“I was brimming with confidence that I would sail through because of the energy I brought from home with everybody telling me ‘Alice, yes, you can do it…”
After a keen contest with 36 other girls, Alice Duke emerged the winner of Beauty of Africa International Pageant (BAIP), which held in Lagos recently. She smiled home with a cash prize, brand new car and wardrobe allowance including representing Nigeria at Miss Tourism International in 2019.
In this chat, the graduate of English Language & Literary Studies from University of Calabar (UNICAL) opens up on growing up, winning the crown and dreams of becoming an actress.
How do you feel after emerging winner of Beauty of Africa International Pageant (BAIP) 2018?
I never believed I could win the crown. I actually had eyes for some of the other sub-crowns like Miss Charity Queen. I told myself that the worst scenario was that, if I didn’t take the crown home, I could smile home with the Miss Charity crown. And then, when I was announced as overall winner, it was really shocking and surprising! Inside me, I was excited and overwhelmed. I just had to swallow the shock. I was happy, amazed and really excited.
Your victory was a shock to you and that means you did not expect to win?
No, I didn’t.
(Laughter) My first week in camp was so exciting. I was brimming with confidence that I would sail through because of the energy I brought from home with everybody telling me ‘Alice, yes, you can do it. You are smart, young and good to go’. So, that propelled me through the first week, but going into the second week, the stress came down on me. Camp activities were overwhelming and somehow I ended up breaking down and I started losing focus.
Then we had this girl in the house, Miss Abuja, who had so much energy she was up and going; she just kept going. I mean she had boundless energy. Inside of me, I felt intimidated and I just said ‘okay, she is doing great; I’ve met someone more active than I, she is intelligent and pretty so if I don’t get the crown and she does, well she deserves it’.
I actually felt that Miss Abuja was better than I was, and I also felt Miss Bayelsa was a bomb! However, I wasn’t surprised when I made the Top 10, because from the online voting, I scored highest, so I was already guaranteed a Top 10 slot. Beyond the votes, I just knew I was going to make it to the Top 10, but winning the ultimate crown just blew me out of my mind!
When you were announced as winner, did you shed tears of joy?
I tried to cry but the tears were not coming. I was so excited and happy. I did not know what to do at that moment. I looked around and said to myself ‘is this me? Could this be me?’ And I just found out I wasn’t in dreamland; it was happening in real time.
Who did you call first to share your good news with?
My mum. She needed to hear the good news first because she has been so supportive right from the very beginning when I saw the advert on Instagram. She was the first person I told I was going to do this and she was like ‘if this is what you have always wanted to do, go for it’. I was surprised she gave me her nod so easily. She was like ‘if this is what will make you happy, go for it; give it a shot, you’re good to go’. She supported me all the way and always prayed for me all the time to make sure I was fine. So, when the good news came, I just couldn’t hold back.
How about your dad?
He doesn’t really know much about this but now he is informed. I think he is okay with it and is excited. Actually, my dad traveled; he was not around when I did all the arrangements for this, but as soon as I got to camp, I informed him and he gave me his blessings. He said ‘I believe in you, I know you are smart and a descent child. Definitely, I trust you to pull through.’
Tell us about growing up, were you born with a silver spoon?
I am from an average middle class family. We are not poor neither are we rich but we are okay. Was I born with a silver spoon? I think I am a lucky child and a very blessed one indeed with the kind
of family I come from. My parents always tried their best to provide for me and my siblings at all times, by giving us all that we needed growing up. I never lacked anything; clothes, food, and above all, love. I wasn’t a spoilt kid, though I was the first child and only daughter. My dad was very strict. I never received flogging from my parents but what I got was verbal ‘koboko’ and my mum and dad gave it to me in large doses; and it has helped in making me who I am today.
Which of your parents would you say played a more prominent role in shaping you into the woman that you are today?
My mum, because she thinks that as a child, you should be able to have your way in most of the things you aspire to be. She believes it is only what you have passion for that you will excel in. She believes that if you allow people to push you into doing things you don’t want to do, you might not turn out well. So, anything I tell her I want to do and she feels that it is on the good side, she is always there for me. She has always given me good advice and has moulded me into the woman I am today, and I am grateful to God for giving me such a loving mother.
Has it always been your dream to be a beauty queen?
Right from when I was a child, I have always participated in pageantry and I always won. Growing up and until recently, I have been in the movie industry in Cross Rivers State, though not very pronounced. I have done lots of stage performances and and I have been in a couple of short films as well. I also did a pageant in 2017 but I did not emerge winner but third runner-up, which earned me the position of Cross Rivers State Ambassador, and that gave me a lot of courage and boldness going into BAIP. I am glad it was a success.
Growing up, which beauty queens did you look up to?
Agbani Darego! Obviously, everybody loves her. She has always been an icon for young girls after she won Miss World, and that is because she made Nigeria proud. I look at her as someone I want to emulate.
Now you are stepping into a new world, are you confident he would be able to cope with your new status?
Definitely, he is very understanding and has been a hundred percent supportive. The advice he gave me that I won’t forget was ‘go and do your thing and bring home the crown’ and that is exactly what I did.
Now that you are a queen, what is going to be your pet project?
It is all about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in rural communities. I want to embark on an awareness campaign. It is a practice that should not be condoned. The objective is to create awareness so that we can eventually scrap it.
Were you a victim?
No. Not at all.
So, why FGM?
Based on my research, it is still a common practice in rural communities, and most people engage in it for religious reasons, but it is detrimental to the girl child. I believe the girl child is the rock of the nation. She has a right to be happy and live healthy. With her, the world is a better and safer place. That is the reason why I think I should concentrate on the girl child; the girl child must be protected.
Talking about keeping the girl child safe, the hashtag #metoo is currently trending and research shows that most women who are abused don’t speak up, why is it so?
I think it has to do with the stigma attached to being a victim. When you tell someone you have been raped in our society, you are stigmatised and men won’t want to associate with you. So, most times, women would rather keep it to themselves and that could have very terrible consequences.
Have you ever been abused before?
No, but I have a lot of friends who have been victims. I have a friend who was raped and I was the only person she could open up to. I advised her to talk to her mum or confide in somebody really close to her in order to start the healing process, because it was a traumatic experience for her.
Let’s look at Nollywood, are you dreaming of being an actress?
Definitely yes, because it is a passion. It is something that has been in me for like forever.
What was your greatest challenge in camp?
The stress in camp was extreme; the exercises, the rehearsals, most especially dancing and cat walking, and standing on heels from morning till night was exerting.
What is going to change about Alice Duke now that she is a queen?
Apart from the title, I don’t think anything is going to change about me. I will only be opening new doors and making new friends, which I will add to the old ones; I am still who I am.
What advice do you have for young girls who want to be queens like you?
Continue pushing and don’t ever give up because it is not an easy road. Most times, you go to pageants and you are not crowned, but that does not mean you should relent; just keep moving, keep fighting and keep motivating yourself.