DUBAI: The only two Arab contestants at the 71st Miss Universe pageant, held in New Orleans, narrowly missed out on making the top 16 as Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel was unveiled as the latest beauty queen.
Former title holder Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu of India crowned her successor in a glittering ceremony at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
The new Miss Universe is USA!!! #MISSUNIVERSE pic.twitter.com/7vryvLV92Y
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) January 15, 2023
Contestants from over 84 countries were whittled down to just 16 as the only two contestants from the Middle East — Miss Universe Bahrain Evlin Abdullah Khalifa and Miss Universe Lebanon Yasmina Zaytoun — did not make the cut.
Over the course of Saturday night’s final competition the contestants were narrowed down to just three hopefuls from the Dominican Republic, the US and Venezuela.
“I’m scared and nervous because of the uncertainties that this night will bring but at the same time I am hopeful and inspired to know that I have so many young kids looking up to me, cheering for me to do well and believing in me that I can achieve my dream of becoming the first Miss Universe from the Arabian Gulf countries,” Abdullah Khalifa said on Instagram before the final 16 was unveiled.
Despite not gracing the finals’ stage, Abdullah Khalifa and Zaytoun did cause a stir during the preliminary round of the competition.
For the swimsuit competition on Wednesday, 24-year-old Abdullah Khalifa graced the stage wearing a hot pink burkini with a cape that had the word “equality” written on it in Arabic.
The cape also featured text that read “Arab women should be represented” on one side and on the other side said: “A Muslim women can also become Miss Universe.”
As part of the preliminary competition, the Bahraini Russian pianist participated in an evening gown round. She wore a glitzy form-fitting dress with a matching hood designed by Filipino couturier Furne One.
For the national costume presentation, Abdullah Khalifa wore a gold ensemble, by One, that featured a structured trailing cape. She completed her look with a dangling gold headpiece.
“This costume represents the golden celebration of the establishment of Bahrain as a nation,” said the host as Abdullah Khalifa walked the stage. “The smallest country in the Middle East is among the richest in the world.”
Meanwhile, Zaytoun also made waves at the competition.
For the evening gown round, she wore a heavily embellished metallic gown designed by Lebanese couturier Charbel Zoe.
For the national costume competition, she wore a custom-made gold and green bodysuit inspired by Lebanon’s cedar tree, which was also designed by Zoe.
“The bodysuit is made of metal characterizing a female worrier who believes in bringing strength to a war zone country,” the host said as Zaytoun walked on stage.