By Josephine Agbonkhese
WHAT have you been up to since you emerged queen?
It’s been a lot of experience, work and learning, representing Africa in the last four months. Before Sisi Oge, what I’ve always had in mind to do is to put smiles on people’s faces. This platform will help me reach a wider audience.
For example, as part of my main project Connecting Smiles, I organised a Children’s Day event in May in which I had hundreds of children to inspire. I also went to Dubai to inspire culture. On seeing me in my African outfits, the people there were so overwhelmed and happy. Same thing happened in the UK. The African culture keeps thrilling people everywhere I go. Those are some of the things I’ve been up to since March.
…and how much has changed about you?
Nothing much; I’m still the same person that I was, even though I feel a little different since people always want to take picture with me and of me everywhere I go.
Personally, nothing has changed. I try as much as possible to still be that person I’ve always been and to be able to communicate. I still study at the National Open University I run a programme in Entrepreneurship. Coping with studies and being a beauty queen has not been easy but I am trying as much as possible to find a balance.
How would you relate your upbringing to your emergence as the winner of Sisi Oge 2017 which is a very Afrocentric concept?
My mum has always been particular about everything African. In fact, there isn’t much difference between Sisi Oge’s ideal and my upbringing. I’m used to being cultural, modest and African. I also speak my language fluently.
What’s the idea behind your Connecting Smiles?
Connecting Smiles is a platform aimed at reaching a wider audience and putting smiles on their faces. It comprises women empowerment and skills acquisition which will enable women feed their families. I’m a shoe designer under the brand name Ama Shoes, so, in about two months, I also plan to give out over a thousand pairs of shoes to children. I believe doing this will be a landmark achievement for me. It’s a back-to-school project.
No plans for youths…?
I do have plans for youths and that’s a skill acquisition programme which I have in place for young girls. The idea is to empower and make them look inward, so they can realise that there’s a lot they can achieve. It’s not about waiting for somebody to give them jobs; they can be job creators themselves and that’s why I want to embark on entrepreneurship and skills acquisition programmes so youths can be better equipped to become job creators.
…and how will Connecting Smiles be different from pre-existing empowerment programmes?
A lot of the empowerment projects we have out there are not result-oriented, and that is because initiators hardly identify the needs of people before embarking on projects. The thrust of Connecting Smiles is to develop people, help them discover their talents, boost trade and entrepreneurship in the society. How? Whether we like it or not, we all cannot work in banks or other corporate institutions.
The first thing will therefore be to identify these people, know their individual strengths and who to connect them with. We find out that a lot of people do great things in different ways. So, when we help people connect by looking at individual strengths, they can marry their skills together and come up with unique goods and services.
They can then be stronger, more productive and in return, society in general will benefit. We are not doing this as Sisi Oge or No 1 Heritage Solutions. Instead, we will be working with local and international agencies who believe in these ideas. The project will also help to build trust amongst people.
Sisi Oge has a 10 years track record of promoting values and we believe we will have no difficulty building trust amongst business-minded people. No 1 Heritage Solutions, which is the promoter of the Sisi Oge Pageant, already has one of such ‘building trust’ projects ongoing.
But how easy do you think it will be to build trust amongst Nigerians? In fact tell us about this ‘building trust’ project ?
It’s concept called Operation Correct and Protect Your Neighbour. This is a concept that will make us all look critically into our society and localities. You know, we have a culture of keeping mum when we see people do the wrong things or siphon public funds given to them for different projects. Instead of screaming out loud or reporting to appropriate authorities, we do nothing and for that reason, evil thrives. Thank God for the Whistle-blowing initiative on ground already. Our children’s children can only benefit from a good society whether we like it or not, and that is the more reason we should all sit up.
…and is this your first time in a beauty contest?
I’ve participated in one and that was Miss Ambassador for Peace. I also took part in 10 Days in Suncity, the movie that just premiered a few weeks ago. That was my first movie experience. I also model in fashion shows and adverts.
At what age did you first go on the runway?
At age 16, and that was when I participated at the Nigerian Television Fashion Show. That was my first modelling job.
Do you plan to build a career in acting?
If a script comes and it’s good, I will take it.
…and for what reason will you act nude?
I will not act nude for any reason, no matter the amount of money involved.