Her passion for beauty pageantry has gone beyond being an ordinary model to a stakeholder in the fashion industry as the Chief Executive Officer of Miss Port Harcourt beauty pageant, an initiative she launched after her reign as Miss Tourism. Ex-beauty queen, Anita May Igoni, in this interview by SEYI SOKOYA, reveals her vision for the entertainment industry and her humanitarian projects. Excerpts:
Going by the luxury experience that comes with your emergence as Miss Tourism, could you state how life has been after your reign as Miss Tourism?
Life has been beautiful after my reign as Miss Tourism Queen I must say. It actually opened my eyes to a lot of things and opportunities which had made me a better version of myself. It has also given me an edge in the industry today.
With your wealth of experience in the industry, how has the journey been since you started your own pageantry, Miss Port Harcourt City?
I wouldn’t say the journey has been smooth, but it’s a bitter-sweet with so many challenges and lessons. As we all know, Port Harcourt industrial business is still growing and as such, not everyone has accepted us fully, but we (Miss Port Harcourt City) are here to stay! So, we stay pushing and we are confident that we are going to change the narrative of the industry with our brand.
Would you say the recent launch of Miss Port Harcourt City Intl is part of the strategies to make the new wave?
Miss Port Harcourt City International is a title created to give one Port Harcourt girl the opportunity to represent our dear city and Nigeria internationally. We recently got a franchise from Miss Planet International, in order not to change the brand name, the person that emerges Miss PHC International will represent Nigeria at Miss Planet International and Miss Port Harcourt City remains an ambassador of the city.
You have become a household name in the industry, especially in Port Harcourt in less than five years. How have you been able to attain such feat?
It has been God coupled with support from our sponsors who believed in my brand, and who are interested in the growth of the industry. I would say my passion for the industry is my drive as I have so much love for the pageant industry.
What has been the greatest challenge as an entrepreneur?
The challenges I face as an entrepreneur are mostly around getting support from people and also having to face those on the same space that see you as a competition. It is always not easy as sometimes your expectations crash to the ground and you have to pick yourself up for a ‘plan B’ at the last minute. We get to receive little support, but so much expectation. Life as an entrepreneur is really not easy.
What are the measures you put in actualising your dreams in the industry?
I don’t joke with customers/brands in general in my business. They are important in the pageant world for collaborations and support during the course of the event and afterwards.
Cases of unfulfilled promises in the pageantry have made a lot of people lose interest in this aspect of the fashion industry. How have you been able to prove people wrong that your brand is real?
Yes, we hear of such cases often and we hope for a change soon. As I always say, our sponsors are our strength, so, we try to be as fair as possible in redeeming the promised prizes to the winners.
There are insinuations that some beauty pageants are promiscuous, how will you react to this?
If you generalise beauty pageants as being for the promiscuous I would say you are wrong because every pageant out there has it objectives and visions before creation. Yes, we have heard so many bad stories about beauty queens and some pageant organisation, but then there are those that keep hitting the headlines with their good works and giant strides.
Do you agree that the industry exposes ladies to danger and even sexual harassment following the revealing and skimpy wears they use in exploring their talents?
Yes, I would agree to that, but then models are a piece of art as they are used to showcase the creativity of these designers. I feel the society has a role to play in accepting this living mannequin, just the way people make use of mannequins in the fashion store and outlets to showcase their outfits/products. That is the same way they should accept these models and see them as a piece of art, even persons that are covered are being harassed daily. That goes a long way to say the society has a role to play in improving the way people sees models.
What is your assessment of the industry?
The industry is growing and it is getting bigger by the day as we have a lot of people venturing into pageantry. That means we are doing something right in building the confidence of these girls and also giving them a platform to showcase their talents and creativity to the world using pageantry as to a tool.
You must have had several encounters which are hazards on the job, how were you able to overcome them?
Of course, I have everyone has at some point, but that is when your self respect and strong will comes to play. If you hold yourself in high self esteem and believe in your craft you won’t want to downplay yourself.
Aside pageantry, what else do you do?
Aside from being the CEO of Miss Port Harcourt City, I own an entertainment outfit called Dollybirds Limited, which covers event planning, model and artiste management, as well as event staffing and A. M. media. Also, I am into farming and real estate. I am the founder of Living for a Cause Foundation. It is a charity organisation that focuses on empowering young and struggling girls with skills and providing necessary things to make them healthy and useful to themselves and the nation in general.
How was your growing up like?
I grew up in Port Harcourt, I am from the city and I love it dearly. I would say I wish I didn’t grow up because it’s actually a trap, as a child, I enjoyed my days as a kid although I had to go through a lot in my teenage age with so much happenings around me. It wasn’t easy at all. Growing up was beautiful, especially having the feelings of being a last born with all the attention and pampering, only for me to be told one morning when I was in JSS2 that I was the first born to whom I knew as my eldest sister in the family. That moment my life took a turn around, accepting that as a child wasn’t easy.
Do you have your parents’ support for your passion?
Not so much support, because they were against me being a model at first, but I guess everyone adjusted with time.
You have a great sense of fashion, how do you define yours?
My fashion sense is unique. I don’t know how it happens, but I just wear what fits me and I like good things as well.
Will you consider owing a fashion brand someday?
Not really, but I see myself collaborating with an already made fashion/designer outfits to produce my collection.
How is your love life?
I would say it is active and I am enjoying the relationship.
Describe your kind of man?
My kind of man is supportive, caring, calm, got a good heart, believes in God and hardworking.
Can you marry someone who isn’t as successful as you are?
It depends on the personality, if I can perceive him as hardworking and dedicated to improving himself daily, yes I can.
At what age do you think a lady should get married?
A lady should be married when she’s ready and has got a good man. Age should not be determinant; it is just a number. One only needs a good time, date a good man and get married to him if one finds happiness in the relationship. I don’t think there’s a particular age for marriage.
Does wearing skimpy dress warrant sexual harassment?
No, it doesn’t. People should learn how to respect people’s choices of things.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I know that I still have a long way to go in the industry. I have not even started at all. My philosophy about life is to make positive impact and I am on the journey. I want to be remembered for great influence on people, especially the younger generation. I want to impact lives of people positively through my passion and vision.
Who are your role models?
My role models are those making something out of nothing. In fact, I can’t really specify at the moment because I’ve got a bunch of role models.