Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria
|Silverbird Group |
Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria – often abbreviated as MBGN – is a pageant organised by Silverbird Group with the main purpose of sending representatives to international competitions. Originally known as Miss Universe Nigeria, it was renamed Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria after news publishers Daily Times lost its license to send delegates from rival contest Miss Nigeria to Miss World and Miss Universe.
Former publisher Ben Murray-Bruce ventured into show business after his magazine Silverbird flopped. He took a loan of N200,000 from his father which he used to organise a number of successful concerts which saw artists like Shalamar and Kool and the Gang perform in Nigeria, after which he promoted a new pageant known as Miss Universe Nigeria in 1983, but it only gained public attention after it changed its name to Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 1986, and its first winner was model Lynda Chuba.
MBGN winners are expected to represent Nigeria at Miss World (although Lynda Chuba, Rihole Gbinigie, Chika Chikezie, Angela Ukpoma, and Isabella Ayuk did not have this opportunity), and until 2004 at other international pageants including Miss Universe, where Chuba was the first Nigerian in twenty-three years to compete after Edna Park's on-stage hysteria in 1964, while the first MBGN winner at Miss World was English language student Omasan Buwa in 1987. As with most pageants second-place winners are expected to replace the title-holder if they are unable to complete their reign; this has only happened twice – Biology student Regina Askia replaced Bianca Onoh after the latter resigned in 1989, while Philosophy student Ann Suinner continued Agbani Darego's win after she was crowned as Miss World in 2001.
Winners traditionally adopt at least one platform (also known as 'pet project') during their reign – an issue which is of relevance to Nigeria. Once chosen, the winner (and occasionally other finalists) uses their status to address the public about their platform. The most popular has been Sickle cell Awareness, but others have included Polio, Child labour, Education, and Widow Empowerment.
In 2007, Silverbird announced that the pageant would produce four more representatives apart from the winner. The original titles were Miss MBGN Universe (to represent at Miss Universe), MBGN Tourism (Miss Tourism International), and MBGN Ecowas (Miss Ecowas). A fifth title, MBGN Model, which allowed its holder to compete in modelling contests at international level, was dropped and replaced with MBGN Ambassador, with its winner performing ceremonial duties in the country.
The differences between MBGN and Miss Nigeria have been compared with Miss USA and Miss America. While MBGN delegates compete at international level, Miss Nigeria winners no longer have this privilege. In 2010 Miss Nigeria was relaunched as a scholarship programme and its winners in recent years receive modelling contract as part of their prize. MBGN focuses mainly on physical beauty unlike Miss Nigeria which is excepted to promote inner beauty with a wholesome girl-next-door image – as a result its swimsuit competition was famously scrapped in 2010 but this feature remains popular at MBGN.
Screening exercises (also known as 'auditions') are held nationwide to select contestants, and successful contestants will be coached on etiquette and stage presence at the boot-camp before competing at the finale, where segments include Interview and Evening Gown, and unlike Miss Nigeria, Swimwear. In the pageant's early days, contestants were allowed to wear maillots of their choice during the swimsuit parade. Identical bikinis are now used instead. In 2014, a talent competition was introduced as part of the preliminaries.
In the mid-nineties, after MBGN got no place at Miss Universe and Miss World, MBGN organisers placed height and weight restrictions on the contestants' entry forms, and judges were told not to select the woman they found most attractive, but the one with a greater chance of winning at international pageants.
Due to the country's conservative standards, very few contestants competed in the early days of MBGN, and competitors from Northern Nigeria are still rare, as its predominantly Muslim population frown on beauty pageants. Guy Murray-Bruce, who succeeded his brother as pageant director in 1992 told The Guardian: "... getting the girls to come and participate was hard, and we literally had to beg them to participate. But since (former Miss World) Agbani [Darego] won it in 2001, we don’t beg anyone anymore".
Prizes for the winner vary each year, but have always included cash; as of 2012, it stands at N3,000,000, and some winners have also received a car.
Although Mary Ngozi Bienoseh did not win the maiden edition of MBGN in 1986, she became the first Nigerian to be named African Continental Queen of Beauty, reaching the top ten at Miss World 1987. Other MBGN delegates who have received this honour are Chinenye Ochuba and Anita Uwagbale in 2002 and 2004 respectively. 1988 winner, Law student Bianca Onoh was crowned Miss Intercontinental in 1989, and Theatre graduate Sabina Umeh was the first Nigerian to win the Personality prize at Miss World 1990. Toyin Raji was the recipient in 1995, despite withdrawing from the pageant due to political protests. Prior to this, Raji had been named Miss Congeniality at Miss Universe 1995.
MBGN's biggest achievement was in 2001 when Computer Science and Mathematics student Agbani Darego became the first native Sub-Saharan to clinch the Miss World title, and the first Nigerian in the top ten at Miss Universe.
At least three MBGN winners have previously competed at Miss Nigeria: Omasan Buwa (1987), Sylvia Nduka (2010), and Isabella Ayuk (2004) Miss Nigeria 2002, Sylvia Edem, was in the top five at MBGN 1998, as was Miss Nigeria 1993 Pharmacy graduate Janet Fateye who had competed in MBGN 1992 as Kemi Fateye.[unreliable source?]
Many MBGN winners have pursued careers in entertainment, including Sabina Umeh, Regina Askia, Emma Komlosy (who reigned for the longest period in MBGN history from 1996–1998, and to date remains MBGN's only mixed-race winner), Celia Bissong, and Munachi Nwankwo. Lynda Chuba-Ikpeazu and Omasan Buwa have moved into politics, and Nike Oshinowo has worked in pageantry.
Other notable contestants
- Lilian Bach (as Bola Bach), actress
- Sylvia Edem Miss Nigeria 2002
- Vanessa Ekeke Miss Commonwealth Nigeria 2002 and Nigerian Representative to Miss Earth 2002. Now Executive Director of Miss Nigeria International.
- Janet Fateye (as Kemi Fateye), singer and Miss Nigeria 1993"
- Yemi Fawaz ("Miss Universe Nigeria, 1984), "model and actress" 
- Ibinabo Fiberesima, actress
- May Ikeora, lawyer  and Miss Ecowas 2003
- Alex Lopez, actress
- Stephanie Okereke, actress
- Ebinabo Potts-Johnson, model
- Gloria 'Giomanni' Ziregbe (2004), Singer 
MGBN Winners also won other titles at worldwide pageants.
|1986||Lynda Chuba||Imo||Miss Africa 1987|
|1988||Bianca Onoh||Abuja||Miss Intercontinental 1989|
|2001||Agbani Darego||Rivers||Miss World 2001|
List of MBGN Titles
Originally, only the winner represented Nigeria at International level, although in some cases the runners-up acted as replacements where necessary. However, in 2007 the show was revamped to produce five representatives. MGBN World represents Nigeria at Miss World, while MBGN Universe and MBGN Tourism compete at Miss Universe and Miss Tourism International respectively.
The awards most frequently presented at MBGN are Miss Photogenic, Miss Amity, and Best Traditional Costume.
From 2007 to 2012, soft drink marketers La Casera, in conjunction with MBGN organisers chose a contestant to be the face of their brand. The winner of the title, Miss La Casera, was expected to promote their product and work on various projects which would reach out to the less privileged and the needy in society. The Miss La Casera winner also received a car and N1,000,000.
In 1989, shortly after winning the Nigerian version of Miss Intercontinental, Bianca Onoh was forced to resign after it emerged that she was in a relationship with former Biafran leader and Ikemba of Nnewi Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a political associate of her father who was over thirty years her senior – one tabloid falsely reported that she was pregnant. Although the couple never confirmed or denied the affair until their wedding in 1994, pageant organisers Silverbird were furious as MBGN title-holders are said to be discouraged from having high-profile relationships during their tenure. Onoh later stated that the pressure of performing her duties as a pageant queen was unbearable, which explained her decision to hand over her crown to second-place winner Regina Askia. To date, Silverbird do not acknowledge Onoh's 1988 win on the MBGN website, and refuse to mention her at MBGN live shows.
Actress Ibinabo Fiberesima has claimed in numerous interviews that she had competed in 1998 and emerged second runner-up, but this statement is questionable as the person who had actually placed third was International Relations student Sylvia Edem, who would later win Miss Nigeria in 2002.
In 2011, a day after the grand finale, pageant judges of MBGN complained that the name announced as the winner was not the one they had picked. Sylvia Nduka, who most believed was an undeserving winner, was asked by a reporter why she had failed to promptly respond to a question during the interview stage, and she replied that she was unprepared, as MBGN was her first pageant. However YouTube videos revealed that Accountancy student Nduka had been a contestant in Miss Nigeria 2010 where she received coaching in etiquette and media, and participated in the competition's reality show, but failed to make the final ten at the grand finale in Abuja – reports claim that an enraged Nduka, who had represented Kaduna, refused to return to the stage during eventual winner Damilola Agbajor's coronation and even smashed her 'Miss Kaduna' plaque. Silverbird later defended Nduka by stating, "Everybody will always have something to say when someone wins. Even when Agbani Darego won in 2001, people talked. We should understand that people who supported other contestants that didn’t win won’t be necessarily happy with the results. And as for [Nduka] goofing her questions, it's just a case of her being nervous, I spoke with her at the after-party of the pageant and she was quite eloquent."
2012 winner Isabella Ayuk claimed to be twenty-six when she competed, until reports suggested that she had forged her age, thus giving the impression that she was younger than her actual years (she was said to be thirty). Despite a public outcry, pageant director Guy Murray-Bruce stated that Ayuk would not be dethroned and will continue to serve as the reigning queen. However, due to age restrictions, she did not represent Nigeria at Miss World that year.
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. Former Daily Times managing director Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo, who had famously described MBGN winners as "lowly-rated queens" at the Miss Nigeria 2001 grand finale, 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."
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