You set your mind to an impossible dream, committing each day to achieving that goal. You glue yourself to YouTube at the cybercafé, studying the professionals you’ve longed admired, the icons who have inspired you from the beginning. You tear out every other Cosmo page, pasting the glossy images on your bedroom walls to constantly remind you of those high standards you strive to achieve. Baby steps graduate into massive strides, each move bringing you closer to the ambition you’ve held close to your heart for years. Each item is ticked off the list until you reach the bottom, your heart beating with excitement at having come this far, not in the least bothered with how many steps you still have to climb. Just before the fanfair commences the dream ends, plunging you back to reality.
Why am I not surprised though? They don’t call my vision an impossible dream for nothing. Dreams like this never transform into real life for real people like me.
I didn’t make the Naija Girl finals. I will get over it. Eventually. Right now, I can’t think of anything else.
I knew Mayen would get selected, and I was happy for her. I just couldn’t understand how another girl with poor time-keeping skills and wobbly flab impressed the judges. Actually, screw that, I did. From what I observed, pageants in Nigeria no longer focus on the usual requirements, all they care about are your connections and how much you can ‘tip’ them. Unfortunately my family isn’t loaded. Life was good when Daddy held a top position with the civil service and the family resided in a three-bedroom bungalow. Now we’ve been reduced to squeezing inside this tiny Agege flat is a nosy neighbourhood. Money is now tight, and there’s no way I could have matched whatever the Adeyemi-Smiths gave the judges. My parents couldn’t even afford to send me to university when I gained admission to study Mass Comm. last year, never mind ‘tip’ those corrupt judges.
It’s been two days since I got tossed into the rejection heap. Yesterday I booked a PC at the cybercafé where I sent Mayen, Suzi, Mary and a few others messages of good luck. Somehow Mike, the perverted pageant coordinator with the shifty eyes, had obtained my Facebook details, and a message which read “Hey sexy, u are beautiful, don’t worry, there’s still hope” pinged inside my Messenger. Was that so? I promptly asked why I hadn’t been selected (As a Diamond World employee present at the screening, he had to have an idea at least). Of course I already knew the reason, but I needed to hear the excuse from the horse’s mouth.
Mike’s reply? Diamond World Organisation was determined to find a girl who could actually win Miss World Global in Dublin next year, not just make the top ten or win Miss Congeniality, and had only selected hopefuls who fitted the bill. Those judges, he claimed, would have a hard time understanding my darkness and natural hair, and Naija Girl couldn’t take that risk no matter how delightful I looked. Was he on crack? What about that equally dark Senegalese lady who won Miss World Global five years ago? According to Mike, the Miss World Global judging panel consisted mainly of white celebrities who would never consider an African queen. Total utter crap. A nearly all-white panel had no problem declaring Miss Senegal the fairest of them all—pun partially intended—but my own people back home had vetoed against a proudly black representative? His excuse made no sense.
That wasn’t all. Mike also stated most of the other girls present at the screening were either in university or had obtained their degrees, and a catering student competing against contestants with high qualifications didn’t look good. Oh, please. The criteria on the registration form clearly read “minimum of WAEC certificate”, and I’d passed my secondary finals with five C’s and four A’s. The catering school I attend may not be well-known, but it’s accredited and approved, and it is a higher institution. What more do the Naija Girl people want?
Just as I was about to express my insincere gratitude for his made-up bullshit, Mike threw me a lifeline. He believed in me so much, he wanted to help. All I have to do is meet up with him the next evening at the local guest house, and he’ll see I get through to the next round when I attend another screening exercise in Port Harcourt.
I nearly vomited.
I’ve heard stories of beauty contestants who slept their way into the top ten at the finals, but this? Absolutely disgusting. As if I can afford to travel all the way to the east for another screening. You can only attend one because you only buy one application form, and is there any guarantee I’ll get through this time after my surprise rejection? Without further ado I blocked Mike from my Messenger and left the internet centre, my heart racing madly at what had occurred.
If this is what Naija Girl has evolved into, I’ve had a lucky escape.
Tips on how to win a pageant: Remember when the Miss Asia Pacific World 2011 contestants stood up for themselves after organisers allegedly offered automatic top-ranking placements in exchange for sex? Pageant scores are meant to be based on merit, and there’s no guarantee the crown is yours after you give in to their smutty demands. Don’t compromise your dignity for fame and fortune—if you’re ever pressured into prostituting yourself by the organisers or judges, leave.