SafeHouse: Manayer

I was lucky to stumble upon Manayer’s blog after writing the post about “hijab or no hijab you are my sister”. I thought, this is definitely a good sign. Don’t you love it when you think of something and it appears that very moment? Wow! Its serendipity and it happens to me a lot on Google. Love Google.

Now back to Manayer. I believe a blog name can tell a lot about a blogger's character. Safe House; was all I expected it to be. Manayer writes most affectionately about her family, and how they play a positive role in her life. And for those of you who love sports, karate in particular will appreciate her insights and experience. What can I say she loves to kick!

I have selected some parts of her interview with CityPages magazine, so you get the chance to meet Manayer here on sisterswhoblog. So let’s start by presenting Miss Arab Sport to you.

Miss Kuwait, Manayer Yousef Salmeen, is the 19-year-old daughter of Kuwaiti Yousef Hussein Salmeen and Erma Gaborno of the Philippines. A Petroleum Engineering student at the Australian College of Kuwait and a Kuwait Karate Champion, she added the title of Miss Arab Sport to her list of achievements on November 11, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt, after a 10-day competition against 16 other girls.

Can you describe yourself in one word?
Restless, I can say. I don’t like to be not involved in something.

Did your family support your pageant participation?
“Are you going to wear a bikini?” was the first thing my father asked me. I told him that three of the girls wore headscarves and it’s not really a beauty pageant. He didn’t want me to miss classes, but as long as it’s something I can benefit from I can do. He ended up keeping all the newspaper clippings and showing all his friends. My mother helped me keep my cool. She was with me the whole time in Egypt. Every time I’d freak out, she’d blow me kisses.

How did the Miss Arab pageant differ from western beauty contests?
Girls were not chosen based on beauty. The judges asked for CVs and looked at academic and athletic achievements. Our etiquette, behavior, interaction with people, and confidence in front of the camera were assessed. It was more of a personality beauty pageant, since outer beauty was only 20% of the final grade, and that was mainly based on our poise, because we had a modeling coach and a catwalk coach. There were more than 100 applicants from Kuwait and all the CVs were sent to Egypt, and then they sent the response about which applicant gets to come. Only after my CV was accepted did they ask me for my picture, for the newspapers. It wasn’t degrading and that’s what I like about it.

Why do you think you won the title of Miss Arab Sport?
I live through sports. I have been ice-skating since I was two. I used to be on football, basketball, and swimming teams. I am currently on the college volleyball team. I play karate, floorball, and hockey, and enjoy rock climbing.

What was the best part of the pageant?
Every night after training, the girls and I would sit by the pool in pajamas (I wore track pants), make each other coffee, and play music on our laptops until 4 AM. You can have a friend for a lifetime but you feel closer to the pageant girls because you’re all going through the same thing.

What was the funniest thing that happened during the pageant?
Before I went, I lost 3 kg, so they refitted my dress. I lost another 1 kg so my dress was loose. The pins they used to adjust my long, heavy dress stuck into my body. I was kicking the dress with my super-high heels as I walked, and still had a smile plastered on my face. I might have looked pretty on stage, but I knew that if I were to let my hand slip my dress would fall off.

What did you learn during the pageant?
I thought there were three pyramids in the entire world–we met an Egyptologist and I had no idea that there are 138. We were asked who the oldest Arab queen was and which Arabs won Nobel prizes. We met a plastic surgeon who was honest with us about plastic surgery. Our modeling coach kept us in heels all day. We had to walk with plates on our heads if we didn’t walk right. I got so used to walking in heels that at night when I took off my shoes I had to walk on my toes. I came back to Kuwait and, like magic, I could walk perfectly in all my heels. I was camera conscious but now it’s not a problem.

Did you learn about different Arab conceptions about Kuwait?
The girls were surprised that I play sports and don’t drive a huge fancy car. I hope they looked at me and learned that being Kuwaiti has a different meaning. All Arab girls are the same, but each country has its own values. I went with a stereotypical idea of what an Arab girl is and realized something different. At the pageant, everyone had to wear the uniform of jeans, heels, and the Miss Arab World sweater, so everybody was treated equal and looked the same.

What do you hope to accomplish now that the pageant is over?
I’d like to encourage female athletes to join professional teams and get into the international field. Many Kuwaiti girls don’t play sports, but a Kuwaiti won the title of Miss Arab Sport, so I want them to know what women can achieve. I hope that management will start caring for female athletes the way they care for the males. I feel like it’s improving, but at a very slow pace. I want to open my own karate academy and win a gold medal in the World Karate Federation, WKF.

Is there something fun about you that nobody else knows?
I can’t lick my elbow or put my leg behind my head, but when I’m studying and need to relax, I get up and do a handstand. Also, I take “midnight baking” very seriously–I actually wake my sisters up at midnight and pull them out of bed to bake something yummy.

Who is your role model?
I look up to my first karate coach. You could never tell from his face if he was upset or angry; he was calm and controlled. My sister, who has a Ph.D. in Psychology, always knows exactly what to say about anything. In life, though, I don’t think about what someone else would do in a situation, but rather, what I would do.

What do you do in your spare time?
My mom likes to encourage all of her daughters to be active in sports and music. Each of us has a musical bone in our bodies because my dad owns an instrument shop. I play piano. I love to sing but you don’t want to hear it. I used to play guitar and saxophone. I also like to read and get involved in events that go on in Kuwait. I could spend six hours with a Nintendo or playing World of Warcraft, no problem. I’m a bit of a neat freak, so once a month I’ll go on the rampage and clean everything in my room. I did that to my car as well.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Silent Boy by Torey Hayden. Since almost every girl likes junk reading, P.S. I Love You is one of my favorites.

Do you have any personal causes?
The environment. I walk out of a room and turn out the light. If someone throws something on the ground, I pick it up. I am looking forward to the Avenues Reuse Exhibit this winter. I also went to do the beach cleanup. Most people see the environment as a future concern, but what we do now is going to affect our world. You don’t know how long this is going to last. Also, animal activism. The other day I rescued a dog and it took me four hours to take it to the Animal Friends League.

Is there a need for positive role models in Kuwait?
Yes. Girls in Kuwait must know that there are things equally important to getting married and having children. Although that’s one of my future goals, I believe in studying, playing sports, and chasing dreams. Many kids in Kuwait are misbehaved. If a child has nothing to do or nothing to look forward to, or no activity to distract him or her, being naughty is just another thing to do to waste time or get attention.

How do you feel about the positive changes you see in your country?
Kuwaiti kids are opening their own businesses and doing part-time jobs apart from their academics, so I’m happy. Each generation is opening their eyes more and more to real life.

A big thank you to CityPages and Manayer for this wonderful interview.

Interesting criteria for Miss Arab Sport; karate, beauty and a great attitude! Wow


mannairesalmeen said...

Thankyou very much to SistersWhoBlog for your wonderful words..
I admire your compassion towards showing the power and strength of Arab and Muslim women, who's voices aren't often heard enough.
I hope women find my story inspiring, and use it as motivation to follow their own dreams, and make them come true.

Amber Misk said...

You are inspiring :)