By Evelyn Usman
The Nigerian flag was proudly hoisted on the world stage at the Hilton Metropolitan Hotel, in far away Beirut, Lebanon, on September 24, 2018, as 20-year-old Nigerian, Daniella Iyama, emerged winner of the 2018 Miss Africa, at the Miss Tourism Universe.
The 300- level Microbiology undergraduate of the University of Benin, Edo State and daughter of a serving Assistant Commissioner of Police, in this interview, talks about the suspense, intrigue and intense moments experienced by the 32 beautiful ladies drawn across the world ,who contested for the crown, as each was exited from the podium until the last lap of ten ladies, where she was announced winner.
How do you feel wearing the crown?
I feel excited. Honestly, it was not easy right from the onset, as there were about 20 beautiful Nigerian girls who were interviewed here and I was picked to go represent my country. The credit also goes to my manager. When I was leaving Nigeria for Lebanon, I told myself that whether I win or lose, I would still be a queen. On arriving Beirut, I saw other beautiful girls from different African countries who came for same purpose. I was the only black-skinned person among other ladies.
Sometimes, I felt they didn’t like me because of my skin colour because they kept to themselves, leaving me all to myself. We were 28 ladies from different African countries that went to Beirut, Lebanon, out of which 16 got to the finals. Nobody knew who would wear the crown and I did not expect I would be the one. But when my name was mentioned as the winner, I was too stunned to react. I couldn’t shout. You need to watch my video to see my reaction.
What was your strategy?
I really didn’t have a particular strategy aside my smile. I noticed that among all the girls, we were just two that were very tall . My legs… (laughs) and my smile gave me an edge. We were given some questions to answer and I was able to answer mine intelligently according to the judges. One of the questions was: between beauty, intelligence and health, which was most ranked and they also asked who was the most important person in my life. In response, I told them the most important person in my life was my family. And I told them health, to me, comes first before beauty and intelligence because if one is not healthy, he would not be able to think properly, let alone display his intelligence or beautify himself.
What projects do you have while your reign lasts?
My reign as a queen will last for one year and I intend to have an NGO that would address the menace of human trafficking.
How are you going to achieve that, as an indigene of Edo State, in view of the State being considered as the hub of human trafficking?
I carefully chose this project because most of my sisters and brothers in Edo State seem to be helpless. They do not have anyone to put them through in life. I therefore intend to use this NGO to create a forum to enlighten the young ones, right from their adolescent age , on the dangers associated with juicy offers promised by human traffickers. Most girls who were lured abroad into prostitution really didn’t want to live their lives that way. Most of them were forced into it.
What would you say about sexual harassment in the industry, did you encounter any?
The truth of the whole thing is, from day one before I entered for the competition, I always prayed to God for one thing: that if they (agents and managers) set their eyes on me, as someone they want to sexually harass, God should blind-fold them and make them see me as their own child. So far, no one has harassed me sexually. I used to hear people say their manager forced them to do one dirty thing or the other but I have never experienced any of such. Instead, my manager plays a fatherly role to me.
Were your parents in support of your decision to go into pageantry ?
No, they were not at the initial stage. I actually contested for Miss UNIBEN on March, 14, 2018 but did not win. My parents were never aware. It was after I came top 10 in the Miss UNIBEN pageant that they heard. An uncle who heard I participated called to inform them. I was scared to let them know because I felt it was not the right time to bring up such issue because I was in 200 level then. Besides, I felt letting them know would ruin everything for me.
But the response I got from them encouraged me. At that time I was still smarting from the pain of losing the Miss UNIBEN pageant . They told me that winning or losing the pageant really didn’t matter but that what mattered was I still remained their queen and that healed the disappointment I felt. They prayed for me and I went on with my studies. Immediately after the Miss UNIBEN pageant, I got a call that I would be having an interview to go international. I thought it was a scam. But phone calls kept coming in that it was real. When I went for the interview , I discovered it was real. And to my surprise, I was chosen.
What is your advice to Nigerian youths ?
My advice to the youths, of which I am among, is to believe in themselves. They should not have this ‘ I can’t make it’ mindset. Rather, they should believe that they can do it. And to all Edo girls, they should not think that because they do not have parents to support them, that it is the end of the world. I believe with your hands you can make one or two things happen for yourselves instead of depending on prostitution. It does not bring anything good to your career. Rather, it brings more harm. Believe you can work for yourself no matter how small it is at the initial stage.