By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Ben Kalasho presents scholarship check to Zhala Tawfiq, Miss Middle East USA 2016
June 3, 2016 (San Diego) — “Our goal is to empower and embolden Middle Eastern women and redefine the world,” said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the Miss Middle East USA Pageant. “This was such a unifying event in San Diego; the nation must see that there are strong, independent women from the Middle East who aspire to lead by example and promote equality and women’s rights.”
Nearly 500 people attended the third annual pageant, held May 19th at the Hilton Hotel.
Zhala Tawfiq, representing the Kurdish community, won the title of Miss Middle East USA 2016. Alyssa Yacoub from the Iraqi community took second place, while Zenah Abul-Khair, a Palestinian, came in third place.
“It’s the only pageant which includes all Middle Eastern countries, ethnicities and religions,” Kalasho said, adding that the pageant aims to redefine what it means to be a Middle Eastern woman internationally. “It is the only pageant which h dares to tackle conservative stereotypes and backwards thinking.”
Contestants participated in a question and answer segment, as well casual wear, ethnic wear and formal wear competitions. The top three winners receive scholarship money and prizes.
The festivities also included entertainment a pre-party and an after party to round out an event filled with elegance and friendly, competitive spirit.