Type Beauty pageant
Official language English
Miss Nigeria is an annual pageant show which showcases positive attributes of Nigerian women and awards university scholarships. The winner portrays exemplary qualities and serves as a role model for young women in the country. The pageant is currently organized by Daily Times Nigeria.
- Title holders
- Other notable contestants
- Unofficial title holders
- Difference between Miss Nigeria and MBGN
The current title holder is Geology student and former Miss Earth Nigeria Chioma Stephanie Obiadi who represented Anambra.
National newspaper Daily Times are owners of the Miss Nigeria franchise which started as a photo contest in 1957. Contestants posted photographs of themselves to the Daily Times headquarters in Lagos where finalists were shortlisted; those successful were invited to compete in the live final which at the time did not include a swimsuit competition at the Lagos Island Club. UAC employee Grace Oyelude won the maiden edition of Miss Nigeria, and would later use part of her £200 prize money to travel to England where she studied Nursing. Contrary to popular belief, Julie Coker was not the first Miss Nigeria - she was Miss Western Nigeria but used the 'Miss Nigeria' title during official engagements aboard. However, she did compete in the contest the year after Oyelude's reign, losing out to secretarial student Helen Anyamaeluna. Former seamstress Nene Etule remains the only non-Nigerian to have won the contest; she was eligible as Southern Cameroon was under Nigerian constitution in 1959. The following year the contest was briefly renamed 'Miss Independence' to commemorate the country's independence from British rule, and the winner Rosemary Anieze was crowned in a ceremony which included Coker as one of the judges.
The sixties saw Miss Nigeria competing at international level. Yemi Idowu, who had won the contest in 1962 was a semi-finalist at Miss United Nations 1963. Her successor, salesgirl Edna Park, was the first Nigerian at Miss Universe in 1964, and is best remembered for disrupting the show by collapsing on stage after failing to reach the top fifteen. Park was carried away by policemen and contest officials before spending the night in a Miami hospital under sedation, where she was consoled by Nneka Onyegbula, wife of the Nigerian ambassador, who reportedly stated: "All the judges are White and they aren’t really competent to judge [a] dark girl's beauty". After Park, no other Miss Nigeria competed at Miss Universe. Rosaline Balogun became the first official Miss Nigeria at Miss World in 1967.
With the gradual demise of Daily Times and rivalry with Sliverbird's Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Miss Nigeria ceased to be the country's most prominent pageant and began to lose its way towards the nineties; in the mid-eighties Daily Times had lost its license to send delegates to Miss World and Miss Universe, and no winner was crowned after Clara Ojo's victory from 1994 to 1998 due to the organiser's incapability to convene a pageant during this time. After the new millennium, Miss Nigeria became a shadow of its former self, and the contest was placed on hold in 2004 by Daily Times.
In 2010, after a six-year attempt, AOE Events and Entertainment, headed by former MBGN Nike Oshinowo were brought into the Miss Nigeria franchise by Daily Times. For the first time in its history, entry was open to women in the diaspora, and inspired by Miss America, Oshinowo relaunched Miss Nigeria as a scholarship programme which offered free tuition to the winner and second and third-place winners, with the Miss Nigeria titleholder receiving a scholarship to study at any University of her choice worldwide. The new Miss Nigeria now included a reality show The Making of a Queen which saw contestants compete in various tasks synonymous with Nigerian women including cooking on outdoor firewood stoves, hostessing, and haggling with market traders, with a number of contestants facing eviction each week. Evening gowns were made from traditional African fabrics, and most notably the swimsuit competition was discontinued. The pageant ran for two years before the organization of the pageant was taken over by Beth Model Management CEO and former Miss Nigeria UK Elizabeth Aisien in 2012.
Throughout the year, the winner is sponsored by several prestigious organisations, and may land endorsement deals. Winners no longer represent Nigeria at international pageants (the last Miss Nigeria at a major pageant abroad was Law graduate Nwando Okwuosa at Miss International 2003), but now work with associated charities and use their status to promote their platforms (also known as 'pet projects') - an issue which is of relevance to Nigeria.
Contestants are required to be unmarried and childless Nigerian citizens, with a good command of English. The age limit is 18-24, and they should be no shorter than 5'7". They should also be in good health and of moral character.
Miss Nigeria consists of Traditional, Talent, Interview, and Evening Gown competitions, with contestants competing in zonal contests in different parts of the country where the first, second, and third-place winners were selected to compete at the grand finale in Lagos.
Originally contestants were given numbers during live shows, but this was changed in 2010 when they each represented Nigerian states. For the 2013 edition, they represented their respective individuality - each contestant had their name printed on her sash, and only twenty-one of the thirty-six semi-finalists competed in the grand finale . In 2015, the contestants once again represented states.
Prizes for the winner vary each year; as of 2013 it includes ₦3,000,000, a luxury car, the Miss Nigeria diamond-encrusted crown, an apartment for the duration of her reign, and a modeling contract with Beth Model Management. The full scholarship now extends to higher institutions in the country only.
Although Miss Nigeria has been praised for judging contestants according to Nigerian standards of beauty, critics argue that it is more Western than African, and does not fully represent Nigerian culture. In 2001, Theatre Arts student Keltuma Shawanma was accused of going commando underneath her short Aso Oke outfit in an attempt to secure top marks from the judges who were reportedly offended, along with the audience. Shawanma later argued that she had worn a g-string. Although Oshinowo-Soleye promised that future winners will be truly representative of Nigerian beauty, the 2010 finalists wore tartan during a dance interval.
Critics had described the original pageant as a parade of beauty with no brains. Former pageant manager Yomi Onanuga told an interviewer in 2006: "We are tired of seeing girls on stage after two weeks in camp, and having much fun, all we see is that they ask them [questions] and they win. Two months after, somebody asks her the same question, she cannot answer, and people begin to ask, Where did she get her crown from?". English Literature student Ibinabo Fiberesima was unable to name the vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan which she attended. Fiberesima has claimed in numerous interviews and on her former website that she had competed in 1997, but this statement is questionable because no contest was held from 1994 to 1998; she had actually been a contestant in 1991, finishing second behind Bibiana Ohio.
In 1988, dark-skinned trainee caterer Stella Okoye crowned her successor Wunmi Adebowale, who was also dark, thus breaking a long line of light-skinned winners, yet Okoye's reign had not been without controversy - fellow contestant Omasan Buwa told The Punch in 2011 "In the hall that day, there was a big uproar and they had to take her out with police escort[s]. The audience felt she was very dark."
The mediocre prizes and lack of endorsements were also a cause for concern before the new millennium. Miss Nigeria 1993 Janet Fateye told an interviewer: "People thought I was raking in all the money there was, but that wasn't the case. The prize money at the time was a mere N12,000, given to me at N1,000 a month. Yes, I got the car prize that was being serviced by Daily Times, but then I had to buy petrol!" Millennium queen Vien Tetsola was said to be residing in accommodation which hardly matched her status during her reign.
Miss Nigeria 1981 Tokunboh Onanuga was dethroned after it was uncovered that she had forged a WAEC certificate which she used to gain admission into the University of Lagos. WAEC have since confirmed on their Twitter account that Onanuga had committed exam fraud.
In 1990, Binta Sukai's eligibility to compete was questioned as she was rumoured to be non-Nigerian, until it was confirmed that the aspiring fashion designer was only one-quarters Scottish. Although she has been referred to as the first Northerner to win Miss Nigeria (her father was Fulani), this milestone was already reached when Grace Oyelude was crowned in 1957. Oyelude was from the Northern Region, albeit of Yoruba heritage.
In 2001, magazine City People revealed that the reigning Miss Nigeria, thirty-year-old Valerie Peterside, had lied about her actual age (she had told organisers she was twenty-five) and forged her university qualifications (she was reportedly expelled from Ahmadu Bello University prior to graduation due to examination malpractice). Following an investigation by several prominent Nigerians including former Daily Times editor Tony Momoh and former Miss Nigeria contestant Julie Coker, a decision was made to dethrone her. Peterside, who had competed the previous year (still as a 25-year-old), fought to keep the crown, but was forced to resign, allowing first runner-up Applied Chemistry student Amina Ekpo to take over.
Despite her popularity as Miss Nigeria 2002, International Relations graduate Sylvia Edem attracted further media attention when it was rumoured she had forged her date of birth to compete, like Peterside before her. It was believed that Edem was thirty years old, until an investigation confirmed she was indeed twenty-three.
Other notable contestants
Unofficial title holders
Difference between Miss Nigeria and MBGN
MBGN focuses mainly on physical attributes while Miss Nigeria promotes a wholesome girl-next-door image, combining vintage glamour with modern elegance. The Miss Nigeria swimsuit competition was scrapped but this feature remains popular at MBGN where contestants now wear bikinis. MBGN winners automatically become representatives at international pageants while Miss Nigeria acts as a cultural ambassador.