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‘Being first African to make top 16 of Mrs. World pageant fulfilling’

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
21 January 2023   |   2:47 am
Rei Obaigbo is an astute marketer, Beauty Queen Ambassador and women, culture and environment activist.  A graduate of English and Literature from Edo State University, Iyambo, she is the current Mrs. Nigeria, who represented the country at the 2022 Mrs. World contest held in Las Vegas, U.S., where she clinched the 12th position, the first…

Rei Obaigbo

Rei Obaigbo is an astute marketer, Beauty Queen Ambassador and women, culture and environment activist.  A graduate of English and Literature from Edo State University, Iyambo, she is the current Mrs. Nigeria, who represented the country at the 2022 Mrs. World contest held in Las Vegas, U.S., where she clinched the 12th position, the first black woman to reach that height.
With almost a decade of experience in marketing communication, media and real estate, she is also the founder of Oreime.com, a fast growing Afrocentric content marketing community. Obaigbo is also the founder of The Gathering Africa, a project through which she grooms young talented writers, artists and philosophers. She is the current President of International Real Estate Association for Young Professionals (FIABCI).
A member of the International Women’s Society (IWS) and  several professional bodies like the Chartered Institute of Marketing United Kingdom, National Institute of Marketing Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and Advertising Regulatory Council Nigeria, Obaigbo, in this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, shares her experiences at the Mrs. Nigeria and Mrs. World Pageants, among other issues.

Tell us about your journey to pageantry and why you chose to participate in the Mrs. Nigeria Pageant?
MY journey to pageantry started from my teens. I have always enjoyed the process of pageantry, finding the pageant that aligns with my principles, going through the relining workshops and trainings of each pageant. I however left pageantry after I got married and only found my way back during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown when I re-launched my African pageant and culture blog, Oreime.com.
 
As I was exploring content for the platform, I found Mrs. World and wanted to be a part of it. Then I found Mrs. Nigeria, which as at 2020, had just had its first pageant in Nigeria and was announcing for the second. I applied, and out of almost 300 women nationwide, I made it to 36 and eventually emerged the winner of Mrs. Nigeria. It was a journey of sisterhood, one that included physical, mental and social grooming. I was indeed honoured to have emerged winner out of all the beautiful and fulfilled women that started the Mrs. Nigeria journey with me.

How do you feel having represented Nigeria on the world stage and being the first black among the top 16 contestants?
Being the first West African woman and one of the few African based coloured women to compete was very empowering. I knew I was there not just as me but also as a woman representing my ethnicity and other women like myself. I was encouraged by the thought of empowering other women to dare to venture into new experiences. Emerging top 16 was an empowering moment. I rocked my Afro and gele and natural looks during the pageant. It was very fulfilling to emerge top 16 and to be the first African Mrs. to be called out.

How did your husband take your participation in the pageant?
The journey to Mrs. Nigeria started in 2020 and I told him from the beginning and he knows that I used to be into pageants. I had done several pageants even before we met and even while we were dating. And so, he knows that I am really excited about it. So, he was really supportive of me going for the Mrs. Nigeria pageant. When I won it, he was really happy for me. He was really encouraging and supportive. He is an awesome partner; it made me appreciate our union even more.
 
By the time we were going for the Mrs. World Pageant, I did have a lot of struggles. I didn’t feel I was qualified to represent Nigeria or empowered enough to represent this massive country, the Giant of Africa. There were times he looked at me and said, ‘whatever it is, it is about how confident you are. You are a very confident person and it is not just that, you also encourage other people.’ He told me to focus on that and hold on to it, saying I would inspire other women after me. That was the key part of my journey.

Did the pageant insist that the contestants are married and should appear a certain way?
The Mrs. Nigeria Pageant is actually a no-bikini pageant. We only do gowns. It is very conservative, which is why he was okay with it. But then, the Mrs. World had a bikini session, which is only for the semi-finals and not open for public viewing. We had the judges and your family members, but it was not open for public viewing. The finals, however, was open to the public. The content afterwards was shared. So, if you wanted to share it, you could do so.

 
We did have a bikini session and I was actually very nervous. For the semi-finals, when you get to the top 16 contestants, you get to change into another bikini. He was already so excited that I was among the finalists and he gave me his go-ahead. This I appreciated and I know it was because I had been open from the beginning and we communicated explicitly about the pageant. So immediately I found out that Mrs. World had a bikini session, I told him. He was also too excited to have me in the finals.

What kept you going throughout the contest?
My friends, family and the awesome support from others who believed in me and the journey – the other beautiful sister queens like Mrs. Norway, Mrs. Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs. Sierra Leone, Mrs. Ghana, Mrs. Haiti, Mrs. Zimbabwe, Mrs. Botswana, Mrs. Singapore, Mrs. Nepal, Mrs. Polynesia, including Mrs. Plateau and Mrs. Abuja, my awesome husband and my in-laws. This awesome community kept me going throughout the contest.

As Mrs. Nigeria, what will you be championing with the position?  
I have a lot of projects that I am actively involved in, which is also one of the things that I like in the Mrs. World Pageant. Miss World is about you pitching what you want to do while Mrs. World is about what you have done to empower your community and to empower those around you. So you should have a project you are doing within your community that you are showcasing to participate in the Mrs. World Pageant.
  Mrs. Nigeria isn’t all about you looking beautiful, because we all are. It is about the projects that you are on, the difference and the impact you have made on women and those around you.

So tell us about some of your projects?
I have several projects; one of them is on the environment. We clean waterways and marine areas in Lagos State. We try to gather dirt and recyclable products and find new ways to recycle. We also educate people on how to maintain the environment and properly dispose wastes. It is called Eco-Pro Life; it is mostly a group of volunteers, who come together every month to go to certain areas.
 
I also champion Oremi, which is a brand that I started because of the pageant, but it has somehow diversified and grown into a full-blown business. One of the projects that I started at Oremi is empowering African grown talents – writers, artists and philosophers. I loved painting and writing as a child. As a young adult, I had to drop it to pursue my career in marketing. So, I felt that if there were some sort of financial support, it would have helped me stay true to that. A lot of times, people overlook writers and artists, but these are the people who preserve our culture, and they are a key part of growing our culture – where we are; where we can be. It is literature and art that provoke new ideas.

 
I have a project called ‘The Gathering Africa’, where we gather talented writers, artists and philosophers to share their works and then we empower some of the best with scholarship programmes and financial support.

How old is the project?
Last year was the second year. We will be doing another edition this year, probably in February and throughout the year. I’m sure you know how it is when you look at young artworks and you listen to them performing. Sometimes, it makes me really proud, because I feel like it means the future is bright.

Did you get any form of attention or support from the authorities before or after the pageant?
I did try to get some support from the Nigerian authorities but a lot of times, getting to these people is about who you know. And sometimes, by the time you are going through, some go cold, some don’t and it is just a whole lot more energy invested in following up. So, I just figured that the point is to go there and represent your country the best way you can.
 
There was no government support unfortunately. I did want government support because I felt it would have gone a long way to create a lot of proper branding for Nigeria, a whole lot of assurance. It would increase the perception of its authenticity. A lot of Nigerians are usually skeptical and I can’t blame them. But when we see government support, it is different.

What should women take home from your experience?
Be your true self. Hold on to your truth. Dare to follow your passion. Do not ever let any social boxes limit you. It’s okay to have negative intrusive thoughts; walk through them to focus on the positive. Remind yourself of who you want to be and hold on to it. Don’t let others’ wins discourage you but let it be a reminder of what you can achieve.

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