Kenneth Okoli, a Nigerian, emerged the second runner-up in the just concluded Mr World pageant which took place in South Korea. He recounts his experience to DEMOLA OLONILUA.
My background I was born in 1984 to the family of Okoli, Chief Sir A. M Okoli and Lady Okoli. I am the first of four children, I am from Anambra State. I graduated from the Valleyview University in Ghana in 2008. I studied marketing in school, so I had a bigger picture for myself to become a marketing executive. I was working before I went for Mr Nigeria competion. I am still working and my status is not affecting my work in anyway.
From modelling to Mr. Nigeria
I started modelling in 2006. A friend of mine talked me into it. He had invited me to accompany him to a photo shoot. I took some pictures then and from there, I got calls from people who said that they liked my pictures. They said I had a very good smile, a bold face, and other qualities. That was how it all started.
I started with magazines, then moved on to television commercials before hitting the runway. I was good on the runway. My first major competiton took place in 2007. I contested in the Black Model Awards, which held in Cote D‘ Ivoire. I represented Nigeria. It was not too big, but it was still a major event which I won. I came to Nigeria afterwards and I heard about Mr Nigeria. I signed for it at the last minute. Two days before audition, I bought the form and met the other contestants. Then I was invited to camp. While there, I was confident that I was going to win. I had met my co-contestants and seen that they were all capable and worthy opponents to take the crown out of my hand, but I had to challenge myself to be the best.
My experience at the Mr World competition
It was actually tasking and challenging contesting in the Mr World pageant. I had an amazing time. I had to put my best in it because I knew I was representing my country also, not just myself, and I had to be a worthy ambassador of Nigeria.
The training was very tough. Most of it was done outdoor and the temperature was about six degrees. The snow was also a factor that did not help. Imagine jogging and doing push-ups in the snow and running in the beach water in that temperature. It was not the best experience, but it was part of the training.
In comparison with the Mr. World pageant, the Mr Nigeria contest is what table tennis is to rugby. When I was going for the Mr World competition, my mind was blank. It was exciting, looking down the plane, and seeing South Korea and its beautiful landscape. I did not think about the competiton until the plane had touched down. That was when it occurred to me I was there for business. When I saw the other 74 contestants, all good looking and ambassadors of their countries, I knew I had to put in my best, and it paid off.
When I was announced as the 2nd runner-up in the competition, all that came to my mind was Nigeria. I thought of how happy and proud Nigerians would be. If I had got the first position, it would have been very nice. It would have been a landmark achievement for me. But I really appreciated being the second runner-up. I am really overwhelmed with joy.
Secret of my success and doubts
I would say confidence and self-motivation were the secret of my success. I am a believer and I triumph over things. Although each contestant had a special skill, I told myself that whatever others had, I would work on mine twice as much to beat them.
I was a bit disappointed with the judges in the talent show because I knew I did deserve to be put in the position where I found myself. I deserved more than that. It put me down for about a day because I thought they cheated me.
Why male models?
Modelling is all about the women folk. From the outset, it was intended to elevate their pride and show their beauty. Now it is the turn of the men. It all started with the Mr Universe and Mr Macho competitions. These days, modelling for men is now about men showcasing their qualities and our fashion. It is all about advertisement. The way women advertise their feminine side with clothes is the same way that we men advertise our masculine side. We men have to do it for ourselves because women cannot wear our clothes for us.
When I started modelling, I did it just for fun. It was just for pleasure and for making some money on the side. It was not like a major thing. I knew I had a future ahead of me and modelling was not something I wanted to do full time. It was just like a weekend thing. Whenever a show came up, I would do it. Fortunately for me, all the jobs I always went for, I got them.
Keeping my old relationships
I am a very honest and humble person. Humility is one of my best qualities. I would not leave my old friends for new ones because when the fame dies off the new ones would probably leave; but the old ones would still be there. They have been with me from the beginning; we have hung out in school and done things together. My friends and I are still together. We talk on the phone. The only problem is that I have not really had as much time as I would love to spend with them. It is not how it used to be because of my schedule.
My colleagues in my office actually see a serious and dedicated person who is devoted to his work and can achieve a lot. I work as a marketing manager.
Encouraging my younger siblings
I would encourage them to find their own path, their own calling. As a kid, I did not have any elder brother. But I had uncles and cousins whom I looked up to. I was a skillled child. I was very intelligent and creative. I could make toys, but I had no one to motivate me, who would see that I was good at what I did and help me to showcase it to the public. Instead, they made me think I was wasting resources. Back in those days, if I saw you wearing a pair of new slippers, I imagined that they would make a very good bumper for my toy car. But I was not motivated to build on my talent. My younger brothers are already coming up and I can see they are also very creative enough to build toy cars, toy phones and toy men. It would not cost me much to invest in their talents. I had that talent, but I did not have the opportunity to build on it.
No, I do not do drugs. I do not do proteins. That is for body builders. We models just keep in shape. We just have the apps and the cuts, let the body be firm and have details, and look good. All I do is just pump iron and do push-ups. Most of the time I am at home, I just do push-ups and sit up.
My ideal woman
I am a very down to earth person. When I want to be hyper I could be hyper, but when it comes to women, I am very selective. I go for someone that makes me comfortable, a person who is understanding and patient. Popularity or not, if I can get someone like that, I am very okay.
Like I said before, I am a very humble person. It is when I go to her like a superstar that there could be a problem. But if I go to her as Kenneth, then I will make her understand who I am. That is what I mean by understanding. So if the person understands me, it would work. If she does not, it would not work.
My pet project
My first project will focus on wiping out malaria fever. I shall give out mosquito nets for now.