Nyeka Douglas had always had an idea of what kind of life she wanted to live. She had always displayed a flair for fashion, modelling and a passion for giving back to the community.
Living in the same neighbourhood and being an alumni of the primary school Agbani Darego attended (Bereton Montessori, Port Harcourt) influenced her decision to be a beauty queen. Despite a humble beginning, her parents ensured that she went to one of the best schools in the state.
"Surrounded by kids who came from more affluent backgrounds I was sometimes bullied for how I looked and why my food smelled different, even though I was happy about what I had"
She begun to take intentional steps to break into the industry. Unsure about what to study at the University of South Florida, she decided to take up a public health degree. She ensured that her passion was still in the picture and would often model for her friends who had clothing lines and volunteered for exhibitions like the New York fashion week.
Being an international student presented some complications in progressing in that line so she decided to take the bold step to return home to Nigeria.
Her passion was evident and this drove her out of her comfort zone when she decided to leave Port Harcourt, board a bus by herself to Lagos and chase her dreams. She would often take up modelling jobs with little to no pay and she explains why:
"People think I am in it for the money, which is why I would do it for such little amounts. Don't get me wrong, money is really nice and I love it and need it but I think its something I would still do passionately, with or without money."
Nyeka states that she owes a lot of her success to her friend Bimpe Onakoya. Being a young pageant queen in a new city, she needed a strong supportive influence and Bimpe was just that. The pair met at the Arise Fashion Week and their relationship has become one that would benefit them both.
She recalls her MBGN (Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria) campaign as one of the most confusing, exciting and stressful times of her life. It quickly became apparent that the world of pageantry went beyond having a pretty face and a nice figure.
Gruelling schedules, hours of rehearsals, intellectual tests and endless pressure to lose inches on her waistline were just a few of the things she has had to deal with. But with a steadfast mind and eyes on the prize, she persevered and won.
Her Miss World experience wasn't much different, but with a little experience under her belt, she had become accustomed to the routines. Placing top 5 would not be the highlight of that competition however, but her reaction to Miss Jamaica being crowned would. In an adorable display of solidarity, she screamed, jumped and embraced the newly crowned Miss World! The video still gives me chills, and it would allow her to win hearts all over the world.
She laughs as she recaps:
"I honestly thought they were going to disqualify me for doing that. I thought I had disgraced my family and country. I didn't think it would be met with that much applause".
Her larger than life personality and tenacity are traits that the world has come to know Nigerians by and I felt proud to be represented by her.
With one of her major goals ticked off her list, the uncertainty about what to pursue next looms. She jokes "Regular life continues and I'm still looking for money!".
Nyeka has a "beauty with a purpose" project centred on personal hygiene development, which is now more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic. She plans to spread personal hygiene awareness to less fortunate children, starting with the Makoko community and she elaborates more on that project HERE.
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