In August 2006, Shirley Alero Aghotse beat all the beautiful contestants from the six geo-political zones of the country to emerge the first-ever Miss Tourism in Nigeria.

After her well-celebrated reign, she went back to school to continue with her education. Today, Aghotse is a graduate of Business Education from the Delta State University, Abraka. Aghotse could be described as a beauty and brain as she narrowly missed a first class in her degree exam.

She is not deterred as she is ready to make her impact felt in the society.

To this end, the Ughara, Delta State-born ex-queen has announced the launch of her non-governmental organization (NGO), Nigeria Rebirth, Renaissance and Advancement Initiative which comes up early next year. The organization, targeted at the youths, is to promote the rights and values of the society. It is also for the individual and the nation as a whole to inculcate national values and consciousness.

She further stated that the project is aimed at bridging the gap between the old and new generation. She spoke to Saturday Sun on the project and her tenure as the first Miss Tourism

How do you intend to carry out this project?
We are going to organize it in the geo-political zones of the country. Later, we will reach out to other countries of the world.

What are the challenges you might be facing in the course of this project?
I think finance is going to pose a serious challenge. Moreover, the negative impression other countries have had about Nigeria will also be a problem because people from other parts of the world do not really believe in Nigeria.

Everyone, especially the youths, want to get out of the country for what they call greener pasture and that is really a problem. I was in a place where some people were discussing American election shortly after Barrack Obama was elected President, and they were comparing Nigeria with America.
Some of them opined that Nigeria will never be like America but I was quick to tell them that I believe in Nigeria and that Nigeria is moving forward. I believe that in 20 years’ time, Nigeria will be a great country free from corruption. I see a Nigeria where we will be our brother’s keeper, no quota system, marginalization and tribalism. I see a country free from individualism and oneness. I see a country where we will be thinking together as a nation.

What inspired you to float this kind of project?
I have always been passionate about Nigeria. I can still remember that when I was in secondary school, I wrote a poem about Nigeria. Again, coming from a university background, I am not really happy with the things I saw there.

What are the things?
I saw a situation where people are not ready to work hard anymore. The students are not ready to read their books rather they prefer to pass through short cuts. The boys in the campus are busy doing yahoo yahoo, driving big cars in the school and nobody is asking questions. They are all particular about material things. We have lost our values and I think this should change.

How do you intend to raise fund for your project?
We hope to partner the government and stakeholders.

There are a lot of NGOs and people are skeptical about their activities, so what if the fund do not come?
I am quite optimistic that the money will come because my NGO is a unique one. It is quite different from the common projects that we have around.

What was growing up like?
I am from a broken home. My parents separated when I was very young but that is one of the things that also really motivated me. I grew up with my maternal grandmother. She was very nice even though, she did not teach me how to cook, but she taught me how to trade. I stated trading when I was very young because I would go to the market and help her and I was very helpful.

What was it like being a queen?
It was very interesting. I represented Osun State in that pageant. It was not easy to emerge the queen because it was a tough contest and a maiden edition, too. We had queens from all the states that contested in the pageant. Even, the daughter of the then Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Ogbewu, was among the contestants.

During my reign, I represented Nigeria in the Miss Tourism World in Zimbawe in 2005 and emerged the 4th runner-up out of the 86 beauty queens from different countries. That was actually tough but I think I did Nigeria proud. I worked with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I also worked with an organization, Distinct Integrated Services headed by Mrs. Nike Agunbiade.

How has the crown affected your life?
It made me to be a complete lady. As a lady, there are certain things that you cannot do. For instance, I cannot just stop on the road and buy something or even eat along the road. It got me matured. My focus in life changed. During that time, I discovered that hard-work pays and when I went back to school, I worked very hard.

Do you still live like a queen?
You know that as a beauty queen, you have a kind of entourage following you around which includes the manager and all that, but I don’t have all those things now. I still try to maintain that class.

Would you still want to live like a queen?
I still live like a queen except for the entourage. But that could be possible probably when I become the first Nigerian woman president.

Did your position as a beauty queen affect your relationship with friends?
I have one or two friends and we are still friends.

As a beauty queen and as a pretty girl, a lot of men must be coming around, how have you been able to handle them?
I have my values and what I believe in and I try to abide by them.

Who is your ideal man?
My ideal man must be God-fearing, presentable, good looking, dark, intelligent and must be an African.

Do you have a beauty routine?
Yes. I try to eat right and drink a lot of water. I use a lot of cocoa butter. I try not to clog my pores.

How best do you like to dress?
I like to dress decently.

How can you describe Nigerian tourism industry?
There is an improvement in the Nigerian tourism industry especially in Lagos and Cross River states. The former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, did a wonderful job in transforming the state.
In Lagos too, Governor Fashola is doing very well by taking care of the environment and security in the state. Tourism has a lot to do with the environment and security. Generally, Nigerian tourism industry is better but not the best yet.