Ebele Enemchukwu is the former Mrs Nigeria United Nations 2015, Mrs Tourism United Nations and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Women Are Beauty Inside Out (WABIO) International Limited, a non-governmental organisation. In this interview with , she speaks about her experience as a beauty pageant and the need for parents to allow their children to follow their dreams.
What are some of your most memorable experiences as Mrs Nigeria?
My experience as Mrs. Nigeria was an amazing one, and the benefits are still being enjoyed today, alongside the many wonderful relationships which developed at that time. I must point out however, that my Mrs. Nigeria story cannot be told in isolation of my story as Mrs Tourism United Nations World. What do I mean? You see as mentioned earlier, Mrs Nigeria was the national title I won at the keenly-contested pageant which held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. Upon winning that, I represented Nigeria on the international stage in Kingston, Jamaica, two months later and there I won the Mrs Tourism United Nations title.
My memorable experiences are too numerous to be accommodated in this interview session. However, memories that will last forever are those that had to do with the pure joy which radiated through the faces of the many people that were reached through my various acts of charity in schools, treatment homes, communities, including the 2016 Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign which brought so much enlightenment to the women of Ikota village. In the world of tourism, knowing that I contributed (and I am still contributing) in many capacities to the survival story of tourism in Nigeria is a memory that will never fade.
I am trying hard not to respond in past tense because truth be told, my official journey as Beauty Queen may be over, but activities which my national and international titles brought are still ongoing, and by God’s grace, won’t end any time soon.
How has been life after your reign as a Beauty Queen?
Since handing over my crown in July last year, I’ve had to completely agree with the saying that goes “once a Beauty Queen, always a Beauty Queen.” Not much has changed! The only difference as we speak is the fact that I no longer make appearances in my crown and sashe(s). Beyond that, I am still very much involved in all the activities which dominated my reign as both National and International Queen, some of which I highlighted earlier. My foundation is still alive to the glory of God and benefit of humanity. My tourism involvement has expanded both within and outside the shores of our beloved country.
You launched an NGO towards the end of your reign, how far have you gone with the project?
Yes, the WABIO Foundation is a non-governmental organisation registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, through which women and girls are reminded that they can be all and more than they want to be, irrespective of marital and birth status. If women tap into their inner beauties and capabilities, they will learn to reduce the emphasis which associates beauty with only physical qualities or attainments. Our maiden project was the 2017 Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign where in conjunction with Heartwells Group, we took the campaign to the women of Igbogbo Baiyeku in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State.
Over 200 women benefitted from the lecture tagged “Understanding Breast Cancer” delivered by Dr. Ajayi. This was then followed by the distribution of breast self examination kits as a proactive way to detect any anomaly and nipping it in the bud. Beyond that, the WABIO Foundation has continued in that effort, by employing the use of such channels as radio, TV, newspapers, social media, to spread the message of awareness against this deadly scourge. We haven’t stopped, even this year.
That said, it is important to clear the misconception of the WABIO Foundation being a breast cancer NGO. No, WABIO is an NGO dedicated to the cause of womanhood. The Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign was simply our first project considering the level of ignorance surrounding it and how much closer the disease is getting to younger women as opposed to what used to be.
By God’s grace, WABIO Foundation, which is the humble vehicle on which my charity activities have been running post-reign will continue in her efforts of reminding women that they are MORE!
In recognition of some of our humble efforts, I was honoured as a recipient of the African Virtuous Women Awards which held in Abuja on September 1, 2018.
What motivated you to start the project in the first place?
The desire to continue reaching out and making a positive impact motivated me. The belief that God provided this platform as a way of giving and not just receiving. So from my little corner, I decided there was no way the charity angle to my reign was going to end with the completion of my tenure as Queen, so I launched the WABIO Foundation one month before I handed over the Tourism title to Mrs Aruba last year. Unfortunately, the crown has left Nigeria, but not before I used it to lend a hand and a voice in both charity and to tell the Tourism story of Nigeria. Like I said, the journey continues, even without the crown. I am known as the Queen Mother now. Hahaha!
What are some of the achievements WABIO has recorded so far?
Not as many as I would have hoped, but the 2017 and 2018 Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns have been some areas where WABIO has tried to contribute. Plans are underway to put out another empowerment programme for the girl child. You will hear soon. Funding is an issue, but as always, we shall conquer!
How were you able to combine your career and other activities with the home front?
It’s been by the grace of God, and other graces which I am blessed with. I am blessed with the gift of great time management skills. So I’m able to understand at any given time, what’s important and what’s urgent, and allot my time accordingly. More so, I’m blessed with a fantastic support system as I already mentioned. With these, things just fall into place.
What advice do you have for parents who don’t want their children to participate in beauty pageants?
The natural belief is that every parent wants what is best for their children. With that in mind, my advice will depend on the said parents’ reason(s) for not wanting their children to participate in pageants. Don’t forget, I’m not equipped with as much information on these children as their parents.
Therefore, I’d say to parents, if your reason for not wanting your children, especially your female children to participate in pageants is founded on the very many negative connotations and stereotypes associated with pageantry and Beauty Queens in general, then your fears are valid considering the volume of uncomplimentary stories out there. However, this is where guidance and hand holding will play a major role.
This could be done by the parents themselves, or by engaging a Pageant Coach such as myself, who is more experienced and will point them in the right direction so as to avoid some of the common pitfalls Beauty Queens are sometimes prone to.
With one responsible Queen after another, the narrative that often associates Beauty Queens with being morally loose will be changed. We are more!
Like I keep saying, and I’ll say again, dear parents, do not unintentionally kill your children’s dreams. God has put them in our care to help them discover their talents and hone same to the glory of God. Pray for wisdom, pray for the gift of discernment, watch closely, you’ll identify their areas of interest.
All that is needed is proper guidance, because if mismanaged, what ought to be a blessing may end up being a source of sorrow and embarrassment for the child and his or her family. That’s not the prayer!
Plus, we must not lose sight of the whole idea of pageantry to build a more confident woman, a stronger woman, a woman who can contribute meaningfully to self, society, world; a woman with a high level of self-esteem.
Pageantry in itself is to give you that “can-do” spirit, to make you say, “hey! I am beautiful and being beautiful is not just on the outside, but also on the inside.
Again, guidance is needed. It’s okay for parents to place conditions such as insisting on the child attaining a certain age or educational qualification first, before venturing into pageantry. It all still comes down to proper guidance.
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