Few beauty titles are as famous and prestigious as Miss Lebanon. Four former winners share their experiences of wearing the crown. Originally printed in the March 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
Miss Lebanon 1998
“I have never been a slave to the title – I would’ve lost myself ” Clémence Ashkar comes from a conservative background, rising to fame after being crowned as Miss Lebanon at 18. However, the title and fame didn’t change her views. She is still picky about what fits her personality, culture, and vision. The title helped her get to know herself better, she says, even with simple things like her makeup and hair. It also made her mature faster. To help maintain a balanced life, she kept her personal life and fame separate. “Beauty queen is a title that has many pros – the most important being the doors that open to you,” she says. “Yet, if my only goal was to take advantage of the title, I would have accepted many offers. I have never been a slave to it, nor sought to exploit it. If I did, I would have lost myself.”
Music is her passion, with her husband, musician Alecco Habib, supporting her love of singing. “I didn’t enter the world of music because of my fame. I sing in a foreign language in a country that likes Arabic songs, and so, I feel that perhaps I won’t achieve success – but that won’t stop me from trying,” she says. While she did briefly work in TV – preferring social and cultural programs over entertainment – she didn’t find herself and is currently working with a production company to present a program that would suit her. “A social program that is based on my academic studies, sociology,” she explains.
The beauty queen doesn’t regret turning down opportunities that didn’t match her persona. Her title encouraged her to work in the humanitarian field, collaborating with charities and environmental organizations. “The most beautiful thing I achieved through the title was to be chosen to represent global human rights organizations,” she says. She feels proud when she hears people say that she inspired them with her grounded personality. “The Miss Lebanon title brings you fame and opens doors. The winner can influence people and earn a good reputation through her personal efforts.”
NADINE WILSON NJEIM
Miss Lebanon 2007
“I look forward to achieving more” Winning the Miss Lebanon title gave her opportunities, Nadine Wilson Njeim says. Through it, she was able to become financially stable and broaden her experiences, including finishing her degree. She’s still in the spotlight today, having established Microbits, a digital marketing and web development company. She also runs Designer 24, an online luxury fashion rental platform, and presents entertainment programs on TV.
She doesn’t see her title as just a beautiful memory. “I made the right decision to develop my abilities and show my competencies along with my beauty, which isn’t enough on its own,” she says. “I use every opportunity that comes my way.” The Lebanese star says the title benefited her “maybe 30%. My other achievements came from my intellectual efforts and abilities. I don’t expect much from the title, but I do from myself. I ask: What else Nadine will offer?”
Yet Njeim still believes the title is a gift for every winner, even if the event isn’t as glamorous as it once was. This is partly due to social media, which also offers opportunities to girls who are no longer being prohibited from participating in beauty pageants. “The contest should try to avoid repetition and monotony, and make it an event that motivates talented young women to participate,” she feels. “It should serve both the title and candidates.”
Miss Lebanon 2012
“I’m lucky and I must choose wisely” Rina Chibany considers winning the title of Miss Lebanon a dream come true; one she’s had since she was a little girl. There’s no doubt that the pageant changes the winner’s life significantly. Chibany believes the title gained special importance after Georgina Rizk’s win, even if, she says, “The value of the event, which is watched by millions, is intrinsic, even before the winner is announced.”
Her reign was unprecedented – her twin sister, Romy, was her first runner-up, making global headlines. After winning the title, Chibany completed a master’s degree in interior design. Despite receiving offers in the world of TV and acting, she’s chosen to focus on her interior design career. “From the beginning, I rejected the idea of acting. I don’t like to take risks in a field I’m not specialized in. I prefer to plan things the way I want,” she says. She hasn’t completely written off a career in TV, though, saying she’d like to present shows in the cultural domain. “I’m waiting for a special project that will show all the dimensions of my personality.” She feels lucky to have won and says the positive energy encouraged her. It promoted her self-confidence and, despite her young age (she was 21 when she won), gave her a significant role. Her experiences helped her make wide connections, most notably with the Ministry of Tourism. She visited many countries and met members of the Lebanese diaspora.
Chibany isn’t living on the past glories of her fame. Instead, she’s struck a balance by concentrating on her career, family, and personal life. She’s fully aware that the title of “beauty queen” can be a double-edged sword – if you don’t know how to handle it, you can be badly affected by the fame. To her, the balance should come from the inside. “We shouldn’t waste time on the glories of celebrity. Even when I receive offers, I study them carefully to ensure it reflects not only the title of Miss Lebanon, but also my own abilities.”
Miss Lebanon 2014
“I didn’t expect the title to give me so much in return” When Saly Greige decided to go through the beauty pageant experience, her aim wasn’t to get famous, start an acting career, or receive job offers. Rather, she was excited to be part of the contest and the title. To forge a successful TV career today takes effort – unlike previous years, simply winning the title is not enough any more to open doors. Greige, however, retreated from the limelight and devoted her time to her family – a choice she doesn’t regret. But now, she’s ready to step back into the spotlight, by focusing on her career as an engineer, and also presenting a segment on a TV show.
She never expected the title to yield much, both on career and fame levels. Even before she applied to take part, she knew that the event’s glamour had receded; a fact she attributes to declining viewers. “Everything has changed, and social media has became a priority for audiences. It appeals to them more than TV does.” Her participation in the Miss World and Miss Universe beauty pageants was an exceptional experience with a unique value that widened her circle of acquaintances. Female rights, which she championed during her reign, is still her number one cause.