Zhala Tawfiq, Miss Middle East USA 2016, speaks in studio with Rudaw
Zhala Tawfiq, a woman from the Kurdistan Region, was crowned Miss Middle East USA in May of 2016. During her reign, she has used the platform to do charity work in the Kurdistan and pay her tributes in the Garmian area.
She now lives Los Angeles in the United States, but spoke with Rudaw’s Darbaz Younis on a visit to Erbil. Tofiq immigrated from Sulaimani in 2000. The pharmacy graduate is open to the idea of running for Miss Kurdistan one day. She aims to encourage other women from Kurdistan and the Middle East to realize their dreams.
Rudaw: What is Miss Middle East USA? Who runs it?
Miss Middle East USA is an annual event run by an American organization, in which Middle Eastern women living in the United States can participate as candidates for the crown of Miss Beauty who is elected after advancing through the rounds.
There have been reports of a disagreement between you and the contest’s organizers. Can you talk about that?
I was crowned and am still the queen. I've already served a year and I've passed that. That’s how it works in beauty pageants. There was a little bit of dispute going on between us ... so we are in a legal battle.
Who are previous Miss Beauties of the past pageant? Who were the other candidates?
The pageant has been going on for three years. The fourth Miss Middle East USA will be elected at the end of 2017. An Iraqi Assyrian woman won the first competition, a Lebanese woman in the second, I was the third winner of the competition. More than 100 women were candidates in 2016 when I won the title. The candidates were from all over the Middle East. They were mostly from Iran, Turkey and Lebanon. Fortunately, I won the crown.
What were your projects as Miss Middle East USA?
I was mostly busy with reading. I graduated from a pharmacy college in one of the most difficult US universities. I participated in most conferences held there, especially the ones discussing the rights of women. I have been trying to encourage Kurdish and Middle East women and create opportunities to them to realize their dreams.
You have been in the Kurdistan Region for some time. What were your projects here?
I engaged in tons of charity work. I visited the cancer hospital and gave presents to children. I also participated in marking the uprising [while in] Garmian. I didn’t even have time to see my relatives because of my work.
How is your relation with Miss Kurdistan Zhalia Sirwan?
I have good relations with her. I want to thank her from here. She deserves her crown. She allowed me to contribute to her projects when I was in Kurdistan without even me asking her for that.
Why didn’t you participate as a candidate in Miss Kurdistan?
I wasn’t in Kurdistan at the time.
Do you intend to run for Miss Kurdistan in the future?
I don’t know that. But why not? If there is a good chance, then why not. I think it is better to be your country’s Miss Beauty. I would like to run for that crown.
A new Miss Middle East USA will be crowned soon, what are your plans after that?
I want to continue my charity work after my crown expires. I don’t want to stop. Miss Middle East USA made me known in the United States. But I built relations and did my projects myself. That is why I want to continue.
Zhala Tawfiq poses after being crowned. Photo: zhalatawfiq_ IG