Isabella Ayuk emerged as the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 2012. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde of The Nation, the queen who is still looking very ravishing talks about her passion for modelling, life as beauty queen, meeting Donald Trump and more.
Here are the excerpts. Enjoy!
What are the things that occupy your time now?
At the moment, I am occupied with my agency called Belle’sabel Modelling and Grooming Agency and it gives me great joy; that is what occupies my time. I must say that the Belle’sabel Modelling and Grooming Agency is a preparatory (prep) coaching outfit. It was conceptualised and evolved to groom minors (children and teenagers) and adults interested in a wide range of soft skill identification and development. These include training in ballet, violin, piano, modelling, guitar, drum, dance and much more. The training usually is to enable them discover and harness latent talent, thereby inspiring and empowering individuals to actualise their dreams through extended mental imaging and possibility thinking. It is located at 26, Ebitu Ukiwe Street, Jabi, Abuja.
Apart from this, I am also passionate about my non-governmental organisation, theVanessa Manyo Memorial Foundation, and it keeps me busy as well. At the moment, preparations are on-going for the next phase of our outreach to some villages in Cross River State. Our desire here is to create more small scale businesses for widows, we would also be awarding scholarships to students and distributing food stuffs as a way of reducing hunger which happens to be one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
I am also working on a pageant, the Cross River Most Beautiful Pageant, and I am the project director. It is the first and only state pageant with an automatic slot to the prestigious Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN). It’s a full time job for me because I work with each queen that emerges year after year on their pet projects, going for MBGN and so on. So far we’ve had three editions. It’s not just a pageant, it is a movement because it’s all about giving back to the society. The queens also work hand in hand with my N.G.O.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
My mother is the greatest influence in my life because through it all, she taught me to be strong and always believe in God and His promises.
Let’s talk about some memorable moments in your life
The most memorable moment in my life was the day I gave my life to Christ Jesus.
What are the highpoints of life as the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria?
I would say that the high point of my life as the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria was when I was pronounced Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria 2012. Also representing Nigeria at the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas and meeting Donald Trump.
I made my family, local government area and state proud to emerge as MBGN. I was happy and proud to position my local government area on the map as the first lady from my L.G.A to win such a prestigious title and the second Crossriverian to emerge as Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria.
The first lady won the title over 10 years before my emergence and over 29 years since MBGN pageant has been in existence. I had a beautiful home-coming organised for me by the state government headed by Senator Liyel Imoke and his dear wife. All the chiefs from my local government area were present at the event at the LGA headquarters and my paramount ruler prayed for me. It was beautiful and I was so happy. Gifts were also presented to me both at the state level and the LGA.
One of the high points for me then were the projects that we carried out during my tenure. It included going into villages campaigning against typhoid fever, distributing free typhoid vaccines, creating small scale businesses for widows and the less-privileged, renovating schools and awarding scholarships, renovating widows houses, renovating and equipping hospitals, to mention but a few.
What were the challenges as a queen and how did you cope with them?
Looking back now, I would say that I had two challenges. The first was getting people and companies to sponsor my projects. That, for me, was a huge challenge. All thanks to Cross River State government for believing in my projects. They saw that they were sustainable and decided to support all my projects. Gradually, I started gaining support from individuals and companies. It was after this that I launched my nongovernmental organisation under which platform I am able to give back to the society today.
Interestingly, the second challenge was when I had to represent Nigeria at the Miss Universe pageant instead of Miss World because I was past the age limit for Miss World. Luckily, I was still within the age limit for Miss Universe. However, it was a great experience for me because I met with Donald Trump, Juliana Ransic, Laila Lopes (former Miss Universe) and so many other beautiful, young and intelligent queens all over the world, most of whom I am still in touch with.
I was able to cope with the challenges because I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to stop me, not even the distractions at that moment.
What is your definition of style?
Style, for me, is a reflection of who you are and I believe everyone should discover their own element of style and stay with it.
How would you assess the average Nigerian designer today?
I would describe the average Nigerian designer today as creative and innovative. I love creative and innovative designer labels like Temptation Fashion World, DZYN Couture, SARC Clothing, Ama Aray and GINA’s.
These fashion houses have clothed me and are still clothing me. Sincerely speaking, whenever I wear their collections, I usually get praises and accolades. Here, I must say a big thank you to my manager, Amb Chris Odey, for introducing me to these beautiful designers. I pray the government will take a look at the sector and make funding opportunities available for practitioners of the fashion and beauty industry. It is very important to make funds easily accessible for the upcoming ones.
What won’t you do in the name of fashion?
I won’t expose my entire body in the name of fashion.
What item(s) do you cherish most in your wardrobe?
My shoes. I am an avid collector of shoes. I can’t do without a nice pair of shoe (laughs).
Where do you hope to be in the next ten years?
First of all, I hope to be married with kids. I hope to remain being an advocate for women and children. I hope to be a UN Ambassador/UNICEF Ambassador (laughs). I also love politics, so I hope to be a politician. I hope to see branches of Bellesabel Modelling and Grooming Agency around the world.
Tell us about some of the awards and recognitions in your kitty
It’s good knowing that the efforts put in are being appreciated and recognised. Some of the awards include the Nigeria Goodwill Ambassador Awards, Niger Delta Award, Glofinet Goodwill Award, to mention but a few.
Who are your mentors and role models?
I’ve got role models in different areas of life. In business, Dr. Mrs Aisha Achimugu and my sister, Esame Amanda, are my role models. I love strong women; women of class, trail blazers, entrepreneurs by all standards, boardroom technocrats, astute innovators. These women are perfect examples.
In marriage, Ntufam and Mrs Peter Asam Ayuk are my role models. Even in their prime age, the bond is amazing. I have a lot to learn from them when I am married. I know people who know my family will be wondering, why not her family? Well, I am a product of polygamy and I don’t see that as a perfect example.
In politics, my elder brother, Prince Ebuta Ayuk, and Sen. John Enoh are my role models. The manner with which they handle political issues amazes me. Here we find, good speech command, intelligent and vibrant conversations. In addition, you find that they never mix politics with business. They always say their minds and stand for what is right and rebuke what is wrong. I admire these men greatly.
If you have to advice young people, what would you tell them?
My advice would be, believe in God and His promises, believe in yourself, do not procrastinate. Go for what you want as long as it is of positive impact, work hard and work smart.