DEARBORN — A Dearborn native of Palestinian and Lebanese descent has been selected as one of 30 finalists in the running for Miss Arab USA.
Razan Zaher was born in Michigan before her family returned to Lebanon, where she was raised, and went on to earn her bachelor of arts in English studies and her diploma with honors.
Zaher, a second grade elementary homeroom teacher at a charter school in Detroit that serves a number of English Language Learners in her second year of her PhD studies in educational leadership, returned to the United States to further her education. She currently lives in Dearborn and was inspired by her father, who also works in the education field.
“My father is a significant role model, and seeing what he did at work every day made it clear that I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” she said. “From the beginning, I knew I always wanted to work with children, and teaching has always been a passion of mine. It is a profession that holds the power to inspire, empower and shape future generations, creating a lasting impact that is both rewarding and enchanting.”
Ashraf Elgamal, founder and CEO of Miss Arab USA, is also president of the Arab American Organization (AAO) and founded the Miss Arab Pageant on the basis of advancing the cause of young Arab women. It acts as a charity event for the community and a non-political platform for young women to achieve personal growth and development and humanitarian goals while also taking pride in their heritage.
“Being a part of the Miss Arab USA competition holds tremendous significance for me,” Zaher said. “It’s an opportunity to embrace and celebrate my Arab heritage while showcasing my personal accomplishments, talents and dedication. This platform allows me to represent my community and become a role model for others, inspiring them to pursue their dreams fearlessly.”
Women from around the country applied to be a part of the pageant and began a process that focused on evaluating contestants on their personal qualities, talents and commitments to representing Arab culture. Afterwards, 30 finalists were selected and will undergo interviews, talent showcases and cultural presentations to showcase their unique qualities and skills before a winner will be crowned.
To all the children who may look at my story and feel inspired to chase their goals, I want to tell you that your dreams are valid and your voice matters,” she said. “Embrace your identity, be proud of your heritage and let it fuel your aspirations. Believe in yourself, work hard and remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. — Razan Zaher
Zaher told The Arab American News that she believes she embodies the qualities and values that represent the essence of being Miss Arab USA.
“Throughout my life, I’ve strived to promote unity, diversity and empowerment within my community while serving those in need,” she said. “By voting for me, we can ensure that our values and traditions are celebrated and uplifted on a national stage. My exceptional leadership skills, unique experiences and unwavering dedication to making a positive impact make me an exemplary candidate. I am confident that I can effectively advocate for and represent the Arab American community; voting for me means choosing a Miss Arab USA who will inspire, uplift and create lasting change.”
Having a direct connection with children in the community with her work, Zaher said that she hopes to be an inspiration.
“To all the children who may look at my story and feel inspired to chase their goals, I want to tell you that your dreams are valid and your voice matters,” she said. “Embrace your identity, be proud of your heritage and let it fuel your aspirations. Believe in yourself, work hard and remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. I hope that being part of the Miss Arab USA competition will provide me with a platform to celebrate my Arab heritage and promote cultural awareness. I aspire to inspire other young Arab women to embrace their identities and pursue their dreams with confidence. Ultimately, I aim to make a positive impact, both within the Arab community and society at large, while becoming an ambassador for cultural diversity.”
Representing Palestine and the state of Michigan with the goal of using this platform to raise awareness, promote change and help those in need, Zaher said that this isn’t about personal recognition, but a deep commitment to representing the community as a whole.
“Whether I win or lose the Miss Arab USA competition, I am committed to utilizing the experience and platform to benefit the community,” she said. “In order to give the Palestinian people the recognition they have always deserved, I aspire to be a representative of my Palestinian roots on a national platform. If I win, I will leverage the visibility and recognition to promote diversity, cultural understanding and empowerment within the Arab community. If I don’t win, I will still work passionately to contribute positively by actively engaging in community initiatives, supporting charitable causes and using my voice to advocate for the rights and well-being of Arab individuals. Regardless of the outcome, my goal remains to make a meaningful and lasting impact on those who put their trust in me to represent our community. ”
If Zaher were to win the title, she said that she would strive to be a role model for Arab American youth.
“If I were to win the Miss Arab USA competition, there would likely be several opportunities and possibilities that could unfold,” she said. “As the titleholder, I would have the chance to represent the Arab community on a larger stage, participate in public speaking engagements and collaborate with influential figures. I would strive to be a role model for Arab American youth and emphasize the significance of education as a powerful tool for personal growth and community development. I will inspire others through my journey, serve as an ambassador for Arab culture and work towards fostering understanding and inclusivity on a global scale.”
Voting for Miss Arab USA closes on July 14. Voting and donation information for Zaher can be found on the Miss Arab USA website.