Meet Mariam Mohamed, the Emirati beauty queen who was crowned Miss Arab World UAE
Mariam Mohamed can still vividly remember the moment she heard her name, when, in December, the Emirati beauty queen won the title of Miss UAE.
“It was an amazing feeling,” she tells The National. “Honestly, I’m really proud to hold the title. It was one of the best feelings ever.”
Later that month, she went on to compete in Miss Arab World in Egypt representing the UAE, where she finished as second runner-up in the pageant. Although she fell short of her goal of winning, she feels proud to have represented her country while meeting other like-minded women.
“I got to meet the other queens from different countries and that on its own was an experience,” she says. “There were doctors with us, there were engineers, people of really different backgrounds. It was very interesting.”
Mohamed, 22, is a University of Sydney graduate who grew up in Dubai. Her love of volunteering and fashion is what inspired her to get into pageantry.
“I always participated in events related to fashion weeks and Arab Fashion Week,” she says. “I think it started in university. I started following the trends and, in general, I liked wearing clothes and choosing different colours.”
She began modelling as a side gig while in Australia and was eventually approached by Hanan Nasr, the founder of Miss Arab World, a competition that has run annually since 2006 and looks to inspire women in the region.
“Arab female empowerment was my main muse,” Nasr tells The National of her inspiration to start the pageant at a time when no similar events existed here.
Nasr says there are specific qualities the organisers look for in Miss Arab World UAE, and that’s why Mohamed was chosen.
“The UAE is one of the most significant countries in the Arab world, so picking a suitable Miss UAE to represent such a powerful country is always a challenge,” Nasr says. “A high education, intellectuality, general knowledge and situational awareness are vital qualities for a Miss UAE to have, along with being able to represent herself and her country in a lucrative and distinguished manner.
“Mariam checked all the above-mentioned boxes, and was very articulate and quick on her feet in front of the judges — and that is why she was able to win Miss UAE and excel to a second runner-up in the finale although the competition was very strong.”
My family’s support means a lot because it helped me in so many ways. I feel like when there is trust, you can do a lot of things
Mariam Mohamed, Miss Arab World UAE
Mohamed’s success doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced resistance from her community. Some suggested she shouldn’t even be participating. But that didn’t deter her, particularly as she had support from her parents, for which she says she’s grateful.
“I’m independent, so I want to do my own thing. I have to pursue my dream,” she says. “My family’s support means a lot because it helped me in so many ways. I feel like when there is trust, you can do a lot of things. It’s important to have trust between family members and yourself — it gives you a lot of confidence.”
Since her big win, Mohamed has signed a year-long contract with Miss Arab World, which has her travelling to Egypt for events and engagements. She still plans to explore her interests in the fashion industry, too, saying she wants to launch her own abaya brand some day.
Mohamed also hopes to later compete in Miss Influencer, which had its inaugural competition in December. The pageant is held in the UAE and also aims to empower women but with a focus on raising awareness of global issues through social media. Criteria to enter include being a woman over the age of 21, and living in the UAE with at least 10,000 followers on Instagram.
“We are looking for an ambitious, confident, gorgeous, credible, creative and influential individual who is ready to take over the social media platforms supported by the most valuable businesses in UAE,” says the Miss Influencer website.
The region may not have historically been involved in beauty pageantry, but with the introduction of Miss Universe Bahrain and the news of Miss World coming to the UAE for the first time, Mohamed believes now is the time for like-minded women to pursue their interests in this field.
“Every woman can participate in these competitions. As long as she’s respectful, she’s strong, she’s showing confidence, she’s educated,” she says. “I believe that beauty isn’t the only thing that’s going to help you win. You have to have knowledge, confidence, ambition and inner belief.”