Miss Benue was not exactly hot… who decides what states the contestants represent (and I’m challenging the person to a duel for that choice of a Miss Benue)?
I don’t know much about beauty pageants and I am not a big fan. In fact, other than the opportunity they provide to see mind-blowing bodies in swim suits, I don’t see much good in the shows.
But beauty pageants start to make real sense when people argue that they give young girls a chance to express their various cultures; to represent their people. That feeling of representation is what, I believe, attracts many old-fashioned people like me to the contests. It explains the pride of the average Nigerian when Agbani Darego was crowned Miss World; she was our ambassador, our gift to the world.
That was the pride I was hoping for when I sat to watch the 2012 MBGN pageant. I am from Benue State so that night I waited anxiously to see Miss Benue, and thought to myself- whoever she would be, she had better get on that catwalk and strut like no other. My heart raced; I wondered if it would be a Tiv, Idoma or an Igede girl. Considering the number of really hot Benue models that grace the Miss Benue pageant every year, I was certain ours would not be like the case of an Igbo person being Miss Gombe.
Alas, when she came out, Miss Benue was not exactly hot. In fact, I was completely devastated and wondered why ‘my people’ would choose to “fall my hand” by picking such a below-average model. I tweeted about my disappointment. Tweeps laughed and joked how ugly my Benue sisters were. I endured the needling banter till the long night ended.
Imagine my shock, frustration, and anger when I found out a couple of days later that Miss Benue was, in fact, an Edo girl; Aghedo Oses. I couldn’t understand how anyone would pick an Edo girl to be Miss Benue. How could she effectively represent Benue in the contest? Had the girl even ever been to the Middle-belt state? Was there not a chance that whatever she turned out to be on the show would affect Benue’s image? Perhaps if she won, I would even somehow claim her as a Benue person. But, hey, let’s face it, she was awful and my friends now think that’s the best Benue could offer.
So I have been thinking about the essence of this pageant business and I have many questions for Ben Bruce and his Silverbird team. For starters, who decides what states the contestants represent (and I’m challenging the person to a duel for that choice of a Miss Benue)? Are the states even consulted before representatives are picked in their names?
Mr. Bruce may not have the answers I seek. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my questions are dismissed as the rants of an ethnic-conscious Nigerian, a purist. But I am genuinely worried that in beauty contests, anyone is allowed to represent any entity or group of people.
So before you shoot me down in the ethnic flames, try to imagine a situation in which Julia Morley’s team, organisers of the Miss World pageant, unilaterally pick a Chinese girl living in Beijing to represent Nigeria at the 2012 Miss World show.
As awkward as the thought of a Chinese Miss Nigeria is, what Silverbird did is in effect no different! They picked a total stranger to fly my Benue flag; a bad choice at that!
It may be the norm in the pageant industry to “cross-carpet” contestants but I would rather states and countries decide who represents them. And if they wouldn’t be represented for whatever reason, so be it.
Tell Mr. Bruce if he wants a Miss Benue, he should go to Makurdi, Otupko or Gboko. Ene Lawani wasn’t Benue’s last gift to the beauty world.
About the author: Atom Lim is a Nigerian journalist and development worker. He regularly comments on politics and governance. You can follow him on twitter; @atomlim.
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