The beauty of Lebanon in AustraliaBookmark this
THEY primped and they preened, and after a few champagnes backstage strutted their stuff before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 500 people. The sixth annual Miss Lebanon Australia beauty pageant, held at the Croatian Club, in the Sydney suburb of Punchbowl on Saturday night, kicked off as 11 contestants marched down the catwalk in short, military-style khaki dresses to clapping and wolf whistles. A few wobbled nervously on their heels, but by the time they had completed the swimwear and evening wear sections, they were floating down the aisle like naturals. Rawiya Dirani, 20, a business student, said she felt the event had given her a newfound confidence in her heritage. "This pageant has changed me," she said. "Some Lebanese, especially with the racism in Australia, think, 'Should I say I'm Lebanese or not?' But now I feel OK to say I'm Lebanese. I'm out there, and I'm flaunting my stuff." Natasha Mansour, 20, an accounting student, said winning the Miss Lebanon Australia title would enable her to have a voice within and outside her community. "Our culture is portrayed as a culture that is violent, but we're not violent at all," she said. "I could be a good role model." The women were judged according to their "elegance, poise, character and intellect" by a panel of judges that included the Lebanese-Canadian musician Maasari, who confessed he was "in love" with Australian-Lebanese women. The contestants were asked questions that reflected concerns in their community, such as whether they supported abortion or sex before marriage. They were also asked to identify what they considered to be the biggest crisis facing Australia. "We wanted to know their opinion on the Cronulla riots," said David Nader, 30, one of the organisers. The winner was Mary Boumelhem, 18. She receives a ticket to the Miss Lebanon beauty pageant in Beirut.