By CHRISTINE ONWUACHUMBA
Tobi Phillips has had less than a month to adapt to her new role as World Miss University Nigeria before she jets off to Korea next month to represent the country in the World Miss University.
The pageantry, which boasts of academics as its bedrock, has been in existence for six years. There are no bikini displays and all other paraphernalia. There are no preferential physical attributes required, candidates can apply regardless their size and age. The only criteria the pageantry requires are candidate’s proof as a student of a tertiary institution and then her academic records. Candidates are also expected to give presentations on pressing campus issues. So, it was not only a beauty contest but also a contest of intelligence and intellect.
Right now, 20-year-old Nigerian flag-bearer, Tobi Phillips is geared up for the title’s biggest challenges. She shares her excitement with TS Weekend. Excerpts:
What university did you attend?
I attended University of Lagos, the university of first choice. I studied Marine Sciences.
How are you combining the two interests, are you a mermaid queen?
(Laughs)…you know this is a passion, I just rounded off my project, and so I really have time.
How has it been, the media and other high-profile events?
It’s been good so far, it feels good and I give all thanks to God.
How was your school project?
It was tiring but at the end of the day, I still beat the deadline for submission.
I don’t have any knowledge of Marine Sciences, what did you write about?
I wrote about Ecotoxicology, my topic was about the growth performance of saloterodaine melotarine that is black. Short tilapia.
Who are your mentors?
I have different mentors on different aspects of life. For carriage, poise and eloquence, I think it is Mrs. Joke Silva. As a beauty queen, Agbani Darego. For showbiz, Genevieve Nnaji, they are people I always look forward to seeing.
What celebrity does your personality most parallel with?
Mrs. Joke Silva because of the way she carries herself.
What is the biggest challenge being faced by students of tertiary institutions today?
Lack of confidence, because some of them have low self-esteem. When they are not well groomed by their parents, they tend not to have confidence when they are in the midst of their peers. In school, they can’t speak out because there is nobody to give them that confidence.
What is the biggest challenge you feel most tertiary institutions are facing?
Let me start from my school, it is infrastructure, cultism and rape even though it is on a low key. It is still a major challenge.
What about education? Where do you think we are lacking, where do you think the government has to step up on its policy?
By employing more lecturers because some lecturers don’t take their teaching seriously. They don’t give lectures; they just give handouts. But if the government can set up an inquiry or a commission to monitor the activities of lecturers, I am sure they will do things rather differently. Also, the government should look into ways of increasing lecturers’ salary. I think that will gear them up and make them put in more efforts in helping the students.
What would you love to change about yourself?
I am cool with myself because nobody is perfect. I appreciate myself so much that I don’t think God has created a part of me that is not so good. So, there is no part of me I think I really want to change.
How has your life changed since you won this competition?
A part of me has changed, I see myself as a bigger person now. I have so many activities lined up; I have to write a to-do list for each day. Even though, I have always written a to- do list, I wasn’t always this occupied and now I have brighter future ahead of me. I still have a lot of mountains to climb in life because I know nothing good comes easy. It can be stressful of course but I really want to be a better person so I should be ready to put in more efforts.
Who would you really wish to meet most in life?
There is this American lady, Gabrielle Union, a top Hollywood black actress. I like her attitude. Even though, I do not know her, from what I have read about her, I think I like her person.
What is your definition of success?
Success is when you have failed several times and you still have that dogged determination to go on and you get there. You attain what you’ve always aspired for; I think that is success, not being deterred by mistakes.
What change will you bring to the society as a beauty queen?
Keeping the environment clean and preaching global peace even where everything seems to be calm. Even if we might not be able to wipe out corruption totally, it should not be our way of life. I will also preach confidence to youths, they should have confidence in themselves, and they should have carriage. They should feel good with themselves; they shouldn’t be intimidated by anybody around them no matter whether they are dark, fair, ugly or beautiful. You still have something that surpasses the next person’s; it is just left for you to find out what that thing is.
What bothers you most about the happenings in the campus?
The way girls get involved in pimping, that is getting them arranged for men which is not good. You find out that some of those girls are from good homes but when they get to school, peer pressure changes them. If only they could have confidence in themselves, if only they knew what they were worth, they will not fall prey to such nuances. If only their parents made them see how good they were, the potentials they possess, and if only their parents had trained them in a godly manner.
But most parents do try?
Yes, peer pressure causes it and I think that is the most painful part as regards social vices in school. If only female students can have confidence in themselves, in whom they are, things will be better. If only parents can try harder and nurture their children. Paying for them to have a good education is just not enough, let them invest more in morals, I think it will be much better.
If only students themselves can sit down, have a rethink, and aspire for better things in life, they shouldn’t see themselves less; they should feel good about themselves, work hard and hope for the best. In school, I have a particular lecturer that gives moral instruction in my department and he has been a friend so far, and has helped me stay grounded.
What lies beneath your lip-gloss and brown powder?
You will find a very simple, easy-going person. I don’t get pissed off easily; it is very hard for somebody to upset me because I know for sure that nobody is perfect.