This month, one young Saudi woman stunned audiences with her breathtaking performance at the 2019 Miss Arab USA Pageant in Arizona, United States. Basma Al-Otaibi sang opera at this year’s pageant, performing Giacomo Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” ("Oh my dear daddy"), from the opera “Gianni Schicchi” (1918). The 18-year-old’s mesmerizing performance, which garnered more than 99,000 views on YouTube in just a few days, meant she was named the 2019 Talent Winner of the competition (with Iya Agha, a 20-year-old Iraqi American, taking home the crown as this year’s pageant winner).
According to Arab News, Al-Otaibi has always participated in numerous school singing functions and competitions both in Saudi Arabia and the Unites States, performing pop and opera songs, and decided to enter the Miss Arab USA Pageant because, though strongly influenced by her time in the US, the competition spoke to her Arab roots and is one that focuses on individual talent, not just beauty.
The US-based student only turned to singing professionally at 16. Yet, in those short two years, she has already established her own recording company to promote her work on YouTube and iTunes, and has won an award at the 2016 Akademia Music Award in Los Angeles, California, for her music. In addition, she has a growing fan base online, with over 160,000 followers on Instagram.
According to the event’s website, the Miss Arab Pageant was founded on the basis of advancing the cause for young ladies of Arab descent, preparing them to become great Ambassadors for humanity and goodwill. The annual pageant aims to redefine the image of the Arab woman as a leader and a vital partner in the development of the world, and is a fundraising charity event that works on uniting Arabs and friends of Arabs in celebrating the Arab cultural heritage.