Time has really changed with the trend of development. Before now, beauty pageants were meant for young, unmarried ladies. But with much improvement in the industry, one can now hear about “Mrs” getting involved in pageantry. One of such pageants made its debut recently in Nigeria and Mrs. Enemchukwu Ebelechukwu Chinedu emerged winner. With that, she went for the international edition and beat women from other foreign countries hands down. Mrs. Nigeria United Nations, Mrs. Tourism United Nations World as well as your Peoples’ Choice Ambassador. Ebelechukwu is the current Mrs. Nigeria United Nations, Mrs. Tourism United Nations World, as well as winner, Peoples’ Choice Ambassador, which was also part of the event. The mother of three works as a training specialist with one of the telecommunication companies in Lagos.
Two crowns and an award at a go. How did it begin?
The journey started here in Nigeria with Mrs. Nigeria United Nations title. I had just gotten to work on a particular day and was about turning off the ignition of my vehicle and I heard something on radio. I wasn’t sure. I thought I heard ‘Miss’ but actually, I heard ‘Mrs.’. It was like the pageant system is a five-in-one package. One of the categories is the ‘Mrs.’ category. Since I wasn’t so sure, I decided to check them online. When I went online, I saw that, indeed it was ‘Mrs.’ I went through the requirements and the vision of the pageant. The pageant system represents relationship building, volunteerism, charity, celebration of family, and womanhood and I instantly connected with that. With the support of my husband, I decided to give it a go. I went for the auditions. We had regional auditions in Lagos and I made it through the auditions and traveled to Abuja for 10 days. The grand finale was on May 16 and I won. I got crowned amongst several beautiful women there; I won the Mrs. Category for the United Nations pageant. That was not all. It was on the basis of that that I had to represent Nigeria at the international stage. In July, I traveled to Kingston, Jamaica and represented our dear country. There were several beautiful women from across the globe, Mrs. USA, Mrs. Europe, Mrs. Ukraine, Mrs. Jamaica; you name it. While there, I clinched the Mrs. Tourism United Nations title on July 18, 2015. As if that was not all, for this particular pageant, there was a voting segment which was the biggest award of the night. It was called the ambassadorship award or Peoples’ Choice Ambassador. For all the delegates, that is, the contestants, you were put out online for people to vote for you. The funny thing about this voting was that it wasn’t free. It cost $10 for every one hundred votes and the proceeds would go to charity. As for Nigeria, to get people to part with $10 was such a big deal. Apart from charity, it was another way of finding out how well you were able to convince people. If you cannot convince people in such small things, how then do you think your you could use your voice to convince people and not just skill. I want to believe it was the mixture of them. The aim of the voting segment was also to see your own capacity. I did that and emerged winner with a total of 63,900 votes. It was a beautiful thing when I heard my name announced on stage; the award came before the title. Everybody kept waiting. It was between myself, Mrs. USA and Mrs. Canada. Three of us were the top three. I moved from the top 10 at some point and I kept urging people to vote for me. My husband was extremely supportive here, family friends, and people from all over the globe. Surprisingly, when we got to camp in Kingston, Jamaica, a lot of people started directing votes from their family friends to certain favourites among the top three to me, Mrs. USA and Canada. But I heard my name as favourite choice for the Peoples’ Ambassador and that was how I won the award. I am grateful to those who voted for me. It was a good deal.
What gave you the edge over other contestants?
Not wanting to sound immodest, first, my belief in God. I have this philosophy that I’d rather not do something than not doing it well. When I made up my mind after discussing with my husband, and we decided I should give it a go, I knew I was going to give it my best. If I had done my best but it had not turned out the way it did, I would taken it in my stride but I knew that first things first. Giving it my best would mean calling on God. Second, a very important aspect in beauty pageantry is how well you smile. I am comfortable with smiling and I want to believe that also helped in capturing the judges, even the contestants. They said I had a good smile.
We had a lot of strenuous exercises while in camp. We were subjected to a lot of rehearsals and because I was already used to walking out because am naturally very physical and prior to that time I was already enjoying fitness walkouts so I believe that helped me endure all the strenuous exercises we were put to. And of course being comfortable in what you wear. A critical aspect is the heels. There are people who wear high heels but they are not comfortable with it so it also shows; It comes through even when you walk. On the other hand, I am a very confident person from within.That confidence, to a large extent, helped me clinch the title. That’s what gave me an edge over the other contestants who by the way, were amazing. But one person had to win.
Was there a bikini session?
When I went to the Internet that was the first thing I looked out for, but there was none. We had on, the interview outfit first, which was 40 per cent of the entire scores. Everything you do on stage during the grand finale only account for 60 per cent of the scores. Forty per cent is basically your intelligenceand that was done two days before the grand finale. We didn’t even know that was the interview fashion, so we had the interview outfit, and then the national costume. In Nigeria, I represented the West so I was dressed like a Yoruba. I had my gele, asho and iro and buba. So, in all, we had interview outfit, national costume, runway outfit and sportswear.
Before this, were you exposed to pageants at any level?
Truly, I have had several opportunities to go into pageantry in the past but I declined all of them. I believe that’s because of my upbringing. My Mum was of the opinion that anybody into pageantry was morally loose. Now that I know better, I believe it is a matter of choice for the individual. I also believe it was a bit of ignorance on her part because she didn’t have the full picture. Right now I have a better understanding of what pageantry is all about possibly because I’m more matured so I am able to make more informed decisions. The only time I came close to doing anything pageantry was in the National Youth Service Corpse camp (NYSC), I served in Lagos State. I was among the ‘Batch A’ coppers in 2005. During the camp orientation, we had Miss NYSC pageant. I was not interested in it because prior to that time, I had never given it a thought. But for some reasons, my platoon members put me under duress. They insisted that I must represent our platoon. So, I represented my platoon. We had 14 platoons and at the end of the day, I won. That was the closest I got it. At the end, they gave me a fridge, television, and gas cooker. That was 10 years before this pageant came up. Between that time and 2015, I never considered it.
What inspires you in life?
The quest for excellence, knowing that as you are doing this right now, you can do it better. So knowing that I can yield better result, gives me that drive. I also draw divine inspiration from God and also from the things around me. I get inspired too when I look at the beautiful people around me; it makes me happy, especially my husband and three adorable children and members of my extended family. Another thing that is being able to put a smile on somebody’s face. You should see the look on children’s faces when you give them something as little as school bag, shoes or uniforms. I did that for a couple of children who were coming to school in mufti and tattered clothes. Whether you know it or not, or whether they admit it or not, these things begin at this stage to tamper with the self esteem of these children. That pure joy that you see emanating from their faces inspires me a lot and it gives me that drive to do more.
What do you plan for tourism in the remaining part of your reign?
As much influence as I can possibly put. What is actually killing the tourism industry in Nigeria is multi-faceted. We need to package and market our unique offerings to the world. We should not lose focus of the fact that the world is going data. People are online. Little wonder why you see businesses. If you think people will walk into your office without a virtual online presence, or somewhere these people can interact with you online, you are wasting your time. In line with that, you also realize that one way of helping tourism industry is to take it online. What use is it if you visit several lovely places but nobody hears about it? You want to sell Obudu Ranch Resort, National Theatre in Lagos but nobody knows how to get there. Basically, as an Ambassador of Tourism I intend giving tourism the much-needed positive visibility at a time like this. I intend to promote tourism as much as I can. I can’t do it alone, otherwise I’d be lying. I don’t claim to be an expert. We have experts out there but in any activity involving tourism where I can come in, I will come in using my experience as wife, mother, a specialist or from any other angle. I’m all out for tourism.
What are the challenges you envisage?
Time has been the greatest challenge, if we had 48 hours a day, probably it won’t be enough for me right now considering everything I have around me. Be that as it may, I think I’m lucky because I inculcated the skill of time management early in life. Right now, I rely on that skill. I need time not just for my children and the home front, but for all. I have had to decline certain events on account of other things requiring very personal attention, that gives me a challenge. There are several things in my head I wish to execute especially when it comes to charity but funding has delayed most of them. But if I wait until I have a bag-load of money, it will never happen, which is why I have so far used the little resources available to do the bit I can. People also have this label about pageantry, that they are never serious. Hopefully within a couple of years, with exemplary lives as ambassadors, time will change all those negative impressions that people have that nothing good can come out of pageantry. They believe that those into pageantry are not serious. Now people are beginning to know you can have a complete woman, complete mix of both beauty and brain. You can have somebody who is ready to add value, not somebody who is ready to take but not plow back.
Any memorable moment?
During my stay in camp, both national and international camps, I met a lot of amazing people. I have developed a lot of wonderful relationships that I know would transcend pageantry. I have met a lot of beautiful women and wonderful children. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of other religious systems, backgrounds and cultures. It is still work in progress because I am meeting people everyday. Those memories will linger in my mind and I will be grateful to God.
My only regret is that I should have done this long ago. But I want to believe that this is how it was designed from the beginning by God, so I am fine with it
What is your beauty routine like?
I wake up in the morning and walk out between 4.30am and 5. 30am. I am more productive when it comes to my walk outs and how long I want to walk out.
What’s your best colour?
My best colour is red. In fact, I didn’t realise it until people started telling that it seemed I like red, because if I have to do paint my nails or wear lipstick, it has to be red, but again I would not wear something red if it is ill-fitted. So emphases is more on how it looks on me and how it portrays my personality. For now I think red would work.
What kind of jewelry do you prefer?
It depends on the occasion, but I am not so much of a gold person. But I like them colourful, chic and classy. I like jewelry just like every other woman.