Night of big hair and lashes as contestants vie for Miss Lebanon crown
The eyes have it ... 2012 Miss Lebanon Australia contestant Neda Valaei gets ready to take the stage in Pyrmont yesterday. The competition was won by 21-year-old Deedee Zibara. Photo: Steven Siewert
IT'S all about the eyes. The lashes. The big hair. And, for the 17 women from Sydney's Lebanese diaspora who competed in the 12th annual Miss Lebanon Australia, it was about pride in their heritage and community.
Monie Gabriel, the event's head of beauty, said there was no end to last-minute hair and make-up preparations needed for that ''specific Lebanese look''. ''Lebanese women are known for their striking eyes,'' she said. ''It's the eyes and long lashes but with all that they still love to emphasise it a bit more.
''The Arab eye is beautiful, and we like to accentuate the eye with dark eye liner and eye extensions. The look is a bit like a cat. The big hair, too. It's a very specific look.''
Miss Lebanon Australia Beauty Contest, 2012
Miss Lebanon Australia contestant Renee Mazloum doing the final touches to her eyes. Photo: Steven Siewert
The black-tie affair, held last night at Doltone House at Jones Bay Wharf, was a who's who of the Lebanese community. It included Alex ''Little Al'' Taouil, who attracted major sponsors, the Lebanese ambassador, Jean Daniel, and the Parramatta property baron Joe Khattar of Dyldam Group.
The competitors, aged from 17 to 22, had worked with the businesswoman Norah Blackman, who trained them on all the nuances of the cut-throat world of beauty pageants.
And in efforts to minimise past scandal and reduce allegations of corruption or beauty pageant bribery, Ms Blackman instigated a rule that ''no one on the judging panel is to be Arabic or have a Lebanese background, whatsoever''.
Instead, the cosmetic company director Peter Nicholas, criminal lawyer Dennis Stewart and Lauryn Eagle of The Celebrity Apprentice fame were enlisted to judge the best in swimwear, casual wear and evening wear.
The contest was won by Deedee Zibara, 21, who will now represent Australia against 32 countries in the International Miss Lebanon pageant later this year in Beirut.
''This event, whatever religious group, brings the Lebanese community together, to be proud of who we are. There are both Muslim and Christian girls competing,'' Ms Blackman said. ''A lot of the negative press about the community comes, I think, from when our passion bursts out.''
The director of Miss Lebanon Australia, Joe Khoury, the editor-in-chief of a Lebanese newspaper, said the community faced challenges and too much negative press. ''The pageant is not about politics but about beauty, heritage, contribution to community. We raise money for charity. It's a get-together,'' he said. ''It's only a few in the Lebanese community causing trouble. Every community has the same problem.''