The upcoming Miss Universe 2018 pageant will feature just two faces from the Arab world this year.
Miss Lebanon, Maya Reaidy, and Miss Egypt, Nariman Khaled, will be among the 93 contestants at the 67th edition of the international beauty pageant to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 16.
This year will host the highest ever number of contestants, and in turn countries, taking part – surpassing the record 92 participants last year.
Reaidy, who is representing Lebanon, is a fifth year pharmacy student at the Lebanese American University, and studied psychology for two years prior to that. She speaks four languages fluently – English, Arabic, French, and Russian.
Reaidy is an active person who enjoys yoga, reading psychology, and leading an Ayurvedic lifestyle (the traditional Hindu system of body healing). Reaidy also says she is passionate about travelling, as it helps her understand other cultures better, and gives her the opportunity to meet new people through her volunteer work.
If she takes home the crown, she says she would use her title to support and promote women in the Middle East, in an attempt to tackle a variety of issues – from sexual harassment to educating women on basic laws. She also wants to raise awareness of the special needs community in the region.
Khaled, who is representing Egypt, is a business information systems student, and also plays the ukulele. The Hurghada resident beat 17 other candidates for the crown and the right to represent the North African nation at this year's competition. She is a volunteer with NGOs in Egypt and further afield, and also has a keen interest in yoga and meditation.
If Khaled wins, she will be the first Egyptian contestant to claim the title, but not the first from her country to take home a major international pageant title. In 1954, Antigone Costanda became the first Miss Egypt to be crowned Miss World.
The region might be slightly underrepresented this year, but it has proven a successful part of the world in previous editions. In 1971, Miss Lebanon, Georgina Rizk, took home the Miss Universe crown, grabbing the Middle East its first win.
Miss Universe 2018 will be crowned by South Africa's Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, and will receive an impressive prize package which includes a year-long salary as Miss Universe; luxury accommodation in a New York City apartment for the duration of her reign – including living expenses; a one-year supply of beauty products; a full shoe wardrobe from Chinese Laundry shoes and accessories; a modelling portfolio by leading fashion photographers; skin and healthcare products; extensive travel representing sponsors and charitable partners; access to various events including casting opportunities, movie premiers, screenings, Broadway shows and launch parties; and a personal appearance wardrobe and styling by the official Miss Universe Organisation fashion stylist.
The show will be hosted by five-time Emmy award-winning American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor and author Steve Harvey and supermodel Ashley Graham, while television personality Carson Kressley and runway coach Lu Sierra will provide commentary and analysis throughout the event.
Meanwhile American singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and dancer, Ne-Yo, real name Shaffer Chimere Smith, will perform during the competition.
The three-hour live event will take place on December 16 in Bangkok, where the Miss Universe pageant has been held twice – in 1992 and 2005 – with representatives from Thailand also winning the crown twice – in 1965 and 1988.