Trend alert: This is shaping up to be a very good year for beautiful young Dearborn women of Lebanese descent.
In May, Rima Fakih, an Arab-American Muslim, was crowned Miss USA. Now, University of Michigan-Dearborn junior Sahar Dika has taken a break from college to star in the 24th season of the reality house party Real World: New Orleans 2 — a series that premiered three years before she was born -— at 10 tonight on MTV.
Dika hasn't met the reigning Miss USA, "but we have some mutual friends" in the Arab community, the dark-haired aspiring vocalist says. One of eight twentysomething roommates chosen from among thousands of enthusiastic applicants, "I think the fact that I'm Muslim, and that I'm a liberal Muslim, was probably a big factor" in being selected for her three-month romp in the Big Easy, Dika says. "There's not a lot of Muslims on the Real World."
This month's understatement.
Speaking of understatements, Dika may have to worry about incurring the wrath of some of her fellow Dearbornites. Upon being introduced on tonight's (Wednesday, June 30) episode, she describes her hometown as "really small ... it's all Middle Eastern people. Everybody around you is Muslim."
Hello? Sahar (suh-HARR), you are aware that Dearborn is home to the Ford Motor Company? And right next door to Detroit? We're not exactly talking an Arabic-speaking Hooterville here. Then again, sometimes it depends on the eyes of the beholder.
"For me, it is a small town," Dika says, "because I'm part of such a small community. I never even used to venture out of Dearborn that much or go downtown, to Detroit. So Dearborn itself? Yes, I feel like it's really small because everybody knows everybody, everybody knows your business. It's small compared to what I want, like New York City."
Real World could be her stepping stone to larger locales. As a singer, Dika was thrilled that her first major excursion away from home was to New Orleans, where the series is making its second visit. "I love jazz, and New Orleans is the jazz capital of the U.S.," she says. "It was an amazing experience. The musicians there, they love the music so much and they're so entrenched in it. They're such a family, and everybody's so helpful. I loved the fact that I could walk down the street and there were like 20 jazz clubs I could go to. It was heaven on earth for me."
Unlike living with in the same space with seven rowdy housemates. "It had its ups and its downs," Dika admits. "I think when you live with people you tend to get at each other's throats at times. It's kind of like living with your brothers and sisters for too long. At the same time, you've gone through this experience with them, so you love them too. They're, like, all you have while you're there."
Dika comes from a remarkable family of achievers. Her father, Rifaat, is an adjunct lecturer in Arabic at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who previously taught at Columbia; her mother, Amira, teaches first grade in Dearborn; her brother, Tarek, is completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at Johns Hopkins and her sister, Hala, recently published her first book of poetry, Re-Evolution. "My family's very different than the typical Arab family, I guess," she reflects. "They've given me the freedom to do what I want, to accept myself. They're very supportive. I'm close to my family, but they don't suffocate me."
The 4-1-1 on 1-8-7: Why should we be leery about Detroit 1-8-7, the new ABC cop series beginning production in our city July 20, and set for a 10 p.m. Tuesday time slot on Channel 7 this fall? Well, let's see:
• Despite our state's lavish film tax rebates (which may be a reason the series was conceived in the first place), the pilot episode was shot in Atlanta.
• "1-8-7" is police code for "homicide" in many cities, but not in Detroit, which makes the very title of the series somewhat bogus. Seems like a simple phone call could have rectified that.
• Dateline NBC.
• FOX has scheduled a midseason series about homicide detectives in Chicago called Ride-Along, which I have seen. It's reeeealy good. If Detroit 1-8-7 isn't rock 'em-sock 'em procedural drama, even though it airs first, we may be afflicted once more with Windy City Envy.
At the moment, though, the idea of a police show filming in a Highland Park soundstage and on the streets of Detroit is producing shiny happy people everywhere you look. "It's a major feather in our cap," beams Ken Droz, communications consultant for the Michigan Film Office. "It shows Hollywood that we can sustain a network broadcast, a weekly dramatic series, and we have enough resources to support it. They [the producers] want to assimilate and really incorporate the community into the storylines. That's one of the reasons they're moving here."
Mayor Dave Bing's office, still smarting from Chris Hansen's last visit, appears A-OK with 1-8-7 too, for now. "We've met with the Detroit 1-8-7 team and are comfortable with their commitment to showing an accurate Detroit," says Karen Dumas, chief communications officer for the city. "We understand this is a fictional TV series, not a documentary. It will certainly have entertainment value, but we trust not at the expense of Detroit's assets."
The series includes some familiar TV faces. Michael Imperioli, ex of The Sopranos and Law & Order, stars as Det. Louis Fitch, and James McDaniel — beloved Lt. Arthur Fancy from NYPD Blue — co-stars as Sgt. Jesse Langford, a 30-year veteran of the Detroit force struggling with impending retirement. You can watch a preview clip of the show on ABC's website at abc.go.com/shows/detroit-1-8-7.Jim McFarlin is a media critic for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org