Miss Lebanon returns to the nation’s screens

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The Miss Lebanon pageant will be televised across the country for the first time in three years.

The tenure of veteran Miss Lebanon Maya Reaidy ended on Sunday evening with the crowning of Miss Lebanon 2022, Yasmina Zaytoun.

It was the first Miss Lebanon election since 2018.

Lebanon has been plunged from crisis to crisis, with an economic meltdown that began in October 2019, closely followed and exacerbated by the global Covid-19 pandemic.

And in 2020, a massive explosion at the port of Beirut killed more than 200 people and destroyed much of the city.

The ongoing economic crisis has led to a collapse in basic services such as electricity and water, and chronic shortages of wheat and medicines.

Journalism student Yasmina Zaytoun, 20, from Kfarchouba, won the modified title, “We miss Lebanon,” a nod to Lebanon’s ongoing adversity.

Seventeen women from across Lebanon competed for a grand prize of $100,000 and a chance to compete in the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants.

Notable among them was Congolese-Lebanese Dalal Hoballah, who finished fourth and whose run as a candidate made waves on social media.

When asked by one of the judges what cause she would champion, she replied, “There is beauty in diversity.”

Ms. Hoballah was the only racially diverse candidate.

The “We Miss Lebanon” event was held in cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism.

The ministry has in recent months encouraged tourism to the country – particularly from the sprawling Lebanese diaspora – in an attempt to restart the economy.

The event was marked by an air of nostalgia and longing for a return to normality for the struggling nation.

Third-place finisher Jacinta Rashed told judges Lebanon’s economic hardship prompted her to emigrate to Italy.

“But I will return to my village. That’s a promise,” Ms Rashed told the judges.

Those watching on TV probably had something to do with fourth-place finisher Lara Hraoui’s story:

“We couldn’t get my dad’s medication, nor could we get our money from the bank to pay for his medical care,” she said. “Despite everything, my father survived.”

Ms Hraoui referred to Lebanon’s chronic drug shortage and capital controls imposed by Lebanese commercial banks that have prevented depositors from withdrawing the full value of their savings since 2019.

“My father is like Lebanon. Although death came for him, he returned to life.”

Updated July 24, 2022 at 10:38 p.m

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