Dreaming Lagos beauty...
I'M in a shopping plaza in Lagos Island. I can hear different sounds. Chatter boxes of both refined and crude people sync and out of tune. Sounds of hooting cars, arriving and departing. My ears suffer for the next hour or so. I try to move away from the tone-deaf and rhythmically challenged area, but all to no avail. I can feel the sweat pour down my body. This is one odd place to have an interview, but the show has to go on.
Everybody has come to shop like Queen Lott Onu, managing director of Queenikky International. She looks at me and winks as she sights me from afar.
Clad in a black pant and a halter neck, Lott appears so calm even from afar. She climbs the stair, sinking her shoe on the hard floor gently. She urges me to tag along. She whoops in relief as she almost trips.
In a very gentle tone, that almost seems conspiratorially, she says, “I thank God for giving me the inspiration to imagine and create the Okin Oge Cultural Beauty Pageant.”
Lott gushes in earthly, soulful tunes, as we settle down to a chat. “I also thank Him for making it possible that the pageant received the blessing of the Lagos State government, especially the Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relationship and also, the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness, Oba Rilwan Akiolu 1.”
Her voice cackles in a girly manner. The leggy lady says with delight, “the pageant is well thought out to recreate the soul of pageantry in the country. The focus will be on our cultural values and heritage as a people. It is distinct, rich and creatively designed to be like none at the moment.”
She adds, “it is hoped that the pageant will bring out the intellectual and cultural essence of our young girls, and point them to the path of integrity, enterprise and moral rectitude.”
ANCHORED on the premise of promoting Lagos cultural uniqueness and tourism, the pageant aims at further enhancing the image of the state, as the centre of excellence and also bring cultural renaissance and to present the qualities of African beauty and rich cultural heritage.
Another goal of the pageant is promoting self-esteem of contestants. It offers “not just a place, but a particular way and stringently limited terms with which to negotiate a sense of self.”
The cultural beauty pageant is slated to hold on May 29 at Lagos Oriental Hotel, VI; and the qualified contestants will be camped at Vantage Beach hotel and resort by ocean side, Lekki Phase 1.
BEFORE Lott conceived the pageant, she had an undying passion for showbiz, which in fact, led her into modeling, from where she began to organize shows.
Today, she does not only organise shows for corporate bodies, but also manages models for business developments.
With a clientele base that cuts across the country and some African countries, the catwalk queen is also into calendars modeling, billboards, TVC and corporate ushering.
Her dream is for Nigerian models to be treated with respect, dignity and integrity. She also looks forward to the day Nigerian models will work and earn good wages like their counterparts in the western world.
Yet for all her passion, she is so reserved that you wonder if she's actually aloof. She says softly, “our ultimate goal at Queenikky is to continually provide professional services to our clients. We also crave for a situation where those from both the public and private sectors would always encourage and support models and the industry, because it's an industry with huge potentials.”
She says wistfully, letting the sentence to hang. “Another of our aim is to build a modeling school soon, thus becoming consultants to affiliated bodies… globally.”
She shrugs when asked the difference between the pageant and a similar one sponsored by the state government. “Our pageant aims to synthesise the functional and symbolic qualities of African beauty embedded in its rich cultural heritage.”
Echoing the thought, which in a way is the feature of the more than one hour conversation, she says, “we intend to redefine the texture and typology of what we mean by beauty from an African perspective. Our desire is to present to the world, our own construct of what an African queen should represent. We want to deepen the definition of beauty from the African root.”
While saying that the event will have cultural dance and rhythm competition, visits to traditional rulers, orphanages and social centres as part of activities lined up for the queens, she stresses that the emerging Okin Oge of Lagos (Ceremonial Queen of Lagos) will be unique in that she will perform a lot of duties.
Lott shakes her head, her face softening, she enthuses, “the emerging winner of the pageant would walk home with a cash reward, trip to Ghana and a brand new car.”
The team behind Okin Oge of Lagos project is fully prepared to take beauty pageant in Nigeria, indeed in Africa to a new and exciting level which would be akin to the Oscar Award in the United States of America, says Lott.
LAST year, she treated children and staff of the Surulere, Lagos-based Heart of Gold Children Hospice to a scintillating Children's Day party/special visit.
Aside from the cash and several gift items donation, Lott and her team, also came with a popular disc jockey, who spent several hours dishing out good music to the admiration of the elated children and staff. The visit climaxed with a dancing competition.
Lott hinted that the need to show love to the less privileged as well as to formally unveil her foundation, were the reasons for the visit. She further promised to do more for the needy in the society through her Queenikky Foundation.
“This visit really touched my inner most part, and from this day, we have promised to make it a yearly thing. Such children need love and attention. We must continue to show them love, no matter their fate or level of physical challenges.”
PRINCE Kenny Mobolaji Bakare, Project Coordinator says, “the event will be the best of its kind because it will enhance long standing support for Lagos State culture, tourism and youth development drive by empowering our young beautiful ladies who shall showcase beauty with brain during and after the event for a life time opportunity”.
Bakare adds the pageant is going to set a new standard and “this is a heart warming experience for me and my partners as we conceive a package that will entertain, educate and form a social platform for our young and intelligent young ladies to fully express themselves.”
At the grand finale of the pageant, 21 young ladies from all the local councils in the State will showcase their beauty, intellect and social acculturation.
The Okin Oge queen will be crowned by the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu and she would be a cultural ambassador that will be the new face of Lagos carrying out social and humanitarian acts that will benefit the society.
Story by GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR - The Guardian Life magazine