History is ladened with memories from different events and moments we often go back in time to identify with. This article is, however, intended to focus on just one aspect of history – one radiating elegance, beauty, and spectacle. Succinctly, I will be beaming focus on beauty queens that have emerged as winners of the “Miss Nigeria” Beauty Pageant from 1957 through 2021.
As unity is in diversity, so is there beauty in diversity as Nigeria is concerned. By reading through this piece, you will get to see how beauty is spread across the country – as represented by different charming faces from different regions in Nigeria. So, let me shelf the long-winding introduction and move on to the primary objective, unraveling past Miss Nigeria winners for different years.
1957: Grace Atinuke Oyelude
Grace Atinuke Oyelude emerged the winner of the first Miss Nigeria beauty pageant having beating over 200 contestants to the prize. Born on November 16, 1931, Atinuke represented the Northern region in the competition – even without having prior knowledge of it. It happened that her younger brother initiation the registration by sending in her picture to the organizers. Following that, she made it to list to the top list and ended up contesting at the beauty show proper held at the Island Club in Lagos.
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After her win, she faded from the glamorous limelight to pursue a degree in Nursing from the School of Nursing in Ashford, Kent, England. She has since excelled in the field and related sector as a registered nurse and hospital administrator. Her name, however, hit the airwaves again recently as she celebrated her 90th birthday back in 2021.
1958: Helen Anyamaeluna
Helen Anyamaeluna came across as one who was ready for the big stage as a beauty queen. She appeared to have an idea of the glitz, elegance and ‘work’ that comes with wearing the crown. She was quoted as saying׃ “Oh, it’s quite a job to be popular. It gives one dizziness; and it is only the realization that one is on top by the people’s choice that gives one the courage to through it without succumbing”. Of course, her win brought fame as her gorgeous face graced the pages of top-rated magazines and newspapers of that time.
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But Helen was not just an embodiment of beauty; she was quite brilliant and a good polyglot in her own right. She was fluent in five different languages, including English, French, Efik, Igbo, and Yoruba. Helen died in 2012 at the age of 75 years old after a protracted illness.
1959: Nene Etule
Nene Etule walked down the history aisle of Miss Nigeria Southern and she stole a match on the Nigerian beauties in the contest. The poise of this 18-year pageant entrant, who hailed from Limbe in Cameroun, cannot be denied or neglected. Her eligibility to participate was premised on Southern Cameroun being under the Nigerian constitution back then.
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Those in attendance saw and probably relished her beauty, and the judges could not but affirm as they crowned as “Miss Nigeria” – away from her home country. The record set by Nene Etule as the only non-Nigerian to have won the crown remains untouched, and the status quo is bound to be maintained as the rules are now more stringent. In the months following, Nene got married to the former United Nations’ Director of Information Services in Nigeria, Penuel Ebenezer Njeku Malafa.
1960: Rosemary Anieze-Adams (Miss Independence)
1960, being Nigeria’s Year of Independence, meant whoever emerged winner of the Miss Nigeria beauty show, received the honor to be called “Miss Independence”. That honor fell to Zaria-born Rosemary Anieze-Adams who hail from Aniocha in Delta State. Born on the 8th of August, 1940, Rosemary went into the contest as the youngest participant and did come out top. Her broad, infectious smile added some extra charm to her visage – besides the delicate eyes and pretty face.
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By the way, her name was entered into the contest by someone else, and this was even without her knowledge. Rosemary’s good looks, in her youthful age, must have been very evident as she had earlier won the Miss Ibadan. She was quite fluent in English, French, and a couple of local languages. Her professional career had her working in the media sector as broadcaster, telephone operator, TV announcer, and compere. The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), and defunct Western Nigeria Television/Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service were among her employers. Rosemary eventually got married to Mr. Peter Norman Adams in 1968.
1961: Clara Ifeoma Emefiena
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As the curtain for Miss Nigeria’s pageantry drew close, all gazes were fixed on none other than Clara Ifeoma Emefiena who had emerged the winner of the coveted prize. She entered into the contest as Miss Mid-West, but walked out with the grace and paraphernalia that come with being the ‘most beautiful’ woman in the country. Her adorable face, delightful smile, and intelligence must have bedazzled the judges to look no other way – but hers.
1963: Alice Alache Akla Ad’Epe
Alice Alache Akla Ad’Epe entered into the contest on the back of winning Miss Kano pageant in 1962. She is from Otukpo in Benue State, and has fate would have it, Alice was the first woman of Idoma origin to be crowned Miss Nigeria in 1963. She has a delectable carriage about her, with the perfect silhouette to complement it. Being the winner of the pageant, she was awarded with the sum of £200 along with the crown which was held for a year.
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All the buzz that came with the fame however toned down as the crown was passed to the next winner. Alice ultimately tired to her village in Otukpo. Compared to what is attainable now, (ambassadorial) opportunities were not so massive, and Alice was once reported to have lamented about how she was abandoned after the win.
1964: Edna Park
The eighth edition of Miss Nigeria beauty pageant saw Edna Park – who is of Itsekiri ethnicity – going home with the top prize in 1964. If ‘black is beautiful’, then Edna must have been that beauty; it’s no wonder she got the moniker, “Ebony Beauty”. Edna was a pace-setter of some sort, as she was the first Black African to participate in the Miss Universe contest. The experience at the event was, however, harrowing as she fainted upon not being announced among the top 15 contestants.
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Not to be deterred by that, and being someone that has a thing for beauty and fashion, she moved on to pick up a career in the field. One of her notable enterprise was Sherina Hair Care, a prominent beauty hair shop in England at that time. She would later change career to become a professional social caregiver in the United Kingdom.
1968: Foluke Abosede Ogundipe
Foluke Abosede Ntukidem nee Ogundipe graced the stage of Miss Nigeria as a 21-year damsel with the aspiration to pick up the coveted crown like every other contestant. This desire was fulfilled as the judges saw no one else befitting of the crown within the space Foluke’s beauty had already charmed. She represented the Western Region, and later went on to represent Nigeria at the Miss World pageantry.
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Beyond her beauty, Foluke has a profoundly generous heart as she was accommodating to children – the less privileged, in particularly. She ended adopting some of these children from different regions of the country. Foluke was reported to have died peacefully in her sleep on the December 19, 2022 at the age of 75 years old.
1977: Toyin Monney
Toyin Monney entered Miss Nigeria pageant in 1977 representing Lagos, and came out tops at the end of the rounds. Certain controversies, however, arose a couple of months after this enthronement. She was found to have been involved in age falsification while registering for the competition. Secondly, the veil over her secret child was also uncovered thereafter.
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These events following the proclamation of her win marred her reputation, and consequently beclouded the beauty of this queen. It created an aura of infamy about Toyin in the eye of the public, culminating in her being deprived of the privilege to represent Nigeria at the Miss World pageantry.
1978: Irene Omagbemi
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Irene Omagbemi made entry into the 1978 beauty contest representing Lagos, and was subsequently crowned “Miss Nigeria”. She was 20 years old as at the time of contesting, and went on to flag Nigeria’s flag at the Miss World pageant in the same year. Much has not been heard about Irene after her pageantry exploits as she slipped out of public eye.
1979: Helen Prest
A few beauty queens have remained prominent in beauty and other facets of life through time. One of such is Helen Prest-Ajayi who won the Miss Nigeria crown in 1979. Born 17th of September, 1959, the then Obafemi Awolowo University law undergraduate entered the competition as a 19-year old, and dazzled all comers with her splendor. Nigeria’s participation at Miss World was sustained by Helen Prest in 1979.
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After being crowned “Miss Nigeria”, Helen moved to England to continue her at King’s College London acquiring her LLM therewith. She practiced as a lawyer and still an active columnist and writer. “The Complete English Guide” is one of her notable contributions to advance the study of (English) Grammar. Helen Prest-Ajayi also runs a media business company.
1980: Syster Jack
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Syster Jack made it into Miss Nigeria pageant show as a representative of Rivers State, and she did make her State proud by taking the crown home. There was, however, no Miss World representation for Nigeria at the 30th edition in 1980 as Syster Jack did not participate. Like some others before her, Syster Jack seemed to have keep things on the low, choosing a rather quiet life as the ecstasy that greeted her coronation waned.
1981: Tokunbo Onanuga
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Representing Lagos, Tokunbo Onanuga’s beauty melted hearts at the 17th edition of Miss Nigeria pageantry. As such, she went, saw, and conquered but then…
She drew some controversies and criticisms as the news about her involvement in result falsification broke through. It was reported that she had forged her WAEC result – an act later categorized as fraud in 2011 by WAEC. Her Miss Nigeria crown was not the only prized asset she lost, as the institution she intended to obtain a degree expelled her. The turn of events meant Nigeria did not take part in Miss World beauty contest for the third year running.
1982/3: Rita Baralaye Martins
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Rita Baralaye Martins was a stunning beauty to behold. The virtues she possessed made it nearly impossible to deny her of Miss Nigeria crown in 1982, and the judges’ verdict was a testament to this. She left the stage of the event gracefully wearing the crown – as it fitted perfectly. Rita, however, stepped down from the throne before the coronation of the next Miss Nigeria in 1984. This might not have been unconnected to the fact that became an expectant mother within the time.
1984: Cynthia Oronsaye
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The 1983 edition of the beauty pageant saw young Cynthia Oronsaye, who represented Bendel State, emerge victorious. She ascended the throne, taking over from where Rita Baralaye Martins left off. She was crowned by Dr. Simi Olayemi Onibuwe Johnson, the then Minister of Social Development and Culture. Cynthia went on to participate in the Miss World contest in 1984.
1985: Rosemary Nkendilim Okeke
Taking part in beauty contests was nothing but fun to Rosemary Nkendilim Okeke until she won a zonal pageant in Warri – then she started taking it more seriously. She recounted how a certain Ben Olaiya played a pivotal role in evolvement to becoming a famed beauty queen. But that aside, Rosemary’s charm is never to be denied. This coupled with her determination would have played a significant part in her ascendance to the throne as Miss Nigeria in 1984.
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She was born in (old) Bendel State and represented Imo State at the competition. Rosemary had to learn how to play the piano and treated the audience to Nigeria’s national anthem on the instrument – since talent display was one of the metrics used in scoring participants. She later ventured into fashion designing, and was once a Liaison Officer under the Imo State Government.
1986: Rita Anuku
Rita Anuku hailed from Ika in Delta State, and also represented Bendel State at the Miss Nigeria pageant in 1985/6. Her beauty was fair to behold and got the crown to put a seal on that claim. Rita entered into the contest as an 18-year old, fresh out of secondary school.
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Just for the mention, Rita Anuku was the younger sister of popular Nollywood star, Hanks Anuku. Unfortunately, she passed away at age of 47 years old in 2015 as she succumbed to cancer after a battle of 2 years.
1987: Stella Okoye
A dark-skinned beauty in Stella Okoye took the walk down history lane when she was announced as Miss Nigeria in 1987. She represented Imo State at the competition. Her coronation was, however, seemed not to go down with some people who felt she was too dark to be adjudged winner. The rowdiness that ensued was said to have caused the organizers to engage security guards to escort to safety.
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One may not be wrong to conclude that Stella’s emergence as Miss Nigeria ultimately change or redefine the perception of people about beauty. This is particularly considerable in the face of the outcome of subsequent pageantries.
1990: Binta Sukai
Binta Sukai participated in the Miss Nigeria contest in 1990 on the back of representing Kaduna State, and ended up becoming the first Northerner to claim the crown. Her delicate eyes and charming appearance must have kept gazes fixed on her from all corners at the event.
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But some might have had other musings going through their minds as they felt Binta’s skin read ‘non-Nigerian'. There was indeed clamoring in this respect, and it was later declared that she was one-quarters Scottish – through her maternal grandparents. Binta Sukai proceeded to the Paris Academy of Fashion to study Fashion History and Marketing, and currently runs her fashion outfit in Europe. She is also a fashion consultant, and often make appearances as a judge at a number of fashion shows.
1993: Olukemi Janet Fateye
Olukemi Janet Fateye (now Janet Gabriel) became the 27th Miss Nigeria when she was declared winner in 1993. She represented Lagos State at the beauty show. Janet did not only come across as beauty queen with some good charm, she also reflected some degree of intelligence.
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The pageantry might have brought Janet to the limelight, but there was definitely more to her than that. The London-born queen had already started singing and writing songs since the tender age of 12, and was reported to make music in genres such as RnB, Soul, Pop, and Funk. She is a graduate of Pharmacy from the University of Ibadan, but now serves as an IT consultant.
1994: Clara Nosakhare Ojo
Lagos-born Clara Nosakhare Ojo entered the competition as a young beauty representing Edo State and came out on high as Miss Nigeria in 1994. She is the second longest-reigning Miss Nigeria – after Ene Maya Lawani – as the next edition of the pageant did not take place until 1998.
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Moving on from the pageantry thrill, Clara now runs a beauty and health consultancy firm in Lagos. Now, simply known as Clara Kolawole, she is also a pastor in the Mountain of Fire and Miracles. She is noted to have published the book titled “The Incorruptible Crown”.
2000: Vien Oritsbemigho Tetsola (Millennium Queen)
The crown was Vien Tetsola’s to take home in 2000 – a feat that earned her the “Millennium Queen” designation since it was the turn of the millennial. She is yet another example of a queen that has got a good brain to match her beauty. She represented Delta at the pageant.
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Having gone on some sort of hiatus for a while, Vien made a return to the limelight in 2021, as she announced the birthing of her pastoral ministry, Holy City Empire of God – Beulah Land Ministry. She now goes by the name Israel Shepherd.
2001(a): Ama Valerie Peterside
Beautiful? – Yes, and this cannot be denied as the judges had no other choice to have the crown on whose head it fits best – in Ama Valerie Peterside. Ama was, however, alleged found wanting on moral grounds after some time. This meant her reign as Miss Nigeria would short lived, with her being stripped of the crown – this explains why two winners emerged in the Year 2001.
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It was claimed that Ama lied about her age and also forged her qualifications which she denied and even fought to keep her crown – but all to no avail. Ama, who had earlier won the Miss Abuja pageantry in 1997, represented Rivers State at the 2001 beauty show.
2001(b): Amina Ekpo
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With Ama Valerie Ekpo being dethroned, the honor to wear the Miss Nigeria fell to Amina Ekpo, the first runner-up at the 2001 pageantry. The Akwa Ibom native, who was 23 years old then, had entered the competition as an undergraduate studying Applied Chemistry. She currently a data analyst, and she also runs an NGO known as ‘Touching Tender Hearts’.
2002: Sylvia Ansa Edem
Going into the Miss Nigeria contest, Sylvia Edem (now Sylvia Emechete) was well-armed with all the attributes a beauty queen ought to possess. The Obafemi Awolowo graduate did take up the crown and owned with a befitting poise. She is one of the Miss Nigeria pageant winners that have managed to stay in the limelight since her win – thanks to better publicity, you may say.
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Well, Sylvia took acting roles in Nollywood, featured in a couple of movies even to the point of being nominated for an array of award categories. It remains to see if she will get back to Nollywood anytime soon as she is now a businesswoman and largely based in the UK. She got married to UK-based multimillionaire businessman in 2006, and the marriage is blessed with two children.
2003: Nwando Okwuosa
Nwando Okwuosa went into the Miss Nigeria pageantry as Miss Anambra, and in the end, left with the prestigious crown. The crown further opened a vista for her on the international stage as she represented the country at the Miss International Beauty Pageantry. She happened to be the last Nigerian beauty queen to fly the country’s flag at that competition.
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Nwando proceeded to obtain her LLB and LLM degrees in Law from Sheffield University in the University. She was reported to have joined the British Army at some point. Much has not been heard about her as she seems to love keeping a rather low profile.
2004: Ene Maya Lawani
Benue native, Ene Maya Lawani’s radiant beauty was not to be denied the prize – the Miss Nigeria crown – that complements it as she graced the big stage. She became the 35th beauty queen to wear the crown, and she was 19 years old as at then. It is on record that Ene was the longest-reigning Miss Nigeria as she maintained the title for about 6 years since the pageantry did not hold until 2010.
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Ene has since gone into fashion, with some lovely collection – the Femme de Luxe collection being one of them – to show for it. She is predominantly into the art of hat-making as a milliner and is the CEO of Enemaya Clothing. Ene was quite active on Instagram around the 2010s but she now leads a quiet life – away from public eye.
2010: Oluwadamilola Agbajor
Tall, elegant, intelligent, beautiful lady, Oluwadamilola Agbajor (now Oluwadamilola Adu) graced the Miss Nigeria pageant stage and grace and conquered. Representing Delta State, the University of Lagos Mass Communication graduate became the new Miss Nigeria after a long break in 2010. She was 19 years old when she competed and won. With the enthronement, she earned the privilege to own the designate, ‘Queen Ambassador’.
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Oluwadamilola Agbajor now works as a Brand and Marketing Communication expert. She got married to her heartthrob – who happens to share the same first name as hers – Oluwadamilola Adu in 2017.
2013: Ezinne Akudo Anyaoha
Ezinne Akudo Anyaoha strode through, with grace, to mount the throne having represented Imo at the Miss Nigeria contest. She was [and still is] all shades of beauty – and she is brainy too. She was born in Imo State on the 17th of May, 1990.
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Ezinne has been quite active as she is determined to significantly impart the world around her. On the heels of claiming the crown, she set out to establish an NGO called the Eight Foundation, with the aim of delivering psycho-social counselling and legal aid to survivors/victims of sexual violence. It may interest you to know that Ezinne is a Law graduate from Abia State University. She also obtained an MBA from the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom. Back in 2018, Ezinne Akudo Anyaoha was made the Creative Director of the Miss Nigeria pageant show.
2015: Pamela Lessi Peter-Vigboro
When Miss Nigeria pageantry came to a close in 2015, the name on every lip was Pamela Lessi Peter-Vigboro. At 22 years old, the lively and pretty-faced model with beaming smiles evidently lighted up the venue with her beauty, and the rest is history. A native of Ogoni – the first Miss Nigeria from Ogoni land, by the way – she represented Rivers State at the competition.
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She is a graduate of Computer Science from the University of Port Harcourt, and currently works as a professional photographer and goes by the brand name, Monseeka. Being someone that enjoys writing, she is looking to publish some books of her own in the future. He holds a chieftaincy title – the “Gberebia Eedee Tuaka of Bodo city” – in her hometown.
2016: Chioma Stephanie Obiadi
Chioma Stephanie Obiadi emerged as the 40th Miss Nigeria having beating 36 other beauty queens to the crown in the event held at the Eko Hotel Convention & Suites in Lagos. She was 21 years old at the time. chioma was the representative of Anambra State at the competition.
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The Nnamdi Azikwe University Geography and Meteorology graduate has gone on to execute some notable projects. One of such is the Green Girl Project, which would be of great interest to advancing the fight against global warming. The motive of the Project is to convert biological wastes to electricity, and it is majorly focused on women and the environment.
2017: Mildred Peace Ehiguese
Mildred Peace Ehiguese represented Adamawa at the 2017 Miss Nigeria pageantry, and left with a higher stake. Gorgeously looking with beaming smiles, Mildred ascended the throne to rapturous applause of all comers. Mildred is currently a counsellor, author and coach.
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She is a graduate of Redeemers University where she obtained a BSc. degree in Psychology. Mildred has been actively involved in various humanitarian functions after her emergence as Miss Nigeria. She has championed the Green Girl Project initiated by erstwhile Miss Nigeria, Chioma Stephanie Obiadi, and others like WAR (Walk against Rape) and Campaigns Safe Schools.
2018: Chidinma Leilani Aaron
Born in Kaduna State on the 16th April, 1993, Chidinma Leilani Aaron registered and represented Enugu State at the Miss Nigeria pageantry in 2018. She did herself and her state proud by claiming the coveted crown after beating 17 others to it at the finale. She holds a BSc. degree in Business Administration – this was obtained from Lead City University, Ibadan, Oyo State.
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Chidinma is a ‘queen of many colours’ and this goes beyond beauty – she is highly industrious. Before entering into contest, she had worked as a chef and customer service representative in the hospitality sector in Abuja. She is an entrepreneur, and also works as a business development manager.
2019: Beauty Etsanyi Tukura
Beauty Etsanyi Tukura entered into the 2019 and 43rd edition of the Miss Nigeria pageant to represent Taraba. The beauty queen, whose charm appeals a great deal, was born to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Haruna Tukura in Port Harcourt on the 21st of October, 1997. She is the youngest of four children.
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Beauty seemed fated to become a beauty queen as she was reported to have communicated her desire to win Miss Nigeria someday when she was 3 years old. She won her first pageant crown while in elementary school and went on to claim the crown for the “Most Beautiful Girl in Taraba”. So, one would not be wrong to say that she was all prepared to go the length at the Miss Nigeria pageantry when she competed in 2019.
Popular music star, Anita Osikweme Osikhena (Aniitablonde) was among the contestants, but Beauty – who being true to her name – had others on the backfoot. Anita was the first runner-up, by the way. Away from the win, Beauty has not been a stranger to the Nigerian entertainment scene as she participated in the Big Brother Naija show in 2022. Her stay there was, however, short-lived as she was evicted for breaking house rules.
Beauty is an LLB holder, and she got the degree from Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. Beauty Etsanyi Tukura is currently an entrepreneur, and runs an online fashion/beauty business, StylishBeauty.
2021: Shatu Sani Garko
True beauty cannot be hidden, as it is always in the face of the beholder. Those who were at the 44th edition of the Miss Nigeria pageant – and even others – can attest to that as Shatu Sani Garko wore the crown. She is now known as the “hijab-wearing beauty queen” for her religious, but yet exquisite dressing style. With the win, she became the first Muslim and hijab-wearing model to win the prestigious prize.
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Delicate eyes, unblemished appearance and striking visage are some of the strong attributes Shatu possess, and they seem to have done her justice with the crown in the bag – or on her head as maybe fitting. Plus, she is also quite eloquent and bold. She continues to hold the title until the next edition of the pageant that may likely take place in December 2023.
Shatu was born on the 23rd of November, 2003 in the city of Kano. She had completed her high school education and was billed to proceed to the University before emerging as Miss Nigeria.
Drawing the curtain…
Nigeria is a land of beautiful, bold and intelligent women. From the first winner (Grace Atinuke Oyelude) in 1957 to the latest in Shatu Sani Garko, the flow of beauty has been uninterrupted. This article is only a reflection of the many beauties springing forth from a land flowing with milk and honey. The fact that some of these beauty queens having great impacts on the society at large is yet highly commendable. Consider the sustainability cause being facilitated through the Green Girl Project, and the voices that have been lent to the fights against vices such as rape, sexual/domestic violence, and so on. The Miss Nigeria pageant franchise has proved to go beyond good looks reflected on the face alone, as the beauty on the inside – in the hearts – the queens has also been experienced. The organizer, Daily Times, indeed deserves some accolades for holding forth these 65 years.