By Benjamin Njoku & Aderonke Adeyeri
Today, as Nigeria celebrates her 56 years of independence, it’s imperative we take a trip into the past to relive memories of some of the events that thrilled us in the past.
One of such memorable events was the pioneering of Miss Nigeria beauty pageant by the old Daily Times of Nigeria.
The beauty pageants, from time, represented the pride of the nation. Back in the days, these beauty queens walked around with so much pride and dignity. But it’s a different story today, as controversy and sexual harassment have taken the place of the prestige that came with the crown and office of a beauty queen in the country. The glamour has waned with the passage of time even as some of the ex-beauty queens have faded into oblivion.
The record set by ex-beauty queens in the likes of Oluchi Onwewagba and Agbani Darego would rarely be beaten by the emerging beauty queens in the country. Nigerians would not forget in a hurry, the history made by Oluchi when she became the African face in 1997, putting the country on the world map of beauty queens. Just as Agbani Darego shot into limelight at the maiden edition of M-net Face of Africa,shattering record by becoming the first African to win the Miss World title in 2001. These two Amazons became instant hits and international figures as well as role models to aspiring contestants.
Miss Nigeria 1957 —Atinuke Grace Oyelude
First held in 1957, the beauty pageantry was primarily set up to showcase the values of the Nigerian woman and making her the nation’s ambassador, using beauty as a platform. Winner of the maiden edition, Chief Atinuke Grace Oyelude, has remained a role model to Nigerian women till date. In one of her interviews, she painted the picture of what it means to be a beauty queen in the country of old.
“When I was announced as Miss Nigeria, there was no much funfair as you have it today. But on the second day, they took me to a saloon where they used a hot comb to do my hair because I was looking somehow ridiculous. They gave me 200 pounds , for our nice cotton dress. To me, 200 pounds was a lot of money when I was earning only three pounds a month and a return ticket to London for one week,”Oyelude who’s over 70 years now recalled.
Miss Independence — Anieze
After Oyelude’s reign, Helen Anyamaeluna clinched the crown in 1968, but it was former Miss Anieze, now Mrs. Anieze Adams, who won Miss Nigeria crown in 1960, making her Miss Independence. Till date, she still remains one of the most publicised queens Nigeria has ever produced.
Miss Nigeria 1964- Edna Park
Edna Park clinched the crown in 1964, and it afforded her the opportunity to represent Nigeria at Miss World held in United States that same year. She had a fond memory of her days as a beauty queen.
In her recent interview, the 71-year-old Edna recalled how she got into modelling. “I am somebody who sees life in a different way. I think I am just blessed and my background really helped. So becoming Miss Nigeria wasn’t a big deal. Again, right from childhood I loved fashion. I was around some good friends when the issue of Miss Nigeria beauty pageant came up and they encouraged me to go for it. A lot of us contested for it and I won it. This was in 1964. I represented Nigeria, at the Miss World in United States, the same year. I came back to Nigeria and began life. The pageant was beneficial because it made me know a lot of important people; I was made an ambassador and I enjoyed all the perks that came with that office. I had a lot of suitors then but along the line I met Olorogun Felix Ibru, got pregnant and had a child. I left Nigeria for the United Kingdom in 1967.”
Other ex-beauty queens who have written their names in gold included, Yemi Idowu (1962), Gina Onyejiaka (1963), Anna Eboweime (1965), Rosaline Balogun(1967) among others.
However, several years after, some of the beauty queens have not faded into oblivion. While some have passed on, others who are still alive are epitome of beauties and intelligence.
History will continue to remember their rare contributions towards celebrating Nigerian women using their platform as ex beauty queens.
Until 1988, when Senator Ben Murray Bruce introduced the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, the pageantry in Nigeria was an exclusive preserve of the The Daily Times newspaper. The credibility and respect that greeted the pageant then, many believed, promoted Senator Bruce to delve into the business. And his is a success story with a common sense today.