Last weekend, the finale of the Miss Big World Pageant held in Abuja. It was an occasion for women of significant bulk to strut their stuff.
They strut the catwalks, not in the fashion of svelte supermodels but in the bouncy manner of women who have “something extra,” as Chief Olabunmi Uwazuroye, initiator of the Miss Big World Pageant, would say.
It is the 8th edition of the pageant and this year, 13 contestants walked the catwalk for some money and fame, and some bragging rights too.
They danced and smiled, and jiggled their generous endowments, putting the gruelling week of preparation behind them.
The contestants had spent some five days at a boot camp being grilled on carriage and poise as well as dance. They woke up at 4:30 every morning and were assigned house chores. The idea was to make them agile.
“When some of them came here they were so sluggish, now look at them,” Dr. Uwazuroye said with a proud smile on her face. She is the CEO of Skies Vision Communication, which has been running the pageant for nine years now.
The idea of the pageant is to celebrate not only size but character and integrity as well, she said and for that reason she had to evict two contestants in the first 24 hours for “bad attitude.”
In all she had 29 women interested in contesting and had to wield the hammer and disqualify some for simply not being big enough. She wants women who wear size 15 upwards.
The idea for the pageant first occurred to her when she saw Nigeria’s Agbani Darego crowned Miss World in 2001. She thought well, what about the big women?
Her passion for the pageant was demonstrated at the finale when she said, “ If I have to sell my gold, my jewellery, everything I owe to keep this thing going, I will.”
So far, she has kept it going for nine years. However in 2008, the event did not hold because of bereavement to Chief Uwazuroye. For her, it is not just about organising another show.
When asked why she said: “Because you can see I am big. And I know the stigmatization I go through and this is what I want to get out of the head of these girls.”
The contestants were from all over the country. In other years, there had even been entrants from other countries. This year, none applied. Dr Uwazuroye thinks it might have something to do with the state of the country. The Ebola scare and insurgency. But for her, these will not stop her.
Farida Ahmed, 27, hails from Kogi State and came all the way to participate and for her, there was more to the pageant than just winning.
“I want to show that you can be big and sexy. You don’t have to be a size 10 to be sexy,” she said.
Having met other contestants and made new friends, Farida feels the experience has been uplifting.
What Ifeoma Eunice Nnalue, 26, from Anambra took away from the boot camp was the fact that she could now live comfortably with other people. She was not used to waking up at half past four or living in close proximity with so many people until she came to the boot camp.
“I know I can stay with a lot of people now. I have come here and met different people and I think this experience has broadened my scope,” she said. They had been drilled all morning and her smile was somewhat wane.
But on the night, at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, there was a nervous tinge to their smiles. The relaxed ambience of the previous day had been replaced by a sense of competition. It was the big deal and they were clearly afraid of putting a foot wrong.
Despite the event starting way behind schedule, the turnout was impressive. People came out of curiosity, some lingered out of genuine interest. They wanted to see which of the women with something extra will go the extra mile.
The women had costume changes, had dances on and off the stage and had to face questions that tested their nerves and intellects.
Of all, Lillian Nnenna Oparadu, 23, couldn’t win the crowd over. There were questions and gasps each time she walked out. She simply wasn’t big enough, or not big at all, some would think.
But 27 year old Juliet Oju Aniebonam was greeted each time with loud cheers. She was what the crowd had come to see. A really big woman.
The night, however, belonged to Blessing Ineka Ochefije 21, from Benue State who was eventually crowned Miss Big World after the judges had been impressed by her poise, grace and intellect.
She returned home a bit richer than she had left and with added pride to her bulk. And for this year, Mrs. Uwazuroye would be pleased with her effort. She set out to bring “gold from rusty people” and on the evidence of the night, this big women were sparkling, inside and out.