Miss Lebanon 2015 Valerie Abou Chacra winning
Valerie Abou Chacra waves after being crowned Miss Lebanon 2015 in Beirut 12 October, 2015. Chacra wasn't picked at Miss World 2015, leading to complaints of racism on social media Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

Outside of the Middle East, Lebanon is more closely associated with conflict than beauty pageants, so it is no surprise that 23-year-old Valerie Abou Chacra missing out on the top spot at the 2015 Miss World competition was greeted with such outrage on social media.

Lebanon has had a difficult year in 2015, with war raging in Syria, a dire refugee crisis and widespread political malaise, so when Chacra gave a stirring speech at the December 19 event calling for "love and serenity" it was shared and received far more widely than the usual scope of the global beauty pageant.

When she was beaten to the crown of Miss World 2015 by Miss Spain, Mireia Lalaguna Royo, the response was widely derided on Twitter.

Miss Lebanon 2015 Valerie Abou Chacra
Miss Lebanon 2015 Valerie Abou ChacraMiss World Organization

Who is Miss Lebanon?

Chacra is student at the Lebanese American University (LAU) but also appears in TV shows and commercials across Lebanon. According to her website she has always wanted to work in TV and has a dream of founding her own production company and one day breaking into Hollywood.

Chacra won Miss Lebanon earlier this year at a ceremony in the capital, Beirut. The competition has been held in the country since the 1960s and broadcast live since 1991, but has been fairly regularly postponed because of war or unrest in the country. Most recently, in 2006, the pageant was cancelled after Israel invaded Lebanon and bombed Beirut.

A Lebanese contestant has never won the Miss World competition but in 1971 Georgina Rizk, a Lebanese model and socialite, won Miss Universe. She is currently the main judge for the local Miss Lebanon competition.

"I think that modesty and love and serenity is what the world needs more these years," said Chacra during the Miss World competition. "Miss World should have these qualifications in order to spread them all around the world. I promise to use all the energy inside me to draw smiles on other faces."

Miss World Organisation

She said that Lebanese food is her favourite cuisine although she is not adverse to a cheeseburger. She listens to indie pop and her favourite book is Elizabeth Chandler's Kissed by an Angel. Her hobbies are cycling, travelling, dancing and singing.

*This article was amended on 21 December to clarify that the Miss Lebanon competition has been held since 1960.