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By Bianca Iboma
Linda Umezurike never wanted to compete in any beauty pageant. She believed she could never be a beauty queen even though she had passion for pageantry. Thinking her younger sister had all it took to be queen, she had already started grooming her.
But fate turned things around for Linda; she participated in this year’s edition of the Most Beautiful Face in Nigeria (MBFN) pageant and emerged winner. In this interview, the queen traces her journey to the crown. Enjoy it.
Can you tell us about your background?
I am the first child in a family of five. I hail from Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State. I am a graduate of International Relations from Godfrey Okoye University and I just completed my Master’s Degree in Political Science from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Can you tell us how your journey into pageantry began?
I have always liked everything about pageantry; if you have the opportunity of meeting my mum, she would tell you that I am passionate about pageantry. I have always been watching television channels like E! Entertainment, Spice TV and so on but I never imagined that I would be a beauty queen myself. I had thought my younger sister would become one someday, because I was already grooming her from what I learnt watching TV. It was during one of the lessons that a thought came to me, and at that point, I felt why didn’t I try it myself? More so, my sister was still young and I couldn’t just wait for her to grow up, so I decided to go for it.
How many beauty pageants have you participated in?
I applied for Miss South East beauty pageant last year, but the competition was not held due to some circumstances. The organisers had to refund our application fees. There was another contest for Miss Kanekalon, a hair extension beauty pageant but I didn’t get to the finals. The Most Beautiful Face in Nigeria (MBFN) beauty contest came on board, I applied and it turned out successful.
How has pageantry affected your life?
I used to be a very shy person, people who know me can attest to it. I had worked as a journalist, you know, the job entails meeting people. But I couldn’t cope with the nature of the job, I was too shy and I did not do my job well. This earned me lots of queries. Being in the competition gave me an opportunity to do a lot of new things like dressing up in swimsuits, in front of cameramen and several other people. This actually changed my lifestyle. I used to be a conservative person when it came to dressing, but now I am so open to new styles of dressing.
Can you share some of your experiences in camp?
I was actually the first among the contestants to arrive camp. It showed how enthusiastic I was about the pageant. We were meant to be 25 contestants but only 17 showed up. We were asked to elect a camp captain, someone that would be in charge of other contestants in camp.
At the camp, we were blindfolded with sash and asked to guess the states we were blindfolded with, only four of us got the states correctly.
Then, the four of us were asked to make bookshelves; the person with the highest number of bookshelf was made the camp captain, and that was me. Life in camp was very vigorous. As the camp captain, I had to ensure every contestant was present in every assembly. If someone weren’t there, I would be called out to ensure that I get the person to the assembly. It was really stressful but I learnt a lot from the experience.
Looking back at your performance, how would you rate yourself?
I gave it my best to be sincere. If I was to participate in another pageant, I think I would do better, because I now know my pitfalls and strengths.
What was your immediate reaction the moment you were crowned Miss South East?
Actually, it came as a surprise. You know, the pageantry comes in different categories like the MBFN Queen, which is the overall winner, MBFN Planet and Tourism, which is the first and second runners up.
The MBFN South East is a regional queen for the South Eastern states. The title is different from the overall MBFN Queen. When I was called out as the MBFN South East, it wasn’t what I was expecting. As the grand finale drew nearer, I knew I wasn’t going to be the overall winner. But when I was called out, I was like ‘thank God’. I was glad that at least all my efforts yielded something.
At the level you have attained, would you go for another beauty contest?
Yes, I would. Like I said earlier, I have passion for pageantry. The way I flowed in the camp, I didn’t know I could do it. One of the organisers came up to me and said he has been following me on social media and didn’t know I could do it. So, I am into beauty pageant 100 per cent until I decide to retire.
Do you have a pet project?
Yes, I am starting a pet project soon; the idea came to me while in camp. I am looking at preventive health care. The causes and measures that can be taken to prevent diseases, instead of one waiting to be afflicted before cure comes.
What area exactly are you looking at?
Malaria, this is one of the epidemics common in Africa. A lot of people suffer from the disease. While in camp, we did a beauty-give-back feature, which was a two-minute video showcasing how one could impact the society assuming one emerges as queen.
In the video, I spoke on environmental sanitation because it’s only when you keep your environment clean that you drive away mosquitoes, flies and many other insects that could cause diseases. I am starting with malaria and at the same time planning to tackle other diseases.
There’s this notion some people have about beauty pageants, that before one emerges a winner, she must have slept with one of the organisers. What is your view on this?
I don’t know of other beauty pageants but for MBFN South East, organised by Zanay Entertainment in collaboration with Classic makeup USA, nobody slept her way to the top. When we arrived camp, during our orientation, the CEO told us not to get familiar with his crewmembers. He said if we thought we could sleep our way to the top, we should have a rethink, they stressed on it. For this pageant, no one slept her way up.
What is the essence of being a woman? I mean basically what role do you feel women play because some people underestimate women?
The role women play in the society cannot be underestimated. I’m not a feminist but that doesn’t mean women should be trampled upon. I promote gender equality in the sense that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Treat women right, the way you would treat a man. I served in the north where women are taken as second fiddle to men and this got me upset, but all these things depend on the society you find yourself in. We are getting there, Nigeria and Africa in general, but generally speaking, I think Nigerian women are coming out of their shells. You see women participating in politics, advocating for one cause or the other, fighting against domestic violence and all of that. Basically I think we should keep doing what we’re doing. We would get there someday.