Miss Arab USA Contestant Calls the Pageant 'Empowering'S

We're pretty anti-beauty pageant as a rule, but the contestants gearing up for this year's fourth annual Miss Arab USA pageant say the show is worth our attention.

Women with Saudi Arabian, Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian and Algerian roots will compete on August 31 in Scottsdale, Arizona wearing whatever they want. There's no swimsuit competition. Hijabs and other conservative gear is optional.

Dena Mekawi, a 23-year-old Egyptian-American contestant from Staten Island, told Animal New York that Miss Arab USA is more than just a beauty pageant; "it's giving women an opportunity to really voice" themselves.

Mekawi said she grew up telling people she was American or even half Italian, and she doesn't want other young women to feel like they have to lie to be accepted.

"Girls can look at me, the queen, or whoever wins ... and feel proud of their identity," she said. "You can be fashionable and wear the hijab."

[Animal New York]