Ebele Enemchukwu, wife and mother of three adorable children, two girls and a boy, came into limelight in 2015 when she contested for Mrs Tourism United Nations and Mrs Nigeria United Nations. That took her to Kingston in Jamaica, where she vied for the crown with women from all over the world and made Nigeria proud by bringing the laurel home.
Vivacious Enemchukwu, whose tenure elapsed in August, takes Saturday Sun into her world when the newspaper’s correspondent ran into her at Akwaaba recently. She tells how she ventured into the pageant, her foundation, lifestyle and lots more.
Can you tell us the story behind being Mrs Tourism United Nations /Mrs Nigeria United Nations?
I heard of United Nations Pageant on radio and the interesting thing is, instead of Miss, Miss, Miss, which one is usually used to around here, I heard it was all about the Mrs. Just to confirm, I went online and it turned out to be true. So, I represented the West, here in Nigeria and won Mrs. Nigeria at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. I had to represent Nigeria on the international field in Kingston, Jamaica and I won Mrs. Tourism UN.
As a married woman, what gave you the push to go for the contest?
When I went online, I didn’t just decide I was going to do it, I knew the eventual decision would come from my husband, I had to test-run the idea with him and he okayed it and since then he has been very supportive. He was at Kingston, Jamaica to support me; he was at Nicon Hilton Abuja to support me too. People usually think an Igbo man, an Nnewi man for that matter can’t do that. It’s not a regular thing. I remembered the day I won at Abuja, people came to him and asked if he’s not worried having his wife on that platform. There’s a wrong impression about pageants; for the past two years, I have tried to change that story. There’s so much beauty that lies within a woman. To take away that notion that if you go into pageant you are all loose women, that nothing good can come from you, that is wrong and erroneous. While we were courting, I won Miss NYSC Lagos State, after my service year, 2015 I had no intention of going into pageantry until this. It’s been an amazing story right now. Mr. Ikechi Uko, the founder of Akwaaba has done a good job in that regard in terms of the tourism angle that I do. Apart from that, I build on charity, before the expiration of my tenure; on June 29, 2017 I unveiled my foundation at Civic Centre. The foundation is called WABIO Foundation. WABIO is an acronym for Women Are Beautiful Inside and Out. It was unveiled under the chairmanship of Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who we all know is very passionate about charity and women. It was a huge success. It reminds me that beauty transcends the physical. You are beautiful not just on the outside, but on the inside. Our first project is 2017 was the breast cancer awareness campaign, the whole idea is to spread the word to the world against this disease. Ignorance is a major issue when it comes to the issue of breast cancer. Sometimes people wish it away and say God forbids, but, it doesn’t choose whom it comes to, and it doesn’t discriminate- rich, old, fat, slim, and poor. I understand there are factors that might predispose you to the disease, but, you cannot say it’s a disease for the old. The proactive thing to do is to constantly remind yourself that the best thing to do is prevention. Then how do you prevent something that you don’t even know. That is what WABIO Foundation is out to do, to create awareness about this deadly disease to bring down the number of victims. Enough is enough with regard to deaths based on breast cancer.
What perks did you enjoy as Mrs. Tourism?
A lot. More in terms of experiences. There is no Mrs. Tourism without Mrs. Nigeria because Mrs. Nigeria gave birth to Mrs. Tourism. You don’t just go to Jamaica; you have to win in your country. I have developed amazing relationships with different people far and wide, within and outside Nigeria and these are relationships that will outlive even me, maybe for many more generations to come. I have enjoyed an amazing platform in terms of reaching wider audience and lending my voice to noble causes. Before the title, let’s not take away this, the public is usually drawn to people with some sort of celebrity status, so, rather than use it for things that I consider irrelevant, I use such platform to reach out to people and reaching out in terms of positive impact. Even though I have handed over to a new Mrs. Tourism, who is not Nigerian; the proceeds will forever remain here. The promises I had while I wore the crown and the sash are still valued and I will keep doing my best in that regard.
What did you do most during your tenure?
I have been part of Akwaaba culture family for over a year now and it gave a lot of meaning to my title, which is also why I have been acting as an influencer for Calabar carnival. Everything tourism is what I’m interested in. In my little corner, from my little position, from the platform I have, the best I can do is to promote tourism as much as I can, using my own platform and lending an extra voice all geared towards giving it a positive distinctions at this point in time. Everybody is talking about agitation, everybody is de-emphasizing our focus on oil, tourism is a lot we need to earn us the foreign exchange we are looking for in Nigeria. Apart from that, I’m a trainee specialist. I work with one of the telecommunications companies here in Lagos. I have worked for almost 12 years now . In the last six years, I have been with training and development. I’m building on customer service. From the airport you can tell the kind of environment you are in, if they are kind and warm, or hostile, you will know. When I find areas where I can lend my voice in terms of delivering training on customer service even on tourism sector I do that.
What is style for you?
For me, style is effortless. What do I mean? When I have a total ensemble, for me it doesn’t have to come with so much work. I’m comfortable with what I wear as much as I’m comfortable in my own skin. When we talk about confidence, whether people will accept it or not, to a large extent it comes from your outward appearance. When a person gives you a look, you are wondering if the look is a look of disgust or admiration. If you are well put together, naturally, it’s a look of admiration, and that naturally does something to your confidence. For me, style is effortless, style is the meaning I make out of fashion. Fashion is general, fashion is how I tweak it to reflect my personality.
How was growing up like?
I grew up in the East, Aba to be precise. Even though I’m from Enugu State, my husband is from Anambra. I’m the second of five children, now four children. I lost my brother in January this year. My only brother. I grew up in Abia State. I had my primary education there and my secondary education at Federal Government College, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. I went to Abia State University; I studied Microbiology and got my Masters from University of Lagos. Growing up was interesting. Life was beautiful, we are a very close family, we never had people living with us, and it was father, mother five children. My mum is a retired general secretary. When I was growing up, she was teaching. My father has always been a pharmacist. He has his own line of products. KEZ pharma.
Why did you set up your Foundation?
Actually, it all started from the camp. The nature of womanhood is the ability to nurture from cradle. While in camp for the pageant, an idea came into my mind. Women Are Beautiful Inside and Out (WABIO) and I thought of what to do. Since I am someone who is involved with charity, I love to give and I started doing so in my own little way in 2016. The definition of beauty does not just lie outside, but inside and out. As women we need to manifest the beauty inside and out. The foundation is not basically for breast cancer campaign alone but the first project I embarked on is breast cancer project for this year 2017. It is like a chain; I will continue with something else by next year. The WABIO initiative was priority and I decided to run with it. As a beauty queen I had other engagement, but what was my interest as a woman was to affect the most vulnerable group which is women and children. I needed the platform to sensitise the womenfolk, that is why, as I officially laid down the crown in August 2017, I had to launch this platform that would aid my charitable works.
How did you meet you husband?
We met in church. I’m Catholic. While the reading was going on, rather than read on his own, he sat beside me and started sharing his book with me. And after church, he asked for my number. I felt this man had been very nice sharing his book with me. I just gave him my number. I thought it was one of these exchanges and here we are nine years after.
What has life taught you?
Life has taught me not to judge a book by its cover. Life is a constant reminder that excellence is not a destination, it’s a journey. I also believe in hard work, don’t wait for things to be handed to you, work for it, earn it.
Secret of your beauty?
I joined the gym three years ago, but before then I had always been a physically active person even as a young lady. We used to live in Omole Estate in Lagos and I would jog, jog, within the estate. Even at home you can’t find me just sitting. I will probably move chairs, bed, and rearrange things. Naturally you are going to burn calories that way. What you see is also a habit that is formed. I believe in healthy nutrition. Even though I love chocolates, I try to balance it out with lots of fruits, vegetables. These are habits I picked from my dad. My work as training specialist keeps me on my feet also, talking and talking to a class of 40 to 60 people keeps you trim.