‘Face of Nigeria’ beauty queen to launch campaign against skin bleaching

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Beauty pageantry from inception is an art of connoisseurial display on runways and crowning of most stunning physically endowed. But, in recent time, evolving social trend and need to be innovative has pushed the once a winner-take-it-all game to something redefined and more rewarding for discerning contestants.

The queens on their own have craftily schemed initiatives inspired by their promoters to give back to society through various projects so as to meaningfully engage their office both within and outside of their reigning period. ‘Face of Nigeria World’ beauty competition oxygenated by Angelz Eyes Communication few years ago took a different dimension recently to redefine pageantry, making cultural display an integral part with 5 winner queens and a mother queen as an overall car prize best.

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The 2017 edition of the beauty pageant was purely cultural and one of the 5 winners who emerged is Miss Margaret Eyo from Akwa Ibom State. She is a beauty and brain to behold. In this encounter with Chris Onuoha, she reveals the trills, glitz and intrigues in pageantry.

Introduce yourself and describe how you developed interest into beauty pageant? My name is Margret Eyo from Akwa Ibom State. I am a final year student studying International Relations in the University of Akwa Ibom State Uyo. I am the last of 6 children in the family, 3 boys and 3 girls. While growing up as a child, I have always admired beauty queens – like Agbani Dariego, Bianca Ono-Ojukwu and others. I usually mimic their runway moves and did tell myself that one day, I would want to be like them.

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More so, when I grew up and looked at the huge platform that come with beauty pageant, I reasoned that it will be an opportunity for any young girl to participate and make good use of it. I have always wanted to do something different in my life that I can be remembered for and contesting to win in beauty pageant is one of them.

Is ‘Face of Nigeria World’ beauty pageant your first attempt?

It is not my first contest. I have done one before as my first shot into beauty contest. It was called ‘Akwa Ibom State Anniversary Pageant’ done when the State turned 25 years old. I was very young, naïve and inexperienced then. I got into it and met with a number of people who are professionals. I didn’t win though, but it was an eye opener for me.

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Moreover, I was prepared to the best of my knowledge knowing full well that pageantry is all about poise, charisma, confidence but I can literally say experience-wise, I may not have done it right, but talent-wise, I had confidence. Honestly, I meant business to win but I found out that it requires more than poise and charisma.

How did your parents react to it in the first place?

Their reaction was negative at first. They frowned at it with the notion of immorality. But on a second thought, they rescinded after they realised that I was not relenting. My father has a modest persona. He was the first to say ‘you know most of the contests are based on ‘who know who.’ It is about personality figures in the society.

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How sure are you of scaling through?

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I was able to convince him that my intention is not to be favoured by recognition but the confidence I have inside me is enough. My mum was on the same pedestal with my father. It took me time to convince both anyway, but at some point, they just have to realise that they have trained me very well, believing that my guided upbringing will not mar anything or generate controversy over my participation in the pageant. In the house, they usually support anything I am interested in doing as long as it is a good project.

Apart from your parents, were you discouraged by any other person or friends?

I wasn’t discouraged at all by any person but I have some close confidants who will perhaps repeat the same fear of attempting wayward competition. One of them said I should first concentrate with my studies, come out with good results, so that either euphoria of success or failure in the pageantry will not affect me negatively in life. At some point, I had to tell her, pageant is secondary while my education is primary. I think everything is about priority, I value all things but I have to prioritize programmes to suit my intentions.

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‘Face of Nigeria World’ beauty pageant is your first major contest. Why the choice, instead of bigger ones like MBGN and others?

Face of Nigeria contest is a breakthrough for me having won as a queen. Although we have a lot of beauty pageant contests in Nigeria and since I haven’t applied to any of them, I may not know what goes on there.‘Face of Nigeria World’ contest came handy having checked out their pedigree. I looked through their profile and discovered that its one contest that is devoid of controversies. Their competition is free and fair and doesn’t really entertain any questionable act.

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What was the camp experience like?

It’s always tasking, but fun. Various activities and programmes go on in the camp; early rising for exercise, aerobics, moral counseling and lecturers, runway practice and other things.

Pageantry is not only about beautiful and intelligent girl who just came to win. You must showcase the ability to co-exist with your fellow girls or people and these are the key things we learnt from the camp. That’s part of qualities the organisers look out for. Face of Nigeria is not far from others, but a bit different in openness, transparent and disciplined in handling issues. In the camp, there are personal traits that played which I didn’t notice but learned to adjust as the situation warrants. One of them is that I like being myself and doing things my way. Most people see that as snobbish. At a point when fellow participants are to write or vote about a person, some will not hesitate to mention that. It happened to me and when I realised it, I adjusted for good.Some contestants can fake character to win organisers’ heart. I didn’t know that self-restraint is an advantage to personality assessment.

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Lesson I learnt was to accommodate every situation to a level. Obviously, I also tried to fake some character which is just pretending to like ugly situations just for a moment, like tolerating dirtiness and bad manners. At home, I can scream at such but in the camp, I tried to play down knowing fully well it will be difficult to change an adult overnight. Most ill-mannered guys are too vocal and pose a threat to your integrity if you ever show them how bad they are.

But in a nutshell, I realise that life is all about co-existence and that’s what the Bootcamp exercise taught me. In a wider perspective, this is why a queen is a role model; having passed all odds to mount the throne knowing the responsibilities therein. It’s a wonderful exercise and it brought out a better person in me. Another thing was tension at my stage performance which also affected me.

What is your general view about pageantry?

There are many misconceptions about pageantry generally but like I said earlier, a lot of people have their fears. Some people do think that organisers sleep with some contestants or extort money from them when they knew they will not be selected or win. I always say, I would not think those things don’t happen in pageantry but as a girl, you have a choice to make. No one forces you into anything except if you are willing. The choice is left for a lady whether to do it or not. Such controversies exist and may be true but there are still genuine platform that recognises integrity and honest. These categories are very much after the quality and character of a queen and not what to gain from the participant. I think generally, it depends on the participants who want to win at all cost. There’s always God’s time and favour.

Relay your experience in the “Face of Nigeria Contest’ to your first attempt.

In the contest, I was one of the five queens that won. It’s a different pageant from others that produced only one queen and runner ups. We are five queens on average, but only person takes the car prize home as the overall best. Every other person shares same prestige and responsibilities as a queen. It’s quite different and very encouraging. Apart from the car prize won by one person, there were cash prizes, business endorsements and project grants for all the winners. Each queen represents a constituency such as ‘Miss Tourism, Miss Culture and so on. It was an exciting experience for me.

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Talk about your project.

Having won the contest, I already outlined projects that were relayed during my runway interview.Now I am working on my first project which is called ‘Margaret Eyo Skill Acquisition project’ (MESAP). It is going to be carried out by my foundation called MESAP Foundation. Basically, we are looking at training female youths within the 9 States in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. 5o youths from each of the states will be trained to get skills on vocational jobs – like tailoring, confectionery, art and crafts. At the end of each programme, start-up packs will be given to each participant to make them stand on their own. A fashion designer will get a sewing machine; caterer will get oven and others will get relevant work equipment.

This vision was born out of passion to help people. I am passionate about rendering help in any way I can and I see this as an opportunity to serve and help society in need. I always wanted to be a people’s success stories.

Another project in the pipeline is a sensitization campaign towards skin bleaching among Nigerian people. This is one area I am strongly concern about because in Nigeria today, everyone thinks that people with lighter skin are more beautiful and this makes a lot of people to bleach their skin to appear attractive. This is another project apart from MESAP project. The essence is to discourage young girls from bleaching their skin. I have done a research and found out that Nigeria has the highest number of women that bleaches their skin in Africa. Everywhere in the country, you will see self-acclaimed beautician mixing harmful chemicals and selling it to unsuspecting buyers. Most people do not know or even ask the percentage of chemical contents in these creams. It is bad for our skin and for our girls too.

I want to discourage it and also encourage that natural skin, dark or brown is beautiful. I am hoping to get sponsorship from government, corporate bodies and individuals because it’s a huge project. This requires sensitization drive that will need much money to promote.

On the same note, I will urge the federal government to step in and discourage this harmful practice by stopping the importation of bleaching cream in the country.

How do you evaluate your person?

Meg is just a passion driven young girl who is trying to break all odds, put in her best and stand out to become something great in life. In life, it is not always having a platform but how to use it. Most queens I noticed goes down to rest after winning the pageant without really embarking on the said project. I want to impact lives and be remembered for things I did while on earth.

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