Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The queen’s mission for the young

Our first meeting failed due to her busy schedule, so, we had to reschedule for another day on the Lagos Island. Driving down to the venue, Banke Olutimehin called:
“Hi, are you there already?”
“On my way,” I responded.
“I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it as planned; my driver is not here yet. Please, I’ll call you when I get there,” she said remorsefully.
Having left home already, I decided to hit the Island, possibly hang out with some friends while waiting for the queen’s arrival. At last, she called.
Her lemon green branded car was parked outside the premises with a guy seated very close; that must be the chauffeur that caused Banke’s lateness. Dressed in a simple, but elegant outfit, Banke led the way into the busy office, with about three guys working on a computer system.

A STUDENT of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, Lagos State University, Banke had no plans of competing for any beauty pageantry. For the Ondo State native, modeling for top Nigerian fashion designers as well as gracing the faces of billboards in the country is enough achievement. But a friend, who knew her capabilities, forced Banke to enter for the 2008 edition of the Miss Telecomm Beauty Pageant
“She pushed me into it,” Banke quipped. “Before you know it, I was among the shortlists for the contest. Even at that, I wasn’t really keen about participating. In fact, I was the last but one person to report to our camp in Lekki, Lagos.”
Already in the house with 12 other contestants, the first year student of LASU resolved to play along in the programme that lasted for a week. Her bandwagon approach came to an abrupt end the day she was called to lead the rest contestants in dance lesson.
“I felt very embarrassed that day,” she said. “I’m not really a dancing type; although I sometimes dance privately in my room, but not in public,” she said giggling.
Unveiling the winning prize was an eye opener for the contestants, especially Banke, who never gave the competition the desired attention.
“When I saw the car, I told myself, ‘this is real.’ Seeing that car was a kind of motivation for me; that was when I started thinking of winning.”
From 13, the contestants were trimmed down to 5, with Banke emerging Miss Photogenic.
“I knew at that point that anybody could win; I forgot about my beauty,” she noted. “I was actually looking forward to the stage, but there was no panic.”
“Well, my target was to make it to top 5 stage. Having made it to the stage, winning the crown was like an added advantage.”

WITH the crown on her head, Banke, “I’m still my very self, though there are some things I might not be able to do now such as taking a ride on okada. As a queen, you have to live like a queen. But the truth is, it doesn’t change whom you are.”
“Everyone knows, I’m very shy, humble and easy going. When I’m wearing the crown, you can call me the queen, but without it, I’m Banke.”
All through her reign, Banke intends to channel all her energy towards sensitizing the youths on how to be successful in life.
“The problem here is that most youths are confused,” she observes. “Some of them, who managed to go to school, get frustrated after graduating without a job. Funny enough, most of the employers will ask for four to five years working experience, what happens to fresh graduates.”
“There are lots of opportunities in this country and my aim is to open the eyes of our youths through sensitization and motivation.”

ASIDE her academics and role as a beauty queen, Banke still has her eyes on modeling, which actually brought her to limelight while working with John Fashanu on Deal or No Deal.
“I’ve always wanted to be a model,” she informs. ‘In fact, my dream is to be on every billboard in Nigeria. I have worked for top designers such as Tiffani Amber, Deola Sogoe, and Lanre Da Silva among others.”
She recalls her experience with Tiffani Amber in 2007 as a fresher in the runway business.
“I was at the audition, where I saw a lot of models, who wanted the job. Luckily, I was picked. But on that day, I was very scared of the crowd. I was afraid of falling into the swimming pool because the runway was actually on top of the pool,” she says bursting into laughter. “I thank God, I was able to pull it that day.”
If there’s anything Banke would love to change in Nigeria, that must be poverty.
“A lot of people are poor in this country; people are really suffering. A good number of them are homeless, jobless and hopeless. If I’m given the opportunity, I will give them life and keep them busy.”

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