In 1957, Nigeria held its first beauty pageant contest, inviting women from diverse works of life from around the country on the opportunity to be a participant. Grace Atinuke Oyelude was among them, emerging as the first ever Miss Nigeria recorded in history.
This contest started in 1957 as a photograph challenge, where contestants sent their photos to the daily times base camp in Lagos. The selected ones or the finalists were shortlisted and afterwards, welcomed to contest in the live and last challenge at Lagos Island Club.
That year, Grace’s sibling saw the advert for the contest on the papers and connected her for her benefit. The outcome came in and it read that she was supposed to be in Lagos State for the meeting to be chosen as a Miss Nigeria hopefully. Before this, she was working at UAC and was living in Kano State.
She arrived Lagos the next day through a plane, and fortunately for her, won the competition. After this, she traveled to England where she studied Nursing and turned into a registered Nurse in 1961 and ended up as a qualified state enrolled birthing specialist in 1962.
When interviewed, Grace stated “We were asked to come report at the Daily Times office. We all met about 200 of us but I was the only one from Kano. We were interviewed. They asked how we got to Lagos and I told them I flew for the first time in my life. So we were asked to come back the next day.
There was really no interview that time. They asked where you come from and your parent’s background. They didn’t ask why we want to be miss Nigeria because I wouldn’t have known what to say.
So, on the D-day, we didn’t have any interviews or rehearsals. That day was a Saturday in April 1957. We all met in Lagos Island Club. We were offered seat and drinks. And then someone came to tell us that we would be asked to walk through a hall. There were many people around.
Later, we were asked to walk around the hall. There was music on and it was late. Bobby Benson was playing then, and we walked round three times before they asked us to go and sit down. We didn’t dance.
A lady, late lady Alakija, and a lawyer came and one stood behind me on the right and the other on the left and while I was wondering what there were doing behind me as I didn’t know them, I was announced as the Miss Nigeria for 1957. I didn’t even know my name had been called until the two people behind me led me to the stage. And that night, I had to find my way back.
I was given 200 pounds, four beautiful dresses and a trip to London. And after that, I was never a queen. Nobody knew me as Miss Nigeria again because I went to England to study Nursing at the University.”
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