Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK 2012, Jessica Dagher
London - Horia El Hadad
Nineteen year old student Jessica Dagher won the title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK, beating 8 other entries to the crown, in a glamorous ceremony held in London last week.
Arabstoday attended the UK finals in London and spoke to the modest Bournmouth-based beauty about her plans for the future and how she is preparing for the looming finals in Lebanon this year.
The Swanky Copthorne Hotel in London was the location of this year’s Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK, a typically glitzy Lebanese event which was attended by hundreds of guests who wanted to celebrate their country’s culture, music and their beautiful women.
The event was part of a worldwide competition which aims to find the most beautiful Lebanese woman living outside the Arab country. The Miss Lebanon Emigrant Committee in the UK is just one of 35 similar committees worldwide that have recently held beauty pageants in countries known for their prominent Lebanese populations.
After the results were announced, Arabstoday sat down with Jessica and asked her how she was feeling about her win:
“I feel absolutely amazing and happy that I have been chosen to represent Lebanese women from the UK. I am also completely shocked. I just didn’t believe it when my name was called out. Although I’m so happy, I’m feeling a lot of pressure because I have such a large amount of responsibility,” Jessica said.
Jessica also told Arabstoday that one of the most unique things about the Miss Lebanon Emigrant Beauty pageant was the fact that Lebanese communities around the world have been given an opportunity to socialise and celebrate their culture. As part of Jessica’s newly acquired role as the UK finalist, she hopes to make events like these more regular occurrences.
“My plans are to get the Lebanese community in London and in the UK to attend more events like these where they can meet and celebrate our country, especially events for the Lebanese youth. I want them to be proud of their culture and be aware of their customs and traditions.”
In total, 9 contestants entered the UK competition last week, all vying for the attention of a panel of experienced and professional judges who assessed them on how well they did via a series of tasks.
One of the key organisers of the event was Rania Milat Sejaan, the show’s presenter and self-appointed mentor to the pageant candidates. Rania told Arabstoday a bit more about the competition:
“The title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK is part of a worldwide title. In many countries outside Lebanon, pageants like these will select a Queen who will eventually go and compete in Lebanon.” She said.
“There are Lebanese communities everywhere. For example we have some competitions taking place in Peru and Mexico! All the Queens selected from the national competitions will eventually go to Lebanon in August to compete for the title of Miss Lebanon Emigrant 2012, which is an official title in Lebanon.” Rania added.
Rania opened the show with an introduction to all the contestants, who began by paying homage to their Lebanese and British identities. In a show of respect for the two nations which helped shape them, the girls stood proudly and sternly with military hand salutes to their heads until the very end.
After the girls took part in various grueling catwalks and performed a perfectly choreographed dance routine to Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ it was finally time for the contestants to retreat backstage and prepare for the final stage of the competition, making way for a performance by UK-based Lebanese singer Samar who entertained the crowd with old Lebanese favorites by Fairouz and Sabah. The audience cheered and sang along to the familiar tunes - while some men, young and old, jumped on stage for a spontaneous Dabka dance. Young girls chose a less conspicuous location in the back of the hall for more modern moves.
Meanwhile, nerves were running high backstage as Jessica and the other candidates prepared for the final stages of the competition; the evening dress catwalk and judges questions.
Upon entering a large off-limits room backstage, high pitched screeches, overpowering designer fragrances and camp hairdressers made up the flurry of colorful activity that signaled this was definitely the dressing area.
One after the other, the girls anxiously asked questions like: “Why aren’t my shoes buckling?” “Shall I just do my own hair if the hairdresser’s not free?” “Does it matter which hand I use on my hip?” “Can you fix my bra?” or “My dress is stuck! Does anyone have a knife?”
However it was the judge’s questions round which the girls were mostly worried about. Anastasia Elias, a half Polish, half Lebanese contestant, said: “I’m very worried about the final questions, especially as my heels are so high. What if I drop?”
Despite their anxieties, the girls performed the last catwalk with grace and elegance. The judge’s questions took places shortly after, and aside from a few nervous answers and technical glitches, it seemed the judges and audience had finally decided on a winner.
As Vanessa the Brazilian belly dancer entertained the guests, a long wait ensued as the judges and audience caste their votes.
Shortly after the ballot was counted, Rania was called to the front of the judging panel, which sat in front of her with a distinct air of authority and importance usually displayed at Arab beauty pageants. One of the members handed Rania an envelope, to which she dramatically, and only half jokingly, looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was sneaking a peek. Eventually she gave a reassured smile to the judges, who smiled back in agreement. It was clear they were happy with the result of the competition.
Jessica Dagher was eventually announced Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK 2012 and accepted the title with roaring cheers from the audience who obviously agreed with the decision. Cue the seemingly endless photographs, interviews and congratulations from well wishers and journalists; signaling the beginning of something which is about to get a lot more intense. In August, Jessica will join dozens more finalists from national Miss Lebanon Emigrant competitions to compete for the sought after title in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. She told Arabstoday she was nervous, but excited about the event:
“I’m looking forward to the final competition in Lebanon, especially meeting all the other contestants, but I am also very nervous. If I were to win I don’t think I’d believe it. For the time being I am happy representing my community here in the UK. Right now, I’m just trying to see how far I can go in this competition,” Jessica added modestly.
The event was a huge success but for many who attended the weekend’s festivities, it was not just the beauty competition which was the main focus; it was the sense of community and joviality the event offered. It was a chance for London’s Lebanese to get together and celebrate the identity and culture they are so very proud of.
“I’m definitely feeling the pressure to achieve my goals as Miss Lebanon Emigrant UK.” Jessica said, adding: “I really want to become a role model for my community here in the UK and I hope I will be able to achieve my goals and bring our community even closer.”