THE FIRST WOMAN TO BECOME MISS NIGERIA
Grace Atinuke Oyelude was the first ever Miss Nigeria of the maiden edition of the beauty pageant held in 1957. Miss Nigeria started in 1957 as a photo contest, whereby contestants sent photographs of themselves to The Daily Times headquarters in Lagos. Finalists were shortlisted and then invited to compete in the live final contest at the Lagos Island Club.
At that time, the beauty contest did not include wearing a swimsuit. That year, Grace’s younger brother saw the advert of the beauty contest in the newspapers and applied on her behalf. The result came in and it read that she should be in Lagos for the interview to be selected as a Miss Nigeria contestant.
The next day, which happened to be the first time in her life, she boarded a plane to Lagos. Grace was working at UAC when she represented the then Northern region as she was living in Kano at the time. After winning the contest, she travelled to England where she studied Nursing. Grace became a State Registered Nurse in 1961 and became qualified as a State Registered Midwife in 1962.
In a 2015 chat with Ezinne Akudo, the 2015 Miss Nigeria, Grace Oyelude shares what the contest looked like in 1957:
We were asked to report at the Daily Times office. We all met, about 200 of us but I was the only one from Kano. We were interviewed. They asked how we got to Lagos and I told them that I flew for the first time in my life. So, we were asked to come back the next day.
There was really no interview that time. They asked where you come from and your parent’s background. They didn’t ask why we want to be Miss Nigeria because I wouldn’t have known what to say.
So, on the D-day, we didn’t have any interviews or rehearsals. That day was a Saturday in April 1957. We all met in Lagos Island Club. We were offered seat and drinks. And then someone came to tell us that we would be asked to walk through a hall. There were many people around.
Later, we were asked to walk around in the hall. There was music on and it was late Bobby Benson that was playing then and we walked round three times before they asked us to go and sit down. We didn’t dance.
A lady, late lady Alakija and a lawyer came and one stood behind me on the right and the other on the left and while I was wondering what they were doing behind me as I didn’t know them, I was announced as the Miss Nigeria for 1957. I didn’t even know my name had been called until the two people behind me led me to the stage. And that night, I had to find my way back.
I was given 200 pounds, four beautiful dresses and a trip to London. And after that, I was never a queen. Nobody knew me as Miss Nigeria again because I went to England to study Nursing at the university.
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