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By Tony Ogaga
In 2013, young and pretty Anna Banner Ebiere shot into the limelight after she emerged winner of that year’s edition of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN). Four years down the line, the star of popular drama series, Super Story, is still enjoying stardom. Recently, Entertainer caught up with the beauty queen and she opened up on what she has been up to lately.
It’s the 30th anniversary of MBGN, as a queen on the platform, how do you feel?
I feel great, amazing. MBGN has grown tremendously; the platform is so huge and awesome! Guy (Murray Bruce) and the family have been amazing. In every family, there are tough times and there are the sweet times, but whenever there is a storm, there is always sunshine at the end of the day. So, we went through our own stress, problems and frustrations, but they come with the turf. It is a family and we all know how to resolve issues at the end of the day. Mr. Guy taught me a lot of things and Ben (Murray Bruce) has been super amazing. In fact, he is my grand father, my everything. Whenever you sit with him, there is not a dull moment because you must draw inspiration from his wise words.
Four years after, what is happening to the Anna Banner brand?
The Silverbird Group birthed Anna Banner as a brand. But for MBGN, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I thank God for that. I will always give them credit and acknowledge them for everything especially for making Anna Banner who she is today; for making me a beautiful woman who knows her onions. I was a starry-eyed girl from Port Harcourt who got the forms for MBGN when I was 18 but did not know anybody but God and my family, and here I am today.
Let us go back to the young girl who grew up in Port Harcourt. Did you ever believe that you were going to be a beauty queen and go on to date a super star…?
Nope, but what do you mean, ‘go on to date a super star?’ Really, is this what this interview is all about, dating a super star? (Laughter). Anyway, growing up in Port Harcourt, I never believed I was going to be a beauty queen, but as a young girl, I always dreamed. You know, a princess will always dream and then it becomes a reality. You can’t imagine what happened after I won! The first few months were like hell. I was like ‘am I really dreaming? Could somebody pinch me so I could wake up from this dream? Is this really happening?’ In fact, it was an amazing feeling and I never knew I was going to be here today.
Growing up, were you a spoilt child or a deprived kid?
I was never a spoilt child and was never deprived because my folks always did their best to give me the best in life. I attended the best schools and got whatever I wanted in order to bring out the best in me, but on the flip side, I have gone through hardship. I know what living in the slum feels like. I know what fetching water from the well with paint bucket on your head feels like. I know what living in a one-room apartment feels like. I know what sharing a public bathroom felt like. I know what living in a face-me-I-face-you apartment feels like, but at the end of the day, God just has a way of turning your story around and transforming you for the better. People you do not know and have no connection with or have the least idea you could be meeting someday are sent your way by God to bless you. It is so awesome!
How many were you in the family?
I have two mothers. My real mum and my godmother. They have been with me forever and have always put me through. They made me who I am today. I had two brothers from my godmother and one brother from my mum, so I have three brothers.
How about your dad?
That is my dad. He is right here with me today (pointing at a man sitting next to her).
Really? Thought he was your date for tonight. He looks so cute…
He is my sugar daddy for tonight (laughter).
Tell us about him?
He is a father in all its ramifications. He has such a beautiful soul, and dad will always tell you never to give up. I remember when I was trying to get into MBGN and trying to get to work or get a job, he always told me, ‘Anna, there is nothing as good as waking up in the morning and wanting to go to work feeling happy about it, because it is what you want.
‘But then there is another thing, waking up and you are upset about going to work because it’s not what you want or love. Anna, you are doing what you love and the best part is that you are being paid for something you can do for free’. Dad teaches me a lot. He says ‘Anna, I am just one phone call away; always reach out to me when you are in distress. I give people advice and they pay for it, they consult me; but I am giving it to you free and that is why I am your father and why I will always love you’.
My father is my boyfriend, he is my husband, he is my everything, though he could be annoying sometimes. Which dad isn’t? (Laughter).
What is the greatest gift he ever gave you?
Calling me his child.
What challenges do you face on a daily basis, being a queen?
Hmmm… people look up to you a lot and try to mimic what you do. They tell you they want to be like you. They want to snap pictures with you and you are always careful about what you say, what you do, what you wear and all of that. But despite all this, I try to be myself all the time. I always tell people ‘don’t say you want to be like me. I am not sure you will want to be Anna Banner with all her baggages. In fact, I am even looking for someone to dash Anna Banner. So, the baseline is: be yourself, try to look for the best part of you and be that, and try to aim high’. You see, I have flaws, so if you want to be like Anna Banner, you also have to accept my flaws. If you insist you must be like me, explore the brighter side of me and mimic it instead of saying ‘I just want to be like Anna’. Rather say ‘I want to be better than Anna’. For my role models, I always say I want to be like them, but I also want to be better than them, because if I do that they would be happy for me.
Looking back, what has changed about you?
Nothing; I have always been myself.
I have zero regrets.
Tell us about motherhood.
It has been amazing! It has been an eventful journey. You get to shout a lot and get upset a lot and frustrated, but you get the joy of your life when your daughter hurdles close to you and says ‘mummy, I love you’. That is the most amazing feeling ever!
How do you combine showbiz and motherhood?
Being myself, living my life one day at a time. At school, I try not to pile pressure on myself, because if I do that, I am going to crash. I try not to do too much at once. I do not believe in overworking myself.
Not many women are able to maintain their shapes after childbirth but you look great. How did you pull it off?
Hmmm… do you know how to suck in your tummy, right? (Laughter) Anyway, I have always been super-slim and I think stress also helps you reduce though, it is not a healthy option. But when I am stressed, I lose a lot of weight. I don’t know why my face is a bit chubby, but for my tummy, I tried working out but then I got tired and just stopped. I have a problem with being consistent with routine, so I just dumped the gym.
Is there anything you abstain from?
Nope, I eat everything. I love food a lot. I love to cook and I am sure you know that when you are cooking, you take a lot of it and that gets you fat (laugher).
What project are you working on currently?
My Foundation is about to come on stream. It is called the Anna Banner Empowerment Foundation. It is going to come on stream before the end of September. It will empower young girls who have lost hope. Because they have a child, life has come to an end. Mostly in the rural areas, you see young girls who have potentials and talents, but because they got pregnant early, they lost it all and develop low self-esteem and think they can’t make it anymore. I just want to give them hope and tell them my story, and see how I can help them out, because you see, when you are happy, your child is happy.
What’s your relationship with Flavour, the father of your daughter, Sophia currently?
What’s your name?
Tony Ogaga, bye- bye.