Thursday, April 5th, 2014. La Jolla rolled out the red carpet to host the first Miss Middle East California beauty pageant. The venue took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in beautiful and elegant La Jolla California and what better location for such a pageant! The beauty pageant was hosted by the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce where seventeen young women of different Middle Eastern decent competed for the first ever title of Miss Middle Eastern California where they got to represent their country of origin. With a panel of high profile judges which include Lisa Haisha, wife of producer for Two and a Half Men, San Diego’s KUSI News Sonya Berg, Fox 5 News anchor Shally Zamorade and San Diego Fashion Designer Andre Soriano. Anna Hirmiz, who hosts and produces her own show on a Middle Eastern Channel and Ben Kalasho who is president of The Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.
The beauty pageant hostess Anna Hirmiz who looked stunning in an Andre Soriano gown talked to me about the Miss Middle East California Pageant. “This is the first Miss Middle East California Pageant. We have all various types of girls from every country in the Middle East from Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon to Jordon. It’s not just Chaldean but the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce is who produced the show. We are hoping to do this show every year. That is our goal”. So who started this all? “ Ben Kalasho, who is the President of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce and his wife Jessica Kalasho teamed up with me since I am a host. “ So just what does the stunning host do? “I host and produce my own show on a Middle Eastern Channel, so they approached me and asked me to host the pageant. What was a hosting gig turned out to be a whole directing and producing gig”.
The contestants got to be judged on three categories: casual wear, ethnic wear, and eveningwear. In the first category they got a chance to show the audience how they dress in every day life allowing their casual side to shine through. In the ethnic category they got a chance to show off their cultural heritage in stunning costumes native to their homeland. During an intermission, we got a chance to view San Diego Fashion Designer Andre Soriano’s Screen Sirens Fall Collection in a runway show as well as a teaser trailer for his fashion forward documentary, “Thirty Gowns in Thirty Days”. The intermission closed with an amazing and exotic performance from a belly dancer and snake charmer who captivated the audience.
The second half of the show included Ben Kalasho presenting awards to sponsors as well as the final judging of the seventeen contestants. In the evening category the contestants showed off their glamorous side with jaw dropping gowns. The panel of judges narrowed the contestants down to final eight girls who got a chance to answer questions by the judges. The final cut put a spot light on the last five women narrowing it down to the winner, Stephanie Malouf, who was the winner representing Lebanon and took home the crown as first Miss Middle East California.
I sat down with the charming seventeen-year-old model and winner, who is no stranger to beauty pageants and the world of modeling. Stephanie Malouf opened up to me on how she feels as a winner of the first Miss Middle East California Pageant.
“ I am going to be representing the whole Middle East, and representing my country, Lebanon. I just hope to be a positive role model to young Middle Eastern women. I definitely know how it feels to be raised Middle Eastern our parents are so focused on our schooling they don’t really allow us to model. I just hope Middle Eastern Women will look up to me and change the Middle Eastern parents so they will be more open to modeling, pageantry and supporting their daughters dreams”.
So how did she get into the competition? “ I worked really close with Andre Soriano and his team and was blessed to have met Clint Gorou, who is Andre’s Videographer and that I met at a event here in San Diego in December. Since I am Lebanese he mentioned to me I should compete in the pageant because they were needing a Lebanese girl.” So how did Stephanie start out modeling? “ I started modeling when I was eight years old and that was when I started doing pageants as well. I started becoming more serious about modeling at age fourteen. At that age I kind of knew that is where I wanted to take my career and I also walked Style Fashion Week Los Angeles Last October where I also met Andre Soriano and his team. “
Stephanie, who’s familiar face was seen on Andre Soriano’s runway shows as well as for several other designers for Style Fashion Week is a veteran model and no stranger to pageants. “ I recently won Miss Teen Southern Coast and last august I won Miss Orange County Teen International. But Miss Middle East is my favorite because it’s the very first pageant I’ve done that represents my culture and nationality.” So what are Stephanie’s future projects and goals for the future?
“ This September I’m competing in Miss Lebanon Immigrant that would represent the USA and if you win they take you to Lebanon. After Miss Middle East I get to be sent to compete in Miss California. “ It looks like we can look forward to seeing Stephanie Malouf in future pageants and in future runway shows. This talented young lady is sure to make the Middle Eastern community proud!