant, or the women warriors of Wrestlemania.

What surprised you most about beauty competitions?

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