Rima Fakih, the first Arab-American to be crowned Miss USA, avoided jail during sentencing Wednesday in a drunken driving case, an experience she called “very humbling.”
A Michigan judge put Fakih on six months of probation, ordered her to perform 20 hours of community service and said she must pay $600 in fines and costs. Fakih also must attend an alcohol safety class.
The 26-year-old pleaded no contest last month to driving while visibly impaired. A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing. She had faced a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail.
“I’m very relieved,” Fakih said. “I was willing to pay the price it took because I knew I made mistakes.”
Fakih has said she wasn’t drinking the night of her arrest in December, but two police breath tests put her blood alcohol content at more than twice the legal limit.
The police report says Rima Fakih was pulled over going 60mph, weaving in heavy traffic and changing lanes with a turn signal, and officers found an open bottle of champagne behind the driver’s seat of the 2011 Jaguar.
The report says she "immediately identified herself as Miss USA."
Fakih’s family moved from Lebanon in 1993. She won the Miss USA Pageant in 2010. Supporters called her win a victory for diversity, saying it countered negative stereotypes about people of Middle Eastern descent that have flourished in post-Sept. 11 America.
Fakih said Wednesday the incident was out of character for her and that she didn’t take her first drink until age 23.
“It’s not something that I grew up to be like a party girl or anything like that,” she said.
Fakih said she plans to pursue careers in acting and public speaking. She’ll appear in a new celebrity dating show called “The Choice,” which premieres June 7.
“I’m more of an international figure now. I have young girls and people from all over the world watching me, so I have to make sure that anything I do, I’m taking extra precaution,” Fakih said.
Fakih was born in Srifa, a small city in Southern Lebanon. As a young child, she lived in the village of Souk El Gharb in Mount Lebanon, and attended St. Rita’s, a Catholic school near Beirut, before the family moved to the U.S.