Australia’s Rachel Younan has been crowned Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2018. The 23-year-old triumphed over 10 other finalists from around the world, all of whom have Lebanese heritage, at a ceremony held in Pattaya, Thailand, on Sunday night.
"I am still in shock but I am very, very happy," Younan told The National after receiving the crown from last year's winner Dima Safi. "First of all, I really want to take off my shoes."
Younan impressed the panel of judges, which included Miss Lebanon 2009 and Pattaya’s Director of Tourism, during a series of rounds, such as “national dress”, “swimwear” and “evening gowns”. The contestants also had to perform a number of group dances.
The runners-up were Miss Lebanon Toronto-Canada and Miss Lebanon Texas-USA. Other awards included “Miss Traditional Costume”, which was won by Miss Lebanon Denmark, and “Miss Photogenic”, which was taken by Miss Lebanon Argentina-North.
Younan, who also won the “Miss Friendship” award, which was voted for by her fellow contestants, said: “We all felt that, if none of us fell over on stage tonight, we’d all won.”
Prior to the final, the contestants visited Lebanon. Younan, an economics graduate currently working at a university in Australia, was keen to highlight the positive impact of this trip to the Middle East. "This competition has helped me to understand what it means to be Lebanese," she said. "You want to embody it and share it with the world."
Younan, who qualified for the competition after winning Miss Lebanon Australia earlier in the year, now hopes to use her heightened profile to help young Lebanese people living in Australia and around the world to register as Lebanese citizens.
“It’s a really good thing for Lebanon – in politics and in society – if the number of Lebanese people accounted for around the world is accurate,” she said. “I’m lucky enough that my parents applied for me and it means that I feel more a part of the country that I come from.”
President of the Miss Lebanon Emigrant Committee, Antoine Maksoud, said “We have had a fantastic few days in Thailand this week. Thailand has so much to offer female travellers and all of the contestants have had a unique opportunity to experience Thai culture at its best, first hand.”