Interview: Motherhood has been pure perfection for me –Toyin Raji

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Toyin Raji deliberately shunned public life after her reign
as the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria 1995 came to an end. This low profile was
necessitated by the birth of her daughter. She left the country for a fresh
start in the United States and has been basking in her accomplishment as a
mother ever since.

Toyin thoroughly enjoyed every moment as a beauty queen, but reality hit her
hard as she suddenly realized that it wasn’t a tea party either. She was not
equipped to handle the publicity and press stunts and taunts that came with the
terrain.

She told KATE HALIM that since 1995, her outlook on life has changed even as
she has equipped herself to deal with negative comments and gossips without
batting an eyelid.


Excerpts:



What
have you been doing since the expiration of your reign? Little or nothing has
been heard from you in years, was it deliberate?

It
was deliberate. After the birth of my daughter, I began taking stock and
evaluating my life and my role as a mother. I thought it best to relocate to
the United States because I wanted a fresh start. Since the expiration of my
reign, I have basically kept a low profile. I went back to school, and I am now
in the IT field.

How has motherhood changed you?

Motherhood
is certainly the best thing that has happened to me. My life has changed
drastically, for the better I must add. It was a challenging role that I gladly
took. It certainly made me more responsible – not that I was irresponsible, but
it brought out my nurturing side. My life as I knew it was of less value to me
once she was born. Everyday decisions were no longer routine, as I had to take
my daughter into consideration. It is amazing how we would give up anything to
save our offspring and as we hope to accomplish our dreams, we could give them
up to watch our offspring accomplish theirs.

I
also came to the realization that parenting is the most difficult, yet
rewarding job in the world. There are no schools, no set rules, no nothing, you
simply learn as you go along and pray that you do the best you possibly can

If you have a chance at changing
anything about yourself, what would it be?

Nothing!
I absolutely love who I am as an individual, warts, and all. I am not perfect,
far from it, but I am perfect in my imperfection. I would not change a thing.

In the usual fashion of Beauty Queens,
why didn’t you set up a foundation to tackle issues relating to humanity?

‘In
the usual fashion of Beauty Queens’, I am glad you put it that way, because it
is exactly the reason I chose not go that route as there are humbler ways of
giving back. I believe that society’s expectations compel Beauty Queens to set
up foundations, not because they truly want to, but because they feel the need
to fulfil the beauty inside-out motto. I certainly have given back the best way
I know how, and still do. I must say though that we all dream of making a
difference, but it isn’t easy setting the world on our shoulders. I wake up
each day and do my bit and hopefully that counts.

At the time you were crowned, what was
the first thing that came to your mind?

Absolutely
nothing. I just basked in the moment.

What has changed about you since then?

I
think my outlook towards life. I try as best as I can, even though it can be
terribly difficult, to see the positive in everything. Try it; you will be
amazed at how good it is for the soul. I find that I have become better
equipped to deal with the negatives such as unhealthy comments, gossips, etc
without batting an eyelid. I think we all need a mind make-over.

How did you handle the publicity and
fame that came with your crown?

It
was great in the beginning. I felt I had arrived; the world was my oyster.
After a while though, the novelty of it all began to wear off. I could no
longer handle it; I simply left.

What was your MBGN experience like in
1995?

It
was an absolute roller coaster. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, but soon
came to the realization that I was ill-equipped to handle the press, mostly the
soft sell magazines. They can spin amazing tales.

Why do you think you were named Miss
Congeniality at Miss Universe pageant?

I
guess because I am congenial. Why else do you think? I consider myself a very
friendly and extroverted person depending on the circumstance or situation.

What do you consider your selling
points?
My selling points
would be my larger-than-life personality and communication skills. I feel as if
I just gave you an answer that I would give at a job interview.

What do you think has changed in
pageantry in Nigeria?

I
honestly haven’t been keeping up with pageants in Nigeria, so I cannot really
speak about them.

How has life been as a former Beauty
Queen?

It
has been incredibly peaceful. Motherhood has been pure perfection for me.

What are the qualities you possess that
make you unique?

What
a question! What makes one unique? Shall I say genetically I am an individual
in the universe? I would rather say, definitely my individuality. I dare to be
different. I hate to conform.

What was growing up like?

I
grew up in Lagos. Growing up was pretty much normal. My father passed on when I
was 11years old and my mother and stepfather raised me. I was somewhat
sheltered for the most part. I can say that all in all, I have only fond
memories of my childhood.

You are one of the ex-beauty queens
almost without scandals, how have you achieved this?

Are
there any without scandals, or am I just out of touch? Should it be difficult
to be scandal-free? I have had my share of silly write-ups. I don’t know how I
did it. It certainly wasn’t out of trying or lack thereof.

Do you miss being a beauty queen?

No.
It was a wonderful run. I did it and it’s done. Would I do it all over again?
Certainly!

What things and issues interest you?

Post-menopausal
depression. This is quite close to home as my mother suffered an extreme case
of it. It can be debilitating. When it happened with my mother, we were
clueless as to how to deal with it. It certainly is a cause that I would lend
my voice to.

How would you describe your fashion
sense?

Classic,
simplistic, casual, bold, bohemian chic – I do them all. I thrive on variety.
My fashion sense is quite diverse. My middle name should be Chameleon.

How do you keep fit?

I
have always enjoyed fitness. I do everything from power cardio to lifting
lightweights. A woman’s body is delicate. It therefore should be well taken
care of and celebrated.

How do you relax?

I
calm my nerves by having a great facial; Reflexology, or good old power nap
does it for me.

Describe yourself in three words

Extrovert,
optimistically cynical, and a realist.

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