Rachel Younan won the title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2018 at a ceremony held in Pattaya, Thailand, on August 5.
The Australian-Lebanese beauty queen beat out first runner up Nour Karouni from Texas, the US and second runner up Nathalie Sleiman from Toronto, Canada.
The Miss Lebanon Emigrant pageant, produced by the Miss Lebanon Committee and Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International in partnership with Tourism Authority of Thailand, welcomes young women of Lebanese heritage from around the world to participate.
Younan, 23, walked the catwalk and performed dances like a pro on stage at the Mytt Hotel, but it was her response during the question and answer round that especially impressed the audience and judges, drawing probably the loudest applause of the night.
Asked which woman she saw as her idol, Younan confidently and without hesitation named Lebanese-British lawyer Amal Clooney.
“Amal Clooney has raised and elevated the standard for Lebanese women around the world. She has done incredible things for human trafficking, democracy and civil rights... It is unparalleled... she is someone I greatly admire and greatly respect,” Younan said on stage.
The economics graduate said having strong opinions helped her focus on answering her question.
“I don’t think too much about what the questions could be. I just think about what I know, what I think about different topics and I know my opinion on things very well. Originally, I probably wouldn’t have thought to say Amal Clooney but on the spot that was just the honest answer that came to my head,” Younan told Gulf News tabloid! after her win.
Younan said visiting the homeland of her parents as part of the pageant activities brought her closer to her roots.
“During this pageant I fell in love with Lebanon. You just feel a deep, deep connection to the scenery, the landscapes, the people, the culture and you start to understand more what it means to be Lebanese... you want to be proud of it and you want to share it with the world,” she said.
Before being crowned by the outgoing Miss Lebanon Emigrant Dima Safi from the Ivory Coast, Younan was also given the Miss Friendship award, which was based on votes from her fellow contestants.
The economics graduate works in her university but says she will continue working with pageants for a while as she prepares to head to Japan to participate in the Miss International contest on November 9.
The yearly Miss Lebanon Emigrant was for the first time hosted in Thailand, where the 11 contestants spent five days taking in the sights of the beach town of Pattaya, releasing turtles at the Pattaya Turtle Research Centre and attending cookery and yoga classes, among other things.
Know yourself. Be very prepared. Be organised. Be ready for lack of sleep and just positive attitude. Honestly, we [fellow contestants] all felt when we got to this point if none of us fell over then we’ve all won... that’s the kind of spirit that kept us going through the gruelling schedules.” — Younan’s advice to those who want to join pageants.
BEAUTY QUEEN QUICKFIRE
Dima Safi, Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2017 — Ivory Coast, 25
On moving on from the pageant: “It feels good... After one year of travelling, discovering new cultures and new things now I really need to focus on my career, which is related to nutrition and food science.
On learning from the contest: “It has made me a different person... it made me more confident. With knowing all the contestants from all over the world I’ve learnt so many things.”
Nour Karouni, Texas, the US, 19
On stumbling upon the contest: “I was in bed one night and watching YouTube videos and then eventually one video led to another and I found one that was one of the contestants talking about her experience as Miss Lebanon Emigrant and so I was just curious. It was like three in the morning and I went online, I searched it up and the application had two more days until it closed. So I applied and they responded immediately.”
Alice Al Habr, Kuwait, 25
On connecting with her country women: “Each one of us [talks about] her experience there and how it is to be connected to Lebanon in a way, and our vacations... We all wish we could go back to Lebanon and live there.”