Agbani Darego

Agbani Darego
Agbani Darego. Photo: GistReel

Agbani Darego; highly sought-after international model and a spokesperson of L’Oreal, the renowned French cosmetic house with her face appeared on several billboards around the world. On November 17,2001 Darego beat 92 other contestants to win the beauty pageant in South Africa’s Sun City, Johannesburg. Her rise to fame, in the glamorous world of beauty queens began early in that year when as a computer science undergraduate of the University of Port Harcourt, she emerged as Ben Bruce owned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Before Agbani’s victory, Bianca Onoh had also won the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 1989[i].


Places of Growth

Born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 1983, Darego was raised from a humble background. She is the sixth in a family of eight, with strong Christian upbringing. At the age of 12 she had lost her mother, an experience which she admits had toughened her more than her fame depicts.



Ambitious and intelligent, Darego had always wanted to be a model. And when sometime in her career, she met with Joan Ibuzor, pageant manager of the MBGN, contest, little did she know that the chance meeting would make her dream come true. Based on the exposure she received experts in the industry, she made history at the 51st edition of the annual contest and to the dark skin in beauty circles. At the Miss Universe contest held in Puerto Rico, in the same year, Darego came close to winning the crown. She lost but won the hearts of the Puerto Ricans and other watchers of the annual beauty contest. Donald Trump, American billionaire not only supported Darego, but invited her to New York to negotiate a model ling deal with his Trump Management Incorporated to link her with top range modeling agencies. Super model, Naomi Campbell’s invitation of Darego to be part of her charity fashion show organised in Barcelona, Spain served as a booster.


Beauty Queen

Darego who was praised for her down-to-earth nature had during her reign invested part of the $100,000 prize money in her pet project of child abuse and trafficking. Although the project did not make as much impact as people expected, particularly in Nigeria. Besides, throughout her reign, she was a social ambassador of Nigeria and may have influenced the decision of the organisers of the contest to hold the 2002 edition in Nigeria. Through her personal qualities also, the general perception of beauty contest as morally bankrupt by many Nigerians changed.

Darego found time within her modeling schedules to demonstrate care for the sick and poor. During her journey  to Ethiopia she visited sufferers of the vesco virgina festula, VVF, disease and advocated against child marriage[ii].  Agbani Darego was unveiled as the brand ambassador for Arik Air in a well remunerated contract which earned the company criticisms coming at a time it struggled to meet its obligations to staff and suppliers[iii].






[i] The News, March 31, 2008

[ii] Newswatch, August 15, 2005

[iii] The NEWS, 25 July, 2011

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer