Alumna to Compete in Upcoming Miss Arab USA Pageant

Marwa Lahlou ’15, ’18 MBA is a finalist in the “pageant with a purpose,” which will take place later this month. She is looking forward to sharing her passions for serving her community and for sharing her culture de ella.

July 12, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Marwa Lahlou '15, '18 MBA
Marwa Lahlou ’15, ’18 MBA is excited to share her culture as a finalist in the Miss Arab USA pageant.

For Marwa Lahlou ’15, ’18 MBA, representing her Arab culture and helping those in need are more than just goals – they have become a personal mission, of sorts. A finalist in the upcoming Miss Arab USA pageant, Lahlou hopes her experience of her competition will be an exciting and meaningful way to make an even greater impact.

Lahlou has been dedicated to serving those in need – specifically, refugees, young women, children, and those facing homelessness – for many years. Whether she is focused on advocacy, campaigns, or fundraising, she is passionate about making an impact in her community. She is also excited to have the opportunity to share her heritage and promote the impact of education.

“I am looking forward to representing my culture in the best way possible,” said Lahlou, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and her Master of Business Administration from the University. “Unfortunately, there are tons of stereotypes about Arab women, including the belief that we do not have our own voice or that we are oppressed.”

‘Making lifelong friendships’
Marwa Lahlou '15, '18 MBA
Marwa Lahlou ’15, ’18 MBA at the University’s Commencement Ball.

Created to promote “pageantry with purpose,” the pageant is a fundraising event that endeavors to advance the cause of young Arab women while uniting all people in celebrating Arab culture. Organizers hope to encourage “Arab Queens” to become great ambassadors for goodwill and to promote leadership, personal growth, and the discovery of inner beauty.

Planned for July 23 in Chandler, Arizona, the event will be Lahlou’s first pageant, and she was drawn to the event because she wanted to be a part of something that would support her passions for helping others as well as her commitment to community outreach and engagement. She was excited that it focused on so much more than the women’s appearance.

“I am very excited about meeting all the other queens in this competition,” she said. “I look forward to getting to know them and to making lifelong friendships with ladies who share the same passion as me and who come from a very similar background.”

‘Arab women…have made amazing accomplishments’

Born in Oujda, Morocco, a city near Algeria, Lahlou moved to the United States when she was 12 years old. She and her family de ella also lived in Alabama and Virginia before moving to Connecticut. She now splits her time between Connecticut and Rabat, the capital of Morocco.

Marwa Lahlou's mother Halima Belemlih, Ph.D., presents her diploma
Marwa Lahlou’s mother Halima Belemlih, Ph.D., presented her diploma at Commencement.

Since moving to Connecticut, Lahlou has been committed to a variety of fundraisers and campaigns. An instructor at the Middle Eastern Dance Academy of CT in West Haven, Conn., she and the dance school raised money and collected donations for the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. She has also raised money for those facing homelessness and helped run local clothing donation campaigns.

“My goal is to represent and show that Arab women over decades have made amazing accomplishments,” she said. “To cite just one – The University of al-Qarawiyyin, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world was founded by an Arab woman in Fez, Morocco. I can cite several similar examples, and I am working very hard to make it on this list someday.”

‘Working in my field of study feels like a true blessing’

Lahlou made quite an impact during her time as a Charger. She was a member of several clubs, including the Toastmasters and Arabic Clubs. She also shared her culture with the University community at events such as the International Festival, introducing her fellow Chargers to such diverse topics as Ramadan, henna, and belly dancing.

Marwa Lahlou '15, '18 MBA
Marwa Lahlou ’15, ’18 MBA at her internship with United Airlines.

Her time as a Charger also enabled Lahlou to build her leadership skills. After beginning a position as a translator for the University’s Center for Analytics, she worked her way up to a full-time project coordinator during her four years at the Center. She also translated for world-renowned forensic scientist Henry C. Lee, Ph.D., during seminars for cohorts from Gulf countries.

“I learned all the skills that made me successful from my years at the University and from my amazing professors, both as an undergrad and a grad student,” said Lahlou, who also served as an internship supervisor for Chargers interning for United Airlines. “With these skills, I was able to land dream opportunities at the United Nations and ViacomCBS. Also, having my mother Halima Belemlih, Ph.D., an Arabic language lecturer, at the University made my years even more special. The University truly is a home for me and my family.”

Now a marketing project manager for NFP, an insurance broker in Shelton, Conn., Lahlou is enjoying her new position as she prepares for her first pageant. She also looks forward to continuing to make an important impact on her community.

“I love my new role at NFP,” she said. “It is amazing because I get a chance to put everything I learned from the MBA program at the University in full practice. At the same time, I get to use all the skills I learned as a project coordinator at the Center for Analytics. Working in my field of study feels like a true blessing.”

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