Ten beautiful, highly intelligent and inspiring women vied for the title of 2017 Miss Middle East USA, now the largest ethnic beauty pageant in the world. Underneath the stunning gowns, astonishing ethnic wear and all of the pageantry, this event is all about the inner beauty and empowerment of Middle Eastern women here in the U.S. and around the world. Now in its fourth year, this pageant has grown by leaps and bounds, once again bringing a packed house to this annual spectacular event.
Ten beautiful, highly intelligent and inspiring women vied for the title of 2017 Miss Middle East USA, now the largest ethnic beauty pageant in the world. Underneath the stunning gowns, astonishing ethnic wear and all of the pageantry, this event is all about the inner beauty and empowerment of Middle Eastern women here in the U.S. and around the world. Now in its fourth year, this pageant has grown by leaps and bounds, once again bringing a packed house to this annual spectacular event. Sponsored by the Middle East Chamber of Commerce, formally the San Diego Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, the evening began with a social hour celebrating the rebranding and new direction and vision that this Chamber is moving towards.
Held at the Marriott San Diego La Jolla on June 29, the evening filled the air with its message and the integrity that the pageant thrives to deliver. Bringing all ethnicities of the Middle East and America together regardless of background, religious differences and customs.
After introductions, ethnic wear, evening gown and some difficult questions for the contestants from the eight judges, Parand Biravand, representing the Persian community earned the title of 2017 Miss Middle East USA, followed by 1st Runner up Habiba Kelfi representing Morocco and 2nd Runner Up Cassandra Selim representing Egypt and Lebanon.
Pageant Director Jessica Kalasho said it meant a lot to her heart to see so many people there supporting the women who had the courage to be contestants.
“The whole purpose of the Miss Middle East USA Beauty Pageant is to uplift and empower Middle Eastern women,” she said. “All of these women have worked so hard. It is not easy for these Middle Eastern women to get involved in their communities, just because it is not something that Middle Eastern women do. This is something that when Ben (Kalasho) and me started, we wanted to showcase Middle Eastern beauty, culture, poise, intelligence—everything. When we first started four years ago we met a lot of obstacles and struggles. It wasn’t easy. We had a lot of battles and we didn’t have a lot of support.”
Pageant Founder and President Ben Kalasho said empowering Middle Eastern women is something that he and Jessica strive for every single day.
“When we started this four years ago, we didn’t have an event that uplifted and emboldened and embraced Middle Eastern women from all ethnicities and backgrounds,” he said. “So we started this beauty pageant and it has grown into this enormous huge success before you now. It couldn’t be done without people like you. When I look into the crowd I see people from all ethnicities and backgrounds and it really touches my heart because without each and every one of you, your support and dedication to this organization, it could not grow.”
Hosts for the pageant, Matt Abawi and Justin Timbershake worked the crowd throughout the entire evening. With a little humor and a lot of personality, they swayed the stage with style befitting the event, and entertained the crowd as they took the audience through the journey of the event to a whole new level of chic.
Not keeping the crowd waiting during change time for the contestants there was incredible entertainment provided by Tarciana Bonomo (Tarciana Belly Dance), whose extravagant butterfly winged gown lit up the stage with her stellar performance of traditional and contemporary belly dancing. Stand-up Comedian K-VON rocked the house with laughter, holding nothing back as he made his everyday life in the Middle Eastern culture into a comedic blast of fun.
With an impressive slate of judges for the event, they had many tough decisions to make for the evening. The judges were real estate entrepreneur and fashion icon Mercedes Javid, 2015 Miss Middle East USA Elona Brando, BRAVO TV star and entrepreneur Sherwin Roohparvar, TV personality and fashion film producer Sonya Berg who sponsored the 1st Runner Up scholarship, celebrity fashion designer and reality television star Andre Soriano, Responsibility by Regency founder Dariush Karbassyoon, international Armenian American singer and songwriter Z LaLa and Dr. Marty Fallor, who sponsored the 2nd Runner Up scholarship.
El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho and founder of the Middle Eastern Chamber of Commerce sponsored the Miss Middle East USA 2017 scholarship.