Agbani Darego is widely known as the winner of the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria competition in 2001 and the first native African to win the Miss World competition. The other three Africans who had won the contest before her, Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel (South Africans) and Antigone Costanda (Egyptian) are of European and Greek descents respectively.
Biography (Early Life & Education)
Born on December 22, 1982 in Abonnema, Rivers State, she was christened Ibiagbanidokikubo Asenite Darego. She is the sixth child of her parent’s eight children. Her father was a Customs Officer while her mother was an entrepreneur, trading in rice, while running a boutique.
Darego had her primary education at Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary School. However, when she was 10 years old, she was sent to Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Abuloma – a boarding school – after she lost her mother to breast cancer.
After her secondary school education, she proceeded to the University of Port Harcourt to study Computer Science. She decided to terminate her studentship due to her busy schedules and later enrolled at the New York University where she studied Psychology.
From an early age, Agbani had developed interest in fashion and modelling. She was always seen browsing through the pages of several fashion magazines although her father did not buy the idea of her being a model.
She auditioned for “The Face of Africa” modelling competition staged by M-Net and came out as a runner-up.
Not giving up, Agbani Darego entered for the “Miss Nigeria” competition in 2001 and this time, she was crowned as the winner. Being the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria qualified her to represent the country at the two bigger competitions – Miss Universe and Miss World.
Agbani decided to be different from the lot by wearing a maillot at the Miss Universe competition (which held at Bayamon, Puerto Rico) instead of the two-piece bikini. Although this move distinguished her, it is speculated that it is the reason she did not make it to the final stage. She, however, made it to the top 10 at the semi-final stage.
Learning from her experiences at the Miss Universe competition, she braced herself for a better appearance at the Miss World pageantry that held in November of the same year, 2001.
She had many votes in her favour having won the hearts of many. Finally, it was time for the judges to decide who the winner would be among the five finalists which consisted of Zizi Lee (Miss Aruba), Ligia Cristina Argüello (Miss Nicaragua), Juliet Jane (Miss Scotland), Bing Li (Miss China), and Agbani Darego (Miss Nigeria).
The question tossed at Agbani Darego was: “In this men’s world, what do you think you can change which men cannot?” Agbani succinctly responded that she entered the competition not for the charade of the crown, neither was it for the visibility nor the financial benefits. Rather, she was in because she has a heart for humanity and would do anything and everything within her means to help the needy and less privileged in the society.
Her response won the hearts of the judges and she was declared winner with a crown laden with turquoise, sapphire and diamonds worth up to $262.5m. Zizi Lee (Miss Aruba) and Juliet Jane (Miss Scotland) emerged as first and second runners-up respectively.
The 1.82m tall beauty queen, at the age of 18, became the first native African to be crowned Miss World at the 51st anniversary of the competition. She also received a total of $100,000 cash prize and $150,000 worth of gifts.
Business & Profession
Besides being a beauty queen, Agbani Darego is also a model. She had featured in print commercials for Collectibles, a boutique chain before she emerged as the MBGN. She has her picture on several other magazines such as Vogue, Trace, Elle, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan amongst others, as well as beauty adverts such as Christian Dior and Target.
Darego has had the privilege to participate in a charity fashion show hosted by Naomi Campbell in Barcelona. She has also worked with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.
She established her own TV show, Stylogenic, a style and fashion reality show in 2010.
In 2011, she was named the brand ambassador for Arik Air and Nature’s Gentle Touch (a hair care product line).
Agbani Darego runs a denim fashion line called AD, established in 2013. The range includes dresses, jeans, sunglasses, and bag.
She is married to Ishaya Danjuma. They tied the nuptial knot on April 8, 2017.
Agbani Darego gives financial support to NGOs that create breast cancer awareness in Africa.