Crowned in a glittering ceremony this past week, the newest Miss Arab USA is described as having the best of both worlds. Born in Canada, raised in the UAE and having moved to the United States at the age of 16, Lebanese Guinwa Zeineddine won over judges with her firebrand blend of humanitarian work, beauty and brains.
The 22-year-old university student, who is pursuing a dual major in in Pre-pharmacy and communications, enjoys performing dance and is actively involved in community service efforts.
Al Arabiya News got in touch with the tiara-clad Zeineddine to talk culture, her roots and her hopes for the future.
Q: Why did you choose to compete in Miss Arab USA? In your opinion, what is the purpose of such a pageant?
A: I wanted to be able to bridge the gap between the East and the West while setting a positive example to today’s youth. The purpose of the pageant is not only to empower women, but also to foster the image of all Arabs around the world.
Q: How would you describe your experience during the whole process?
A: My experience with this pageant began prior to my application. I have been following this pageant for four years. The desire to be part of this socially impactful event was engrained into my ambitions since the moment I knew there was such an organization. I was ecstatic when I received the news that I was accepted as a competitor. I immediately started focusing on becoming the next Miss Arab USA. It was hard work, but there was never a dull moment. I got to meet amazing people and I learned a lot about myself and my potential.
Q: Have you ever participated in any pageants prior to this one? If so, how are they different?
A.I have participated in a couple of pageants. The most recent one was a university based pageant for a fraternity whose main focus was to raise funds for a charity. I would say the greatest difference was the magnitude of the event and its purpose. Miss Arab USA was about raising cultural awareness and merging cultures. This pageant was more competitive and required a lot more dedication.
Q: Having lived in the United Arab Emirates, what would you say was your favorite memory?
A: I have had so many positive memories; it would be difficult to highlight one in particular. I will tell you that the UAE was my playground as a child where I would laugh and dance with friends. Where neighbors were family and family were neighbors. One of my special memories was Global Village [a fair of stalls from different countries], “Where the world comes together.” It was a family event every year.
Q: Has the UAE inspired your decision to participate in Miss Arab USA?
A: The UAE made me realize how diverse the Arab culture is, it made me proud not only to be Lebanese, but to be an Arab.
Q: How important was it for you to be a part of a pageant that has to do with your Arab roots?
A: It is very important because it represents who I am and allows me to represent the Arab-Americans.
Q: How do you hope to inspire today’s Arab youth?
A: There are a lot of conflicting issues affecting the Arab youth. I think the most important is developmental, which is why I push towards inspiring the development of programs that will serve as a guide in terms of education, leadership development and financial aid. Our youth are our future so if we invest in them, we are investing in our future.
Q: What message would you give to the Arab community in America?
A: Stay true to your roots. Our culture is absolutely beautiful and even though there are some misguided presumptions about Arab culture, that should not diminish our pride and unity. Instead, we should remind the world of the positive impact Arab Americans have been in American history.
Q: Possessing such a powerful title, what do you hope to do with it?
A: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Being honored a powerful a title as Miss Arab USA gives me the avenue to reach out to varies communities and become a voice for social change.
Q: How has your life changed since winning the pageant?
A: I’m still trying to soak it in. It’s been a week since I’ve won. I have an enormous sense of pride in my triumph. Every time I look at my crown, I shed happy tears.
Q: What was your mindset preparing for Miss Arab USA?
A: “Confidence is Queen.” You always have to have the right mindset and I was both positive and confident coming into this competition.
Q: Having served countless hours to under serviced communities such as the Center for the Blind, Salvation Army, and Operation Christmas child, what has been your main motivation for getting involved?
A: Having a sense of purpose and knowing that you have positively impacted people is so empowering and rewarding. We should always strive to help each other out and better our community through our positive involvement.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: My future goals include me graduating with a Pharmacy and Communications degree, working for doctors without borders, starting a non-profit organization geared towards providing free medication for the needy, adopting a child, being an influential spokeswomen and always serving as a positive role model to others. I am a very ambitious person and I always strive to challenge myself and accomplish all of my goals.
Q: Who are your inspirations in life and why?
A: My parents are my inspiration. Their unconditional love and support has shaped the woman that I am today and I am forever grateful for that. Their hard work and ambition is something that they have embedded in my siblings and I and I will always aspire to make them proud.