THE presence of Mrs. Grace Tinuke Oyelude, the first Miss Nigeria, 1957, was conspicuous at the 39th edition of Miss Nigeria Pageant recently organised by the Daily Times of Nigeria at Oriental Hotel in Lagos. The organisers gave her an ovation at the venue and the hall was agog when she was presented with a brand new Peugeot 301. Still looking radiant and full of life at 84, the octogenarian spoke with Effects about life as the first Miss Nigeria over sixty years ago, what keeps her busy these days and other issues.
What advice do you have for the current beauty queen?
I have already talked with her. Do you want me to tell you? I told her to work hard like we did in our time and to maintain her dignity. I already told her to keep her head up and maintain what we have planted. If she can, she should improve on what we have done.
What is the difference between Miss Nigeria then and Miss Nigeria now?
Then beauty pageant was really beauty pageant, the whole prestige was around it, looking at that time now, there are so many things you emulate and so many things you bring back.
What was the experience like, the process involved before the big day?
We did what was expected of us, I was living in Kano then and like I always said, I have always been repeating the same thing. My brother saw the advertisement in the newspapers and advised me to go to Lagos for an interview to be selected as a Miss Nigeria contestant. He applied, and the result was that I was supposed to be in Lagos for the Miss Nigeria contest and I was working in the UAC then, and they also were involved in the pageant. The following day they got me on a plane to Lagos and that was it.
So, what happened later?
We arrived in Lagos, there was no accommodation, so we all had to look for our accommodation, we were later asked to come to the Daily Times office after, so we all met, about 200 of us. I was the only one from Kano.
After the interview and other processes, what eventually happened on the grand finale day?
On the day of the Miss Nigeria which was on Saturday in 1957, we met at Lagos Island Club , we were offered drinks and someone came and told us we would be asked to go to a wall and then they asked us to walk around, there was music of the late Bobby Benson that was playing then we went round the first time, the second time and the third time. After a short while, they made the announcement of the new queen which I was but I didn’t hear until someone touched me that I was announced the winner and I was later taken up to the stage and that was how I became Miss Nigeria and that night I had to find my way home. My brother was a broadcaster; he was on duty when they told him about my victory. That is the story of how I became Miss Nigeria
You are in your 80s and still look good. What would you say is the secret of your beauty?
I live a normal life, no hustle, no bustle, no stress. I don’t allow myself to have stress. I eat well, sleep well. I do a little exercise; I walk in the mornings and evenings. I go to bed early. I can wake up in the middle of the night to read my Bible and novels.
Do you still maintain a beauty regimen?
No. I just have my soap and water. I don’t use any extra- ordinary soap or cream. Really, I got used to this trend right from childhood. I don’t do any beauty regimen from childhood and that is what I still carry on with.
What occupies your time now?
I read novels and I watch television. I used to do a lot of gardening. I had a beautiful garden, some years back. I don’t have the energy for it now.
Do you live in Lagos?
No. I live in Ilorin. I hardly come to Lagos. I used to be based in Abuja but now I have relocated to Ilorin. But I’m from Isanlu in Kogi State. The last time I was in Lagos was when Daily Times Group wanted me to crown the Ezinne Akudo, the outgoing queen in 2013.The Daily Times has been so good to me. I contested for Miss Nigeria under Daily Times flagship. During my reign, they sent me to Britain for two weeks, they gave me some dresses as a queen and I was given 200 pounds sterling. That was the prize I got for being Miss Nigeria in 1957.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
I have so many people but most especially my family, my parents, brothers and sisters. In my time, you only had your family to stand by you. They were nice to me and God also was working out the best for my life when Daily Times came up with Miss Nigeria pageant, which opened doors for me to visit Britain for the first time. Before I entered for Miss Nigeria, I had already applied for scholarship with Northern Nigeria. That was before we got our independence. Luckily, Daily Times came, organised Miss Nigeria and I won. I went back to England to study nursing. That really influenced what I am today. I worked for a while in a couple of hospitals in London. I worked as a nurse in hospitals where the princes and princesses were born, which is Paddington General Hospital and St Thomas’s in London
You have a chieftaincy title, can you tell us about it?
I’m a high chief from my own hometown. From a chief, I became a high chief. I was given these titles in my hometown because of the little I have been able to do in my community. I’m also the Iyalode of Okunland and Iyelolu of Isanlu.