Ex-beauty queen, Omasan Buwa, is a woman of many parts. Apart from her exploits as former Nigeria’s most beautiful girl, she is a lawyer, an actress, a singer, a broadcaster, a DJ, a restaurant operator, a cosmetologist and, lately, an educationist.
The general belief is that Buwa sprung into limelight by winning the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) beauty pageant in 1987; a position she disagrees with, saying that she had won a pageant even as a baby.
“No, no, no; that definitely wasn’t the turning point in my career,” she protested in response to a question suggesting that the MBGN contest put her in the limelight. And to drive her point home, she fetched a photograph in which she has a photograph of herself as the ‘beauty queen’ of a once popular brand of milk when she was born in Paddington Hospital, Westminster, London.
She said: “The truth is that I came into limelight when I was born in Paddington Hospital, Westminster, London, where I was crowned as Cow and Gate Baby. So I came into the world with a divine crown. I won the baby competition right there in the hospital. I was the ‘cutest baby’ at birth in the hospital and I got the crown.
“So even before the Most Beautiful Girl pageant in Nigeria, I had already taken part in other competitions. I was also presenting a programme called Morning Ride on television under the then Mr. Danladi Bako and others, who tutored me at NTA (Nigerian Television Authority).
“In those days, anybody who was somebody in NTA took a liking for me—Patrick Oke and others. I loved being at NTA then because there was always someone there to tell me that I had a future with the klieg lights; that I had a natural talent. It was from there that I moved into participating in beauty pageants.
“So, you can see that winning the Most Beautiful Girl pageant in Nigeria was not the turning point in my life, though I appreciate the fact that I won. But it was not the be all and end all.
“Like I said, we were doing all that for fun! It was actually after my participation in the Miss Nigeria beauty pageant that doors actually opened. I had the opportunity of writing for a magazine, and along with Funmi Ajila the fashion designer, we started a modeling agency.
“Yes, I can say winning the Most Beautiful Girl pageant in Nigeria brought a lot of attention to me, but it didn’t change who I was!
“And that in itself brought along a conflict. I think Ben Bruce wanted somebody who would probably be different afterwards. I don’t know, but I just remained how I was! It didn’t change me, though the experiences that I had, like going for Miss Universe and Miss World, where I met some of the queens, was great indeed.
“We are going to have a re-union in London in November this year. So I am looking forward to that and hoping that I will be able to make that. Meeting those queens and keeping the relationship has meant a lot to me.”
But whose idea was it for Buwa to participate in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria competition? She thought about it briefly and replied: “A lot of us then, including Funmi Ajila, were all hanging around together. In fact Funmi Ajila won the Designer of the Year Award the same day I won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria beauty pageant. She made my outfits. She and I were on the cover of the newspapers the next day.
“In those days too, we were the up and coming stars. We were fresh from the university, into either writing or modeling. Funmi Ajila was into fashion designing while I was modeling for Labenella, owned by Abah Folawiyo and Folorunsho Alakija who owned Supreme Stitches. So everybody knew each other.
“There was also the wife of a popular Pentecostal pastor in Lekki now, who was a top model then with her sister, Ifeanyi. There was a bunch of us like that.
“There was also the Miss Nigeria beauty pageant then which I participated in and came thirrd or so. I did that out of just trying to be funky. But when the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant came up, I told my mother that I wanted to take part in it.”
Was she discouraged by her mother from participating in the beauty pageant?
“No! My mum had no problem with that. She just allowed me to do it, especially since it was something she knew that I wanted to do. And my mum was a pure Nigerian, an Itsekiri woman from the Ikomi family (laughs), though she lived in England for quite a number of years!
“You know, in those days when teachers used to go for training abroad, my mum won a scholarship then to go for training as a teacher. So you see this teaching has been in me for quite a long time.
“Actually, part of me wanted to go into teaching and education to honour my mother who died a few years ago. She loved education so much and taught my children. People used to tell me that my mum had a good teaching method.
“So, eventually, I guess I went into education to honour her attempt to revamp the educational system. It is unfortunate that we are doing a lot of things wrong in the educational system.”
Buwa says she still looks back to those growing up years with nostalgia.
“Of course, those were the days of good music. I am a lover of music. I was even a Disc Jockey back in the days. I used to organise parties. Even now, I still do some Disc Jockey at in-house parties. I have my old school collection of CDs of four full suitcases. So you can hear good music that takes you there.
“I sometimes share my old skool music on social media because I am always feeling nostalgic about my youth. I enjoyed my youth. I had a great time. There were no responsibilities then for me. That is why I am always telling the youths of these days to have fun. Other things like money and fame will come later.”
The ex-beauty queen switches between Nigerian and British accents. And somewhere along the line, the Waffi girl in her takes over and she rains down pidgin English as if she has lived all her life in Warri; evidence that she has been a thoroughbred Nigerian despite her sojourns abroad.
“I have not stayed away from Nigeria for too long,” she said.
“I was an Executive Assistant in the Delta State Government from 2009 to 2015, and I left Nigeria again in 2017. I returned to Nigeria after six months when my name was included on the Board of Culture and Tourism for Delta State. But before I knew it, it was changed. I don’t know why that happened. That must have been some Nigerian magic (laughs).
“So I was stunned. But I quickly told myself that since I was not needed, I could take off. So I left Nigeria again.”
When Omasan left Nigeria, she went to the USA where life was a different ball game. But she was on the fast lane again with bright lights and television cameras.
“You know, apart from fashion, modeling, broadcasting and Law, I had an entertainment background. I used to have a restaurant with a bar back then before I left Nigeria, and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti came to play there. I can never forget that experience. It was a Jazz bar called Pepperholics. We used to have Jazz night then too. It was located right beside the Gbemisola street house.
“We used to send Fela’s fish to him every day, whether he was around or not. I constructed the place and gave it an African design with bamboo. We used to have clients come around and cars extending to Allen Avenue on our Jazz nights.
“We had fun. A lot of people used to come around, including Americans and other nationals, to sing highlife. My ex-husband was an American and I am British, and you know, I am made in Nigeria. So, we had a good blend of people and it was always fun time there. It was really cool.
“I went to America because he wanted us to settle in America because that is where he was based.
“Immediately I got to America, I began to model. I worked with Naomi Campbell. That was when I started acting classes and started getting little roles. For me, it was step by step because nobody just breaks into limelight. You must have been doing some little notes somewhere. Beyonce did some back up singing somewhere.
“So I started making waves here in USA. I have met with the likes of Monica and Mary J. Blige. They were up-coming then. So I was with that circle of people until I got pregnant (laughs)!
“But you know I also did some acting in Nigeria. I was in the popular (soap opera) Ripples.
“And in America, like I said, I was getting little roles because I was just coming into the industry then. So I was in crowd scenes, but that is how you start. There was one with Denzel Washington. But then, it was a crowd scene which was good enough for me as it was on my resume.”
Reminded that hers must have been a life of high moments, she laughed and said: “That is life. There will always be high moments and low moments! Just live a life!”
Asked if she had any regrets, she responded with an emphatic no.
“I am a Householder, which means that I attend a church where the pastor is a teacher. We do not believe in miracles. Pastor Kris Okotie, my pastor, teaches that you can’t have any regret in life.
“You have to wake every morning believing God that yesterday was an experience and was for a purpose, for a lesson and something to be learnt. That is why it is new every morning.
“However, I am not saying that when something happens you say it doesn’t matter. What I am saying is that when something happens, instead of wallowing in the mistake, you look at the good side of it. You take the good side of the coin and move on from there.
“I can’t change the past! I have things that I have done in the past that I said to myself, ‘Oh dear! That was a bad decision or that wasn’t too smart.’ But then, I can’t change it. Some things are too late to change. So at such times, I tell myself, look for another opportunity, move on!”
Buwa shared the joy of having known Fela the Afro beat maestro and his family.
She said: “Ha, yes, I was very close to Fela! Funny enough, when he died, I was in USA. I just screamed, ‘Yeee, Baba don go o!” My last born is a girl. I named her after Yeni.
“Yeni and I are quite close. She is like a big sister. I was in Felabration and I know that I have done three in a row. I saw Fela play in England; it was great. And in those days when Femi started too, we used to go and see his shows. I love his vibes, his message.
“I preach Fela to most of the young people I meet. I remember I was in the gym one day in Osama, China, playing Army Arrangement (one of Fela’s songs), and the young people there thought it was a new song. They said, ‘The thing wey dis man dey talk na true o.’ I told them that, dis song wey d man dey sing don tey o. I told them the song was done by Fela and that it is the original Afro beat.”
As a former beauty queen, she shared with us her thoughts on beauty, fashion and glamour.
“If you want to talk about fashion, Funmi Ajila can give you a load of it. Funmi dresses me! I have always been her fan. She captures my style. But apart from that, I wear jeans and T-shirts (laughs). But then, even my jeans and T-shirts must be trendy.
“I have collections that when you see, your eyes will pop! I love trendy casuals. But even then, I have rooms and rooms of native clothes, skirts and blouses. That comes from those days when I was working in the corridors of political power.
“Then, I wore them when I was going to church. These days, sometimes I dress formal and yet feminine. I dress to please myself.
“But fashion these days has indeed changed gear, because right now, everybody is into beauty enhancement, getting a pair of good boobs and getting a pair of bumbum (laughs). It trends.
“Back then when I was growing up, we used to shave our eyebrows only to paint them back again! It trends.
“Actually I have had a tummy tuck. But I had it back in the days because my abdominal muscles collapsed. So it was for health reasons that I had a tummy tuck. But who knows if I had that kind of wild money, maybe I would like to cut and tuck some things off my body!”
Buwa says she really does not bother about whether she still remains as stunning as she used to be when she was younger than the 53 years that she presently is.
“At this point, after children, I do not bother comparing whether I am still as stunning as I used to be. I believe it’s more of the self esteem that matters. We all need to work on our inner beings, the way we comport ourselves.
“So the inner beauty rests on God, and sometimes I still ask Him to work on me and my inner beauty. That is who I am: beautiful inside with a heart full of compassion. And I am a very emotional person, and that is coming from the Chinese people. My boss in China once told me that I am very emotional and compassionate, which is more than the physical beauty.
“At this age, people still tell me I’m beautiful, so I give God all the glory. I still have some bad habits, but at the same time, too much of everything is not good. I watch what I eat and I have a special love for working out. Doing yoga, Zumba makes me okay.”
Asked to describe herself, she said: “I am someone that has lived life! I mean if anything happens now, and a burial is being organised, though I don’t want to die now, of course I still want to see my grandchildren and all that. But if such a thing was to happen, I’ll like for them to write on my gravestone: ‘Here lies Omasan Buwa. She lived.’
“I’ve enjoyed myself o. I’ve been in very dark places too. I’m a very down to earth person. So when things happen, I lock myself in, roll and cry to God. You’ll never see me rolling and crying outside.
So did she remarry after going separate ways with her husband?
“Nope,” replied Buwa. “I’m trying to search, but I get carried away easily. I want a rich man; not just rich in wealth but in exposure; one who would be able to contain my life. I mean a man rich in wisdom and someone who won’t kill those dreams I still have left.
“I have children who are now out of school and they are blessed. I brought them back to Nigeria to have secondary education then. They have graduated. The boys are doing master’s degree and the girl is in Law School. She wants to take after her mama, I guess.”
Is it true that she is making waves in China?
“I recently proudly put Nigeria on the map in China in a company that overlooks Nigerian citizens as worthy to be employed. My influence placed the Nigerian flag amidst that of China, USA, UK, and other countries.
“Also, at the annual conference of EF education, I choreographed top level Chinese CEOs to a popular Nigerian gospel tune that was performed on stage in front of thousands. I am now armed with various teaching module certifications from Cambridge University.
“I plan to utilise my experience in China to improve on the Nigerian educational sector by partnering with stakeholders. Part of what is missing is an interactive method of engaging the students assisted by technology and practical drills in order to activate then consolidate and produce a lesson that enhances the learner’s abilities. This module of teaching is used all over the world. Nigerian teachers require intense training in how best to engage a class of learners through presenting and activating.”
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