President Barack Obama and Miss Israel Yityish Aynaw, an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant, dined together at an official state dinner in Jerusalem, where the White House had requested her presence.
Barack Obama was in Jerusalem as part of a four-day trip to Middle East, visiting Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.
Yityish Aynaw, who goes by “Titi”, made history last month by becoming the first black Miss Israel.
After the dinner, Yityish Aynaw gushed about meeting President Barack Obama in an interview with the Israeli publication Yediot Aharonot.
“He’s an exciting man, a world-class hunk, charming and an extraordinary gentleman,” she said.
Yityish Aynaw and Barack Obama were introduced by Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“You are very beautiful,” Barack Obama told her, according Israeli media.
“And Michelle would have been very happy to be as tall as you are.”
Yityish Aynaw, 22, said she recalled learning about Barack Obama in high school.
“I did a research project about him in high school and I know he is a very powerful man, charismatic, and he achieved a lot on his own by virtue of the fact that he believed in himself and this stuck with me,” Yityish Aynaw told CNN.
She was working as a sales clerk when a friend entered her name into Israel’s beauty pageant.
Yityish Aynaw has lived in Israel since she was 10, when she was orphaned and went to live with her grandparents.
She recalled going to an Israeli boarding school without knowing a word of Hebrew and said some of the kids there made fun of her Ethiopian name.
“What is <<Yitayish>>? This is my name. But it sounds weird,” she told reporter Daniel Estrin in an interview.
“There were times they’d call me <<Tayish>>. In Hebrew that’s a kind of animal. You know?”
More than a quarter of all Israeli TV viewers watched Yityish Aynaw, who became an army officer after graduation, win her crown a couple weeks ago.
“It’s time that someone from my community, someone with my skin color, who is Israeli just like everyone else, represent the country,” Yityish Aynaw said.
“I feel like I made history, that I blazed a trail.”