DEARBORN — As Miss Arab USA continues to travel across the country making special appearances she's determined to speak to young women about making education their number one priority.
"Education always comes first," Christina Rafidia, who earned the prestigious title last month, said.
|MIss Arab USA Christina Rafidia|
For years Rafidia has volunteered at the St. Jude Children's Hospital. "I really want to travel and meet new people, and spend time with children in hospitals." The hospital treats children at no cost and depends on public donations in order to operate.
She's been a dental assistant since 2007, and knows working in the field is something she wants to do for the rest of her life.
Rafidia earned the crown at the second annual Miss Arab USA pageant on Sep. 10 during a ceremony at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Her first day as Miss Arab USA marked the tenth anniversary of Sep. 11— when Americans reflected on the attacks and its effects on the images and perceptions of Arab Americans.
"My whole thing with the stereotypes is to move past them and move forward," she said. She is prepared to use the title to breakdown stereotypes of Arab women. "Arab women, we're very oriented and have many goals."
Growing up Rafidia was a Catholic school girl. Although many tend to draw a line between Christian and Muslim Arabs, Rafida insists "they are all one." The women in the pageant represented 22 Arab nations. Although some decided to wear the traditional Muslim headscarf it's not a political or religious competition.
Her brothers are also expected to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is half Palestinian and half Jordanian. In 1998 she visited her parent's relatives in Jordan and Palestine.
The pageant does not place great emphasis on a swimsuit competition or physical attractiveness.
Elegance, education, world knowledge, skills, talents, community involvement and service are a few of the qualities judges look into when making their final decision.
Rafidia acts, models and is taking voice lessons. She's a gymnast and was on the prom court.
During the pageant she amazed audience members and judges when she sang the country song, "I Hope You Dance." Belly dancing and poetry were also included in the talent competition.