Meeting Miss Michigan USA

By Molly MacDonald

It was only a month into her reign as Miss Michigan USA, and a few weeks following my return from LA where I modeled as a breast cancer survivor in Fashion for the Cure, to benefit The Susan G. Komen Foundation, when I received a phone call from Phill  DiMambro of the talent agency, The I Group in Southfield,  to meet Rima Fakih.

Phill and his son Tony were pleasantly pleased to be representing Rima and were looking for a charitable platform with a breast cancer focus, to which she could attach her name.  DiMambro had read a story about my catwalk, visited The Pink Fund website and immediately could see a link between the two.

I could not.

I did not know Rima’s heart.

It was Thursday, October 15th and little did I know or suspect that seven months and one day later, I would watch as this lovely young woman, who had become my friend and an ardent supporter of The Pink Fund, by raising funds and attending events in our behalf, would be taking her own catwalk as Miss USA down the runway of a stage at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

It had been decades since I last watched any kind of beauty pageant.  And frankly the pageant world and the women in it held no fascination for me; at least not since I was a very young girl, sitting beside my mother as  Bert Parks,   crooned, ” There she is, Miss America . . . .”

In fact, I was really not so sure I was interested in having Miss Michigan USA represent The Pink Fund.  And frankly, while it seems everyone and their brother (corporate America) is looking for a way to somehow attach their brand to the pink ribbon in hopes it will add favorably to their bottom line, I was not looking to attach The Pink Fund to a pageant.

So I questioned Rima’s heart.
Until I met Miss Michigan USA on that rainy afternoon in October in the offices of The I Group.

Rima was unlike any preconceived idea I had of a pageant Queen; although I must admit I am only mildly acquainted with a few contestants.

Not growing up in the pageant world as a young girl, Rima looked to the pageant as a way to better herself, reach out to others and help pay for her education.  Her family had immigrated to the United States, first to New York and later to Dearborn, where they had experienced a number of financial hardships; one of which included her mother’s cancer diagnosis.  Her mother’s   uninsured status, made it very difficult for her to receive the necessary treatment for her recovery; and Rima immediately grasped the necessity of a fund like The Pink Fund during such a time of crisis.

I began to see Rima’s heart.

This was Thursday and she was offering to make herself available for our luncheon on Sunday.  I remember telling her, “There is no time to promote your appearance.”  And she told me, “That doesn’t matter, I will be there.”

I had a glimpse into  her heart.

And she was.  She showed up in sash and crown, sitting among those in treatment, bald and yellowed from jaundice, taking her crown and playfully placing it on their pates.  Smiles and laughter erupted as these Survivors, whose whose lives of late consisted of not much more than picks, pokes, and scans to determine if all the picks and pokes were working , danced the runway of Glen Oaks Country Club  in Farmington Hills on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  If only for a moment reveling in “Queen for a Day.”

The women delighted in her heart.

She showed up again, at Groves High School in Birmingham on a cold, black as night, January morning when the wind chill was below zero (calling me from her phone, “Molly, stay inside, I will find the school”, as I stood shivering in the circle drive to wave her in to anxiously waiting students) to encourage dozens of high school students, who through their school store program, raised more than $500 for The Pink Fund.  She stood for pictures as shy and not so shy teen aged boys posed beside her; only after Principal Fred Proctor,  who was first in line, had his picture taken.  And later she munched on a bagel in the backroom of the school store, sharing her story of how she had taken her little brother  to Africa to help needy children.  She told the students she wanted her brother to know that the world was much bigger and needier than his desire to play video games all day long.  They both returned changed.

The students saw her heart.

In February, she joined us at The Post Bar in Novi, where hundreds of pink slipped people were invited to network for the purpose of finding new work.  Invited by The Social Philanthropists Foundation, we knew we would not raise much money that night.   After all these might be some of the very same folks for whom The Pink Fund would make a bill payment some day.  But Rima did not care.  She was there for The Pink Fund and there for them.  To be a source of momentary joy, as men who reluctantly (because, “My wife will kill me.”) allowed their photo to be taken with her, forgot about the misery of being unemployed, if for only the click of a camera lens.

Rima showed her heart.

She was there, again and again and again, for photo ops, to shake hands, give hugs, raise funds for us and others;  and even when a featured speaker at a fund raiser which did not benefit The Pink Fund, The POH Riley Foundation, (which incidentally can be credited with saving lives through their FREE mammogram program)  Rima used the podium to promote the work of The Pink Fund.

Her heart was with us.

And so as I sat in my family room Sunday evening, realizing if not for a ticket mix-up I would be sitting in my seat at Planet Hollywood, I watched as these 51 beauties took the stage.  Perfectly coiffed, made-up, bikini-ed;  gowned and groomed for this day, Rima in all  her dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty stood out.  Not because she was physically more lovely than the rest. Not because she had the best gown or looked better in her bikini, or answered her question best.

But because I knew her heart.

And I am wondering, if for all the media and bloggers  and chatter in the cloud and on the air over who she is,  where she came from, and what she may have done in her past; if the judges, even The Donald himself,  saw that Rima’s beauty is transcended  like the Pink Fund’s,  by her heart for helping others.

Beauty wanes with age, but that of the heart never withers.

Congratulations Rima  and be of good courage. . . we know you will use the beauty, brains and heart God gave you to make a difference in the lives of many.  Thank you for making a difference in ours.

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2 Comments

  1. Tears formed as I read this post, Molly. The day I met Rima – at the Pink Fund event in October – I knew she was “for real” – not just a Barbie-Doll Pageant Girl. I know I am just one of the many, many cancer patients she has touched through her work -I know I’m not special in her day-to-day world, but the photo I have of me wearing her Miss Michigan crown, with her smiling beside me, is something I will treasure forever.

    And here, because I, too, know her heart, I “ditto” your closing lines:

    “…And I am wondering, if for all the media and bloggers and chatter in the cloud and on the air over who she is, where she came from, and what she may have done in her past; if the judges, even The Donald himself, saw that Rima’s beauty is transcended like the Pink Fund’s, by her heart for helping others.

    Beauty wanes with age, but that of the heart never withers.

    Congratulations Rima and be of good courage. . . we know you will use the beauty, brains and heart God gave you to make a difference in the lives of many. Thank you for making a difference in ours.”

    Reply
  2. Cindy Fowler

     /  October 3, 2010

    It is refreshing in this day and age for our young adults who are our future leaders to use their celebrity to further a cause to help others rather than to use a cause to further their celebrity and to help themselves. I am very proud!

    Reply

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