Lola Adeoye: The beauty and the brain
Lola is a 2014 alumna of the School of Communications at Howard University. Immediately following graduation, Lola entered Howard University School of Law, where she currently is a 3rd year JD/MBA student. At the law school, Lola has the pleasure of serving as the President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Students Association and Graduate Student Assembly Secretary. She has had the pleasure of taking several intellectual property related courses which has solidified her interest in becoming an entertainment attorney. This past semester, she was honoured to be a Student Attorney in the Intellectual Property and Trademark Clinic at the Howard Law Clinical Centre, which gave her the experience needed to be selected as an intern in Viacom’s Business and Legal Affairs Department for BET Networks this upcoming summer. Outside of law school, Lola loves to serve her community through various avenues, including her church home Graceland Bible Faith and her beloved sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
In this interview with Guardian Woman, she discusses her pet projects and how she successfully battled depression.
How has being Miss Nigeria USA changed your life?
It has truly been the time of my life. I’ve been able to serve as a role model in areas of life where I didn’t even realize people were watching me. The opportunity to uplift young women is one that is unmatched, so I am honestly grateful for that. Along with that awesome opportunity, I am able to speak out on issues that are uncommon, even down to my appearance. Having a short haircut as a beauty queen has certainly proven to be very different and I’ve embraced the apprehension that sometimes comes with that.
Has being a beauty queen affected your Law programme?
I currently am pursuing dual professional degrees, a JD (law) and an MBA (business). The programme is for 4 years and I am blessed to be in my third year. It certainly is not easy having to balance my studies with my obligations as Miss Nigeria USA, but that’s really what being a modern beauty queen is about. We are much than pretty faces; we’re career women, that also happen to have a passion for service and our communities. So I count it all joy honestly, sleep a little less, and get the job done.
You cried when you were announced as the winner of the pageant. Was that a mandatory thing for beauty queens or was there an emotional thing going?
I certainly am not a conventional titleholder, so if there were such a thing as a “mandatory thing for beauty queens”, I wouldn’t be one to subscribe to that. With that said, there is no such thing, especially not within the Miss Nigeria USA organization. We pride ourselves on being different, and having beauty with purpose. I cried when I won from pure shock and gratefulness. I’ve shared this before, but many are still unaware that Miss Nigeria USA was my 9th beauty pageant in the last 6 years, but was my first major title. I have been a second or third runner up several times in pageants. So in the moment of making the final two, I was truly thinking about how that could possibly be the case again, and I had accepted it in my spirit as God’s will should that have been the case. When I heard my name called, I collapsed from pure awe in God. He perfected my desire to become a national titleholder in a much better way than I ever imagined. I represent not just the United States, but also Nigeria and it is truly an honour and privilege. My journey to this crown has been a long one, filled with growth and constant improvement, so I truly was just extremely grateful.
Has your pet project on suicide and depression awareness and prevention started? Any achievement recorded in this regard?
Yes! I am proud to say it has. I have begun speaking at various events held usually by organizations designed to empower young women, such as One Million Girls, Project Beautify You, Fearless Girls, as well as The State of the Black Woman, to name a few. Awareness is half the battle when it comes to these issues, so I focus my efforts on helping young ladies identify the roots of depression and suicidal thoughts such as low self-esteem, poor self-image, and a lack of attention to self-care. Approaching suicide and depression from this sense has allowed me to start the conversation on mental health care in spaces where it is usually taboo, and allows people to be more comfortable with identifying it. I also am currently working with Miss Howard University to hold a program featuring the Howard University Counselling Centre, to shed light on affordable treatment options for college students to accomplish the prevention piece of my platform. I intend to hold similar programs at Bowie State University and Morgan State University, to name a few.
Why did you choose to focus on suicide and depression?
I chose to focus on suicide and depression from my personal experiences. I went through depression in my personal life while in college and that experience helped me realize how little attention we pay to those struggling with their mental health. As a community, Nigerians and the Black community at large, often ignore signs of poor mental health and it is becoming a huge problem for us, as suicide rates continue to rise. When I began to research generally for MNUSA, I realized that this issue was not limited to the Unites States, but also prevalent in Nigeria. I knew that it would be a bold step to simply state this as my platform because it would get people at least talking about what suicide and depression look like in their communities. I think it’s important to choose to focus on issues that have personally affected you, because you can speak from a place of healing and experience to those you come in contact with. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do this and have gotten testimonies that really make me thankful that I chose to speak out on this topic.
You intend to lobby the Nigerian government to review and update the Mental Health Act which has not been reviewed since 1959. How do you intend to actualise this?
Well, this is certainly a tall order, but as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem solved. I am hopeful in getting this goal accomplished by writing letters to Nigerian government officials, simply explaining the importance of mental health in Nigeria and the severe need for attention to it. I also intend to take the time to speak about it on each engagement I go on while on my MNUSA Homecoming Media Tour. I think by bringing attention to the issue initially, I will be able to garner the interest in the issue in someone, who will give me the audience to present my proposal for the improvement of mental health care in Nigeria. It certainly will be an ongoing project, even after the crown. I have a network of health professionals that really are interested in making their mark on our Nigeria, so it will certainly be a work in progress until the ultimate goal is reached.
After your reign ends, what should people expect from you?
After I won, the founder and director of Miss Nigeria USA (Joy Ikedinma) made it clear to me that I needed to look beyond the crown. The way she put it, MNUSA works to give young ladies a platform to accomplish their goals, and it has been doing just that. So after the crown, the world can expect to see me in the same spaces doing the same things that mattered to me while I was the reigning queen. The exposure and opportunity that it has brought will allow me to pressure the Nigerian government to do something mental health care it in our beloved country. I also will be finishing up school, so I look forward to practicing as an attorney in the States. Finally, I hope that down the line I can break into the entertainment industry, either as talent or management. We’ll see what God has in store for me!