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|Motto||Empowering Women Beyond Beauty|
|Daily Times of Nigeria|
Miss Nigeria is an annual beauty pageant show which showcases positive attributes of Nigerian women and awards university scholarships. The winner portrays exemplary qualities and serves as a role model for young women in the country. The pageant is currently organized by Daily Times.
National newspaper Daily Times are owners of the Miss Nigeria franchise which started as a photo contest in 1957. Contestants posted photographs of themselves to the Daily Times headquarters in Lagos where finalists were shortlisted; those successful were invited to compete in the live final which at the time did not include a swimsuit competition at the Lagos Island Club. UAC employee Grace Oyelude won the maiden edition of Miss Nigeria, and would later use part of her £200 prize money to travel to England where she studied Nursing. Contrary to popular belief, Julie Coker was not the first Miss Nigeria - she was actually Miss Western Nigeria but used the 'Miss Nigeria' title during official engagements aboard. However, she did compete in the contest the year after Oyelude's reign, losing to secretarial student Helen Anyamaeluna. Former seamstress Nene Etule remains the only non-Nigerian to have won the contest; she was eligible as the Southern Cameroons were under Nigerian constitution in 1959. The following year the contest was briefly renamed 'Miss Independence' to commemorate the country's independence from British rule, and the winner Rosemary Anieze was crowned in a ceremony which included Coker as one of the judges.
The sixties saw Miss Nigeria competing at international level. Yemi Idowu, who had won the contest in 1962 was a semi-finalist at Miss United Nations 1963. Her successor, salesgirl Edna Park, was the first Nigerian at Miss Universe in 1964, and is best remembered for disrupting the show by collapsing on stage after failing to reach the top fifteen. Park was carried away by policemen and contest officials before spending the night in a Miami hospital under sedation, where she was consoled by Nneka Onyegbula, wife of the Nigerian ambassador, who reportedly stated: "All the judges are White and they aren’t really competent to judge [a] dark girl's beauty". After Park, no other Miss Nigeria competed at Miss Universe. Rosaline Balogun became the first official Miss Nigeria at Miss World in 1967.[clarification needed]
With the gradual demise of Daily Times and rivalry with Sliverbird's Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, Miss Nigeria ceased to be the country's most prominent pageant and began to lose its way towards the nineties; in the mid-eighties Daily Times had lost its license to send delegates to Miss World and Miss Universe, and no winner was crowned after Clara Ojo's victory from 1994 to 1998 due to the organiser's incapability to convene a pageant during this time. After the new millennium, Miss Nigeria became a shadow of its former self, and the contest was placed on hold in 2004 by Daily Times.
In 2010, after a six-year attempt, AOE Events and Entertainment, headed by former MBGN Nike Oshinowo were brought into the Miss Nigeria franchise by Daily Times. For the first time in its history, entry was open to women in the diaspora, and inspired by Miss America, Oshinowo relaunched Miss Nigeria as a scholarship programme which offered free tuition to the winner and second and third-place winners, with the Miss Nigeria titleholder receiving a scholarship to study at any University of her choice worldwide. The new Miss Nigeria now included a reality show The Making of a Queen which saw contestants compete in various tasks synonymous with Nigerian women including cooking on outdoor firewood stoves, hostessing, and haggling with market traders, with a number of contestants facing eviction each week. Evening gowns were made from traditional African fabrics, and most notably the swimsuit competition was discontinued. The pageant ran for two years before the organization of the pageant was taken over by Beth Model Management CEO and former Miss Nigeria UK Elizabeth Aisien in 2012.
Throughout the year, the winner is sponsored by several prestigious organisations, and may land endorsement deals. In 2016, Miss Nigeria came up with an initiative called The GREEN-GIRL PROJECT which is a community development initiative aimed at empowering young women to become facilitators of sustainable practices towards ensuring a clean and peaceful environment. It also aims to give young women a platform to become agents of change for the environment.
Contestants are required to be unmarred, childless and not pregnant, with a good command of English, and of Nigerian citizenship. They should be between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, be of good health and character with no tattoos or piercings apart from ears.
The competition usually starts off with a call to entry where interested participants are required to purchase their registration forms after which a casting call would commence in the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria. The casting call finds the judges in one of their toughest battles as they have to choose 37 girls out of the thousands of girls that apply. The chosen 37 head out to a bootcamp lasting a total of 2–3 weeks.
During bootcamp contestants are given tasks to test their skills in different areas. They are also given training in various activities to empower them, develop their entrepreneurship skills and expose them to different industries enabling them to understand and begin to learn what it takes to be an ambassador.
Originally contestants were given numbers during live shows, but this was changed in 2010 when they each represented Nigerian states. For the 2013 edition, they represented their respective individuality - each contestant had their name printed on her sash, and only twenty-one of the thirty-six semi-finalists competed in the grand finale . In 2015, the contestants once again represented states.
Prizes for the winner vary each year; as of 2013 it includes ₦3,000,000, a luxury car, the Miss Nigeria diamond-encrusted crown, an apartment for the duration of her reign, and a modeling contract with Beth Model Management. The full scholarship now extends to higher institutions in the country only.
Critics had described the original pageant as a parade of beauty with no brains. Former pageant manager Yomi Onanuga told an interviewer in 2006: "We are tired of seeing girls on stage after two weeks in camp, and having much fun, all we see is that they ask them [questions] and they win. Two months after, somebody asks her the same question, she cannot answer, and people begin to ask, Where did she get her crown from?". English Literature student Ibinabo Fiberesima was unable to name the vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan which she attended. Fiberesima has claimed in numerous interviews and on her former website that she had competed in 1997, but this statement is questionable because no contest was held from 1994 to 1998; she had actually been a contestant in 1991, finishing second behind Bibiana Ohio.
In 1988, dark-skinned trainee caterer Stella Okoye crowned her successor Wunmi Adebowale, who was also dark, thus breaking a long line of light-skinned winners, yet Okoye's reign had not been without controversy - fellow contestant Omasan Buwa told The Punch in 2011 "In the hall that day, there was a big uproar and they had to take her out with police escort[s]. The audience felt she was very dark."
The mediocre prizes and lack of endorsements were also a cause for concern before the new millennium. Miss Nigeria 1993 Janet Fateye told an interviewer: "People thought I was raking in all the money there was, but that wasn't the case. The prize money at the time was a mere N12,000, given to me at N1,000 a month. Yes, I got the car prize that was being serviced by Daily Times, but then I had to buy petrol!" Millennium queen Vien Tetsola was said to be residing in accommodation which hardly matched her status during her reign.
Miss Nigeria 1981 Tokunboh Onanuga was dethroned after it was uncovered that she had forged a WAEC certificate which she used to gain admission into the University of Lagos. WAEC have since confirmed on their Twitter account that Onanuga had committed exam fraud.
In 1990, Binta Sukai's eligibility to compete was questioned as she was rumoured to be non-Nigerian, until it was confirmed that the aspiring fashion designer was only one-quarters Scottish. Although she has been referred to as the first Northerner to win Miss Nigeria (her father was Fulani), this milestone was already reached when Grace Oyelude was crowned in 1957. Oyelude was from the Northern Region, albeit of Yoruba heritage.
In 2001, magazine City People revealed that the reigning Miss Nigeria, thirty-year-old Valerie Peterside, had lied about her actual age (she had told organisers she was twenty-five) and forged her university qualifications (she was reportedly expelled from Ahmadu Bello University prior to graduation due to examination malpractice). Following an investigation by several prominent Nigerians including former Daily Times editor Tony Momoh and former Miss Nigeria contestant Julie Coker, a decision was made to dethrone her. Peterside, who had competed the previous year (still as a 25-year-old), fought to keep the crown, but was forced to resign, allowing first runner-up Applied Chemistry student Amina Ekpo to take over.
Despite her popularity as Miss Nigeria 2002, International Relations graduate Sylvia Edem attracted further media attention when it was rumoured she had forged her date of birth to compete, like Peterside before her. It was believed that Edem was thirty years old, until an investigation confirmed she was indeed twenty-three.
|Year||Title Holder||Region/state of Origin*||Notes|
|1957||Grace Oyelude||Northern Region||Now retired from nursing|
|1958||Helen Anyamaeluna †||Eastern Region|
|1959||Nene Etule||Eastern Region/Southern Cameroons||Now Nene Malafa; married former Director of United Nations Information Services in Nigeria, Pen Malafa;|
|1960||Rosemary Anieze also known as "Miss Independence"||Mid-Western Region|
|1962||Yemi Idowu||Western Region||Now Yemi Majekodunmi; was semi-finalist at Miss United Nations |
|1964||Edna Park||Mid-Western Region||First - and last - official Miss Nigeria at Miss Universe; now lives in the United Kingdom|
|1965||Anna Eboweime||Mid-Western Region|
|1967||Rosaline Balogun||Western State||First official Miss Nigeria at Miss World|
|1968||Foluke Ogundipe||Western State|
|1979||Helen Prest||Bendel||Later Helen-Prest Davis and now Helen Prest-Ajayi; author and columnist; daughter competed in MBGN 2012|
|1981||Tokunbo Onanuga dethroned||Lagos||Dethroned after false WAEC results were discovered|
|1985||Rosemary Okeke||Imo||Fashion designer|
|1986||Rita Anuku †||Bendel|
|1991||Bibiana Ohio||Lagos||Worked as an actress and dog-breeder|
|1993||Janet Fateye||Lagos||Now Janet Gabriel; IT consultant and former pharmacist, currently pursuing music career with band Neophonics in United Kingdom|
|2000||Vien Tetsola also known as the "Millennium Queen"||Delta|
|2001 a||Valerie Peterside dethroned||Rivers||Dethroned for forging age and qualifications|
|2001 b||Amina Ekpo replaced Peterside||Akwa Ibom||Now an applied chemist|
|2002||Sylvia Edem||Cross River||First South-Eastern winner|
|2003||Nwando Okwuosa||Anambra||Last Miss Nigeria to compete at international level|
|2004||Ene Lawani||Benue||Now a fashion designer specializing in headgear|
|2013||Ezinne Akudo Anyaoha||Imo||Now a lawyer and activist|
|2015||Lessi Peter-Vigboro||Cross River|
|2017||Mildred Peace Ehiguese||Adamawa||First North-Eastern winner|
|2018||Chidinma Leilani Aaron||South-East Region||This year, the organizers decided the girls would represent geo-political zones in Nigeria as opposed to single states.|
- Denotes Region/state of origin during time of coronation
Other notable contestants
- Julie Coker (1958) - Former Newsreader
- Joan Okorodudu (1981) - Fashion Designer
- Omasan Buwa (1987) - Politician and columnist
- Linda Ikeji (2003)- Model and blogger
- Cynthia Chisom (2004) - Model, Lawyer, and Miss Commonwealth Nigeria 2010
- Ufuoma Ejenobor (2004) - Actress
- Sylvia Nduka (2010) - MBGN 2011 Denied competing in pageant
- Nowe Isibor (2011) - Creative Director/Founder Mosé - The Mosé Store
- Mbong Amata (2004) - Actress
- Patricia Onumonu- Fashion Designer and Founder Trish O Couture 
Unofficial title holders
- Former Miss Western Nigeria Julie Coker has often been wrongly described as the first winner of Miss Nigeria.
- In 1963, Gina Onyejiaka sponsored herself at Miss World after Nigeria failed to send Miss Nigeria winner Alice Aleebe; the High Commission in the United Kingdom refused to acknowledge Onyejiaka as the country's representative.
- In 1966, after Nigeria were unable to send a representative to the Miss World 1966 pageant, Uzor Okafor sponsored herself to the pageant but the organisers disqualified her as she was not the official Miss Nigeria - no contest had been held that year. Okafor later claimed that she was not interested in the pageant, but had been persuaded to represent her country by her British husband.
- Shortly after Agbani Darego's victory at Miss World, Miss Nigeria 2001 Amina Ekpo took legal action against her MBGN counterpart who was accused of misrepresentation, stating that Darego had fraudulently presented herself as Miss Nigeria at the international pageant, and had not been authorised to use the title - at international level MBGN representatives are often presented as "Miss Nigeria". Former Daily Times managing director Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, who had famously described MBGN winners as "lowly-rated queens" supported the $10,000,000 lawsuit, claiming "We will do everything possible to make sure we prevent people from tampering with a patented pageant like Miss Nigeria, [and] will not allow anybody to misrepresent us."
- The Guardian came under fire for misrepresenting the Miss Nigeria brand in 2011 when Theatre Arts student and former MBGN runner-up Sandra Otohwo was described as Miss Nigeria 2009 by the publication. Otohwo, who had represented Nigeria at Miss Universe 2009, posed for photographs wearing a bikini at the beach which enraged the Miss Nigeria organisers who had promoted their swimsuit-free pageant as a wholesome institution, and pointed out that the competition was dormant from 2004 to 2010, therefore making it impossible for the organisers to have crowned a Queen in 2009. The Guardian later apologised by printing Nike Oshinowo's complaint in a subsequent issue.
Difference between Miss Nigeria and MBGN
MBGN is organized by the Silverbird Group while Miss Nigeria is organized by Daily Times (Folio). The Miss Nigeria swimsuit competition was scrapped in 2011, but remains popular at MBGN.  Another important distinction is MBGN winners automatically become representatives at international level while Miss Nigeria acts as a cultural ambassador.
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