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Being Miss Nigeria made me stronger, better, says Leesi Peter-Vigboro

By The Citizen
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For Leesi Peter-Vigboro, the reigning Miss Nigeria Queen, so much has not changed about her personality, as she has always kept her integrity, strive hard and always want to be the best in all her dealings. Her journey as the queen seems not easy as it comes with its challenges and benefits knowing that people especially youths look up to her.

For the ever radiant Computer Science graduate of University of Port Harcourt, Peter-Vigboro has shared stage with other top beauty queens, been involved in charity works and carried out her personal project as the reigning queen. In this chat with a group of journalists, Peter-Vigboro whose tenure will be wrapping up soon, as a new queen will emerge, opens up on her journey so far.

It's been almost a year since you emerged Miss Nigeria Queen, how has it been?

It's been a very wonderful journey for me. At first, it was such a challenge to settle into the role and handle so much attention especially from the media, as I'm usually a very introverted person. But eventually, I started getting the hang of it. I look back on the girl I was months before I won this and see that I have grown into a much stronger and better woman. This is one experience I'm eternally grateful to have experienced.

What exactly have you been able to achieve as regards your community project as a queen?

I have been involved in so many different community development projects and it's such a beautiful thing that I am in a position where I can positively impact my society. Asides from my visits to orphanage homes, I collaborated with Sebeccly Cancer Care Organization on a few projects; we visited community girl's secondary school where we educated the girls on how to carry out breast self-examination, and I also got to talk with the girls about my journey and motivate them. I equally collaborated with Sebeccly to carry out a 'Run For Cancer' campaign at the Okpekpe Road Race in Edo State where we raised awareness about breast cancer, carried out free testing for the community women, and we were also able to raise some funds for an initiative tagged, 'Change Her Cancer Story'. I am currently running a community development project in Port Harcourt called 'Project Young Minds'. I am working with young volunteers from other West African countries to train and equip the students in community schools with basic computer skills like Microsoft office, graphic design etc. We are also about to launch a project called 'Green Girl Project' aimed at empowering young women in areas with environmental degradation issues by training and equipping them with project management skills and good environmental practices that can enable them be active in the fight for environmental sustainability. We are focused on women because women generally have the most interactions with the environment especially in rural communities; yet their contributions and significance are hardly recognized.

What's next for you?
Hmmmmm, this is probably the 'most asked' question in my life right now, lol…  Well, right now, my interest is in conceptual photography, and so, I will be going ahead to pursue that path. However, I am generally in love with the arts and I'm still in the process of discovering and defining who I am, so I'm open to exploring even further and seeing where it leads.

You have been a queen for almost a year now, what lessons have you learnt from this platform?

The most important lesson I learnt during my reign as queen is that, one has to know who he or she is and work with that, because there will always be pressure to meet certain expectations. So, it is important to know who you are so you don't get carried away. I also learnt not to be too hard on myself and treat myself with patience, realising that I'm work in progress.

This position has brought you fame and exposure. How were you able to cope with it?

I tried my best to stay grounded. It's really very easy to get carried away with all the fame, but like I said, I tried constantly to remind myself why I do what I do. My family and close friends have especially been helpful in making it easier for me. They have been so understanding and have provided emotional support which have been invaluable really.  I also think one habit that really helped me is mediation, there are times when it seemed like there's so much to do in such little time and it'll get overwhelming for me, but meditation basically calmed me down and helped me gather my thoughts.

Do you think you have been able to achieve your set goals?

I honestly wasn't able to achieve all the goals I had at the beginning of my tenure, but I have been able to achieve most of it.

Very soon, another queen will emerge. As an outgoing queen that already knows her way round, what advice would you give her?

For the incoming queen, I would advise her to focus on her goals, understanding that her reign is unique to her, and so she shouldn't feel the need to be like any other queen but herself. Also, I would advise her to make the most out of the experience and still have fun in the process.

What's your take on domestic violence?
Domestic violence is such a big issue in our society, it happens regularly to the point that we sometimes turn a blind eye to it and regard it as the norm. Thankfully, more individuals are speaking up and fighting against it. Domestic violence happens to both men and women but women are most the victims of it. Personally, I think there should be stricter and more effective laws protecting women against such abuse in Nigeria.  In most countries, it is a huge crime to hit a woman or abuse her, and so, before anyone thinks of such, they most probably will consider the implications. It is a bit different here, I notice that people who carry out this abuse don't exactly hesitate, because at the back of their mind, they know that it will not exactly cause them any major problem. I really believe that if these laws are passed, there will be less of these issues. It also takes so much courage to speak up as a victim of domestic abuse because of the shame and embarrassment. So, I think people that speak out against it and/or share their story should be encouraged and supported.

Is it true that some models have sex with the organisers so as to emerge winners?

I can understand why people usually feel that you have to do such in the modeling industry because there's been a lot of such reported stories. While I cannot speak for every organization because I haven't exactly been involved with them, I can say for a fact that type of thing does not happen in the Miss Nigeria pageant. The pageant believes in upholding the values and exemplary qualities of a Nigerian woman, and so, the winner is selected purely based on merit, ensuring that they are able to represent those values.

Are you in a relationship?
I'm currently not in a relationship
Do you still maintain close contact with other contestants?

Oh yes! During the camp period, I met so many brilliant and inspiring young women and we connected. Even till now, I keep in contact with some of them.

What has been the impact of the pageant on your life generally?

One major way this pageant has impacted me is in the way I dress, I'm usually a very laid back person. I wear a lot of casuals, but as a queen, I have to attend a lot of events, interviews etc and so this requires me to make sure I'm always dressed all the way up. More importantly, because I constantly find myself in situations where I have to interact with people, give speeches and interviews, my confidence has greatly increased. This is one aspect I'm really happy about, as I feel more empowered and ready to chase even bigger goals.

What project are you working on at the moment?

Right now, I am working on the computer training project I started in August (Project Young Minds), but I hope to implement the 'Green Girl Project' before I hand over.

 What is that one thing you learnt from the past queen before your emergence?

I have always admired the composure and class with which the past queen carried herself, and she is also a very focused and hardworking person, and that really motivated me. - The Sun.