CONVENTIONALLY, beauty pageants are the exclusive reserve for beautiful and skinny girls. But one man is poised to break this norm with the introduction of what is aimed to add colour to the lives of plus-size women and put them on the centre stage. Comrade Austin is the Chief Executive Officer of Big & Beautiful pageant, an event that is slowly gaining prominence in Nigeria.

Last year he single handedly sponsored the first edition of the pageant which gave a star price of a KIA picanto car to the winner. This year the story has changed as the event has become a sponsor’s delight. He spoke to AZUKA MORDY ( )and explained why he is projecting plus-size women.

Inspiration behind Big & Beautiful pageant.
The idea for the pageant came from my Executive Director, Mr. John Jegede, otherwise known as Johnny Waka. He brought the idea to me for possible partnership to ensure its proper execution. He explained the potentials that abound amongst plus-size women who society has already classed as unfashionable. He told me that with this pageant, the mindset of people about plus-size women being at a disadvantage would change. I bought his idea and decided to nurture it into what it has become, a pageant

Why plus-size ladies?
Because we want the African woman to recognize her worth. As far as I am concerned, pageants meant to parade skinny ladies, appear more foreign than it is an African thing. We also discovered in our research that most African women are plus-size, which did not in anyway reduce nor affect their beauty. We found out that these women had for long been relegated to the background on issues concerning pageants and fashion shows. We had to initiate a campaign to encourage them to come out and showcase their beauty and talent.

Any International affiliation?
Not yet, but we are working on it. We are working to get affiliated with international organizations involved in similar pageants. There is an outfit in the U.K involved in organizing pageants for big women. That company was responsible for the pageant that produced Elvina Ibru as winner. The pageant might not have gone international, but we have a few contestants from Ghana this year.

Reaction and acceptance.
The first edition was hectic. I do not blame people, because in this era of fraudulent events, people were skeptical whether to trust us or not. Especially when it came to seeking sponsorship.I had to single handedly sponsor the first edition. I took care of the star prize and other prizes because of this.

Cost of hosting first edition
Over N20 million. I spent the sum not because I was seeking to recover it in the first edition. I took the action because I believed in the cause. I also wanted to make a statement informed by the reason why we are doing this. To project the ideals and beauty of the African woman.

Contestants reaction.
The reaction has been great. This shows that the campaign we embarked upon to sensitize them has been effective. They are buying forms in droves. The plus-size African women through what I have noticed has suddenly woken up to the reality of the beauty in her.

Why no swim suits, no bikinis?
In Africa, decency is our weapon. Getting our women to expose themselves is not an African thing. It could be okay in the western world, but we dare to be different. We must toe the line of the culture of our land. All attires to be worn by the contestants in this pageant are all African prints. All the segments, whether casual or evening wears would be African attires. We have four dressing segments, and all of them are African in concept.

How is the winner chosen?
First we go for the size, emphasis on shape. Then we go for beauty, brains and courage.

Screening has already commenced for this year’s edition at the regional levels.

Last year’s queen.
Her name is Tope Lawal. She received the star prize of a KIA picanto saloon car and lots of consolation prizes went to other runners up. This year’s edition is going to surpass last year’s edition as innovative measures have been deployed to ensure utmost entertainment during the show. There will be side attractions in dance, choreography, poetry , comedy and music.

Registration is done on-the purchase of registration forms from all Finbank branches nationwide.