In November 2011, 21 year-old Feyijimi Sodipo participated in the Miss Nigeria pageant and beat 36 other contestants to win the coveted crown. Representing her home state as Miss Ogun, she displayed just the right dose of intelligence, poise and charm to earn her the title of Miss Nigeria 2011, ‘Queen Ambassador’. But more than a beautiful face, Feyijimi is an interesting person. She speaks German fluently and has acquired good skills in pattern cutting and dress making. She grew up in Ogun state and completed her Secondary School education at Federal Government Girls College, Sagamu. She later proceeded to Babcock University also in Ogun state to obtain a Diploma in Data Processing. Just as she was nursing the idea of attending a University in Germany, she stumbled upon the advertisement for participation in the Miss Nigeria pageant and found the offer of a full scholarship to study anywhere in the world particularly inviting. Today, she is the proud recipient of that scholarship and is set to make a positive contribution to the society during her reign.
Nothing about Feyijimi’s demeanor as she enters the fast food restaurant, venue for our interview suggests that she is Miss Nigeria 2011. This is not to say she isn’t attractive, she is, she looks even better in person than in the photographs. She is shy, as she tries hard not to draw attention to herself and flashes a radiant smile that does not make me wonder why the judges chose her. Her status as Miss Nigeria comes with a lot of interesting benefits and as we sat down to talk, I couldn’t help but ask what drew her to the pageant.
What was the attraction for you really? Was it the crown, the fame or the prizes?
It’s hard to just pinpoint it, but when I saw the advert in the newspaper that day, it was something my mind tuned into. I felt like I should do it. I wasn’t thinking of pageants or anything that year, it was just an on-the-spot decision. But I guess it was a combination of everything. Like the advert said there would be no bikini segment and the winner gets a scholarship to study anywhere in the world. Those were some of the things that attracted me.
What were the qualities you think you have that made you stand out?
It’s hard to say but I think it was just by the grace of God. I’m a Christian and I’d like to say I’m a very prayerful person. If you know me, you’d know I’m a religious kind of person. But besides that, one thing that really helped me was at the final show, when it was down to us top five, I realized that the rest of the girls who weren’t chosen were rooting for me and maybe the judges noticed it. I’m kinda friendly, but I was just being myself, being prayerful, being open and I think all of those things just contributed to it.
What prizes did you win?
There are so many, I can’t even remember all, but I have a year’s salary package of N3million. Then I have a car, gym membership at Four Points Sheraton, make up scholarship from House of Tara, free human hair for one year from Hair Fusion and so many other things.
Have you participated in any pageants before now or done any modeling before?
No, I haven’t been in a pageant. I’ve done a few modeling jobs but it was like volunteering basically, like I did one in Germany and that was free. Nothing major though.
Since you won the crown, what has been the expectation that you have to live up to as a beauty queen? What do people expect from you now?
For now, because I haven’t started doing big things yet or anything like that, not a lot of people know me. When some of my friends introduce me to other people and say she is ‘Miss Nigeria’, they have to look at me twice and say “is she really Miss Nigeria?” But it’s been pretty normal. Sometimes people get funny and ask “how come you are not wearing your crown?” and I’m like, “I can’t wear my crown everywhere.” I’m more of an ambassador so this is not really about just sitting down and looking pretty but this is about being a Nigerian ambassador. My management is picky because they don’t want me to go somewhere and just sit and be a pretty face. I have to be proactive, so the things I do, the places I go, I have to be heard more than seen so it’s not really about sitting down looking pretty.
What are your duties as Miss Nigeria?
My first duty is to be Queen Ambassador and that is to represent Nigeria everywhere I go. I also have my pet project which I will start soon and I chose to work with orphans and less privileged and hopefully help raise funds so I’d be doing that sometime this year. So it’s just basically service, to be a positive role model.
What do you intend to do after your reign to ensure you still remain relevant so that when your name is mentioned, people still remember you?
For me, what I really care about is how I’m remembered so it doesn’t matter if I don’t stay in the spotlight because honestly speaking, I have just a tiny idea of how that feels and I’m really not sure that is for me. But generally, I don’t have to be in the spotlight. I want to go back to school, in the future I want to raise a family and I really don’t think I want to raise a family in that light. I hope that I’d be able to touch somebody’s life, raise funds, help people, maybe sponsor someone who had no hope of going to the University and that person remembers. I don’t really care to remain in the spotlight.
What opportunities do you have now that you didn’t have before?
Generally, when I go to places as Miss Nigeria, I get a lot of attention and lots of respect as well and people want to listen to me and hear what I have to say. I also get all the salary and lots of prizes and benefits. It is also a platform for me. Somehow my name remains in the archives and I can tell my kids that “your mummy has been Miss Nigeria at one time”. I think that is pretty amazing.
Will you be representing Nigeria in any international pageants or competitions?
I won’t be going for any of that because we believe the Miss Nigeria is actually the best of the best. So as Miss Nigeria, I don’t need to go outside of Nigeria to participate in any other pageant to qualify myself. I’m Miss Nigeria and that is enough.
When do you intend to make use of your scholarship?
After my reign. I can study anywhere in the world.
Tell us about Feyijimi prior to your Miss Nigeria win.
I had just finished a two-year course in German language at the Goethe Institute in Lagos. At the time I entered for the pageant I was doing an apprenticeship in sewing.
Why German? What was the attraction to the language?
I have spent some time in Germany before. Also, I did want to get a degree in Germany so that was the main purpose and of course, the desire to learn another language. I still intend to go to a University in Germany after my reign as Miss Nigeria.
You mentioned earlier that the advert said there would be no bikini segment. Did it turn out that way?
Yes. We only had the dance segment, then the traditional and then we had the evening wear. That was all.
Not even in camp or for photo shoots?
No, not at all.
Tell me about the Miss Nigeria camp?
It was in Akwa-Ibom. It was a lot of work but it was really so much fun because I had never been to Akwa-Ibom. We stayed at Le Meridian Ibom and we had four star treatment. It was a good experience.
What prompted you to learn how to sew and when did you start learning?
First of all, I learnt it during the holidays after my Junior Secondary school. My mum is a multitasking woman. She likes for us to learn different things and I think it paid off. I can make hair now and I can sew. Afterwards, sometime after going to learn German, I improved on it.
So what do you intend to do with your skill?
I actually intend to do something in fashion because I am also interested in fashion and I hope to learn more not just in Nigeria and to improve on it further.
Do you intend to study something related to fashion at the University?
No. But I hope to go to a fashion school where I can take courses in fashion designing, not a degree.
Do you feel self conscious now when walking on the streets? Do you always have to get all dressed up?
Absolutely, I do. Now I wear flats just when I’m with my family. Even when I’m with my family and their friends come over and they say “this is Miss Nigeria,” they look at me and say “I expected you to be seven feet tall or something.” I am very self conscious now. I know this sounds crazy but I really try not to tell people. I don’t know if that is absurd. I can’t go around saying, “hi, I’m Miss Nigeria.” But I have to dress up a lot because I don’t know who is where and who sees me and the time when you think that nobody is watching, you might just see a camera flashing in your face.
Tell us about your family
I’m the only child of my mum, but I have step brothers and sisters. I come from a polygamous family.
Are you dating anyone at the moment?
No I’m single
What qualities would you look out for in a man?
I’m not really searching but then he has to be a Christian. I like someone who is mature, tall and well to do, and nice, and kind and all of that.
You talk a lot about being a Christian and your faith. What role do you play in church?
I’m actually a chorister, I sing.
Do you have any plans to sing professionally like some former beauty queens have done?
I have no plans to do that but if someone asks me to sing, I could do that, yes, why not.
Would you allow your daughter participate in a beauty pageant?
Why not? My mum approved of mine. If it’s a decent one like Miss Nigeria, where I got a scholarship and you don’t have to walk around half naked. As long as it glorifies God, yes, if they want to.
You mentioned that you might pursue a career in fashion. How would you describe your personal style.
I used to be a jeans person but I think this year, I’ve probably worn jeans only like thrice. Now I kind of dress up more. Because I’m the queen now, I pay more attention to my clothes. I always match things up with a pair of heels because that makes you look good any time, any day and I wear more make up now.
What is your fondest memory of the pageant?
It was the part where we were top five and the host of the show asked the crowd “who do you want to win?” The rest of the girls who didn’t make it to top five really shouted when she said Miss Ogun and that moment was so precious to me. I’m really happy they supported me like that.
Do you really have to be tall and skinny to win a beauty pageant? What opportunities do the voluptuous ladies?
You don’t have to be really skinny and really tall. We had other people that were not very skinny and not very tall in the pageant back then and they might as well have won, some of them made top 20.
Do you think there is so much attention placed on a woman’s physical appearance as opposed to her intelligence and other non-physical attributes?
Well, generally I would say yes. When a person sees you, before you say anything, you are first of all judged by what you look like. But again, it’s vanity. It’s the world we live in but we just have to keep trying to prove to people that it’s really not about how you look but what is inside of you.