Fakih is widely believed to be the first Lebanese American, the first Arab American and the first Muslim to win the Miss USA title; however, pageant officials have stated their records are not detailed enough to confirm this claim.
The first Michigan delegate to win the Miss USA title, Carole Gist, became the first African-American Miss USA in 1990.
She graduated from Henry Ford Community College and went on to earn degrees in economics and business management from the University of Michigan–Dearborn, and announced she planned to attend law school after her year-long reign.
In 2018, Fakih became the National Director for Miss Universe Lebanon.
Fakih was born in Srifa, a small city in the Jabal Amel region of Southern Lebanon, to a Shi'a Muslim family.
As a young child she lived in the village of Souk El Gharb in Mount Lebanon, and attended St. In New York, Fakih's family felt they were subjected to threats and vandalism based on events in the Middle East.
Business at her father's restaurant reportedly declined following the September 11, 2001, attacks.
She is the daughter of Hussein and Nadia Fakih, and has four siblings, brothers Rabih and Rami, and sisters Rana and Rouba.
Rima and her three elder siblings were born in Lebanon, but the youngest, Rami was born in New York.
Due to conflicting schedule with promotional events for Miss USA 2011, Fakih was the only contestant not to appear on the live final episode.
In 2012, she participated in Fox's dating game show The Choice.
During and after the Miss USA pageant, Fakih's religious and ethnic identity became the subject of widespread discussion.
On the subject of identity, she was quoted as saying "I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American." but some Muslims felt she did not properly represent their religion. Responding to the issue in interviews, Fakih said she and her family are Muslims and respect the religion, but they may not be as strict as many people and do not define themselves by their religion; they view themselves as more "spiritual" than "religious" and appreciate all religions.
She also competed in three smaller international pageants.