Gwendolyn Elohor Tagbarha, who hails from Amukpe in Sepele Local Government Area, Delta State is a commercial model and ex Beauty Queen, Miss Nollywood Nigeria 2014/15.
In this interview with Fourwall Magazine, she spoke about her journey as a beauty queen, challenging in the modeling industry and her brand.
How did you start modeling?
I have always loved modeling since I was 10 years old. This made me to always fancy ladies in beautiful attires, either on screen or in magazines. I ventured into pageantry in 2004 when I contested for Miss Galaxy Damsel. And I finished as a finalist (top5). I then took a long break and came back in 2013 for the Face of Niger Delta pageant where I won.
What was your first big break in the modeling industry?
My first big break was winning the Face of Niger Delta 2013/14 title.
What was the challenges getting this far?
As face of Niger Delta 2013 and as my first crown, sourcing for sponsors to fund my pet project at that time, was really challenging, but somehow with God on my side and my personal drive, I was able to scale through successfully.
You won Face of Niger Delta 2013, how did that prepare you for Miss Nollywood Nigeria contest?
There was no too much preparations though, because with my experience from the Face of Niger Delta Pageant, I already knew the basis and all that was needed for the Miss Nollywood Pageant because we were properly groomed. The only difference between both pageants is that one is a regional pageant and the other is a national pageant.
Take us through your experience during Miss Nollywood Nigeria pageant?
It was an awesome experience, a time I won’t forget so soon. During the Miss Nollywood Pageant, the organizers gave us their best, ranging from camp, grooming, online voting and so on, and even after winning the Miss Nollywood Nigeria 2014/15 title, there were lots of opportunities for me to explore. I was featured on top national dailies, blogs, and radio stations. I even got movie roles. I met with high profile personalities, and my pet project cut across the length and breath of Nigeria. I also got so many awards and recognitions, the list is endless.
How was your reign and the experience?
My reign was awesome, and I feel proud to say since 2014 till date, no beauty queen has surpassed my records. You can ask Google for clarifications.
How did winning the Pageant changed your life?
I didn’t change too much though, I am still me, it only opened doors for me to explore.
Have you been sexually harrassed in the modeling industry?
Never, throughout my journey in the modeling industry, I don’t give room for such.
What are the changes you would like to see in the modeling industry?
A lot, I want to see winners of pageants, go home with their prices. I want to see pageants where all contestants can keenly contest to win a pageant on an equal ground without favoritism of any kind.I want to see pageant where contestants are not given tickets to sell, this will enable them crown a queen based on merit and not remiting the highest amount of money sold from tickets.The list goes on and on and on.
With the ongoing tag on models that they are prostitutes, what would you have to say about this?
Models are not prostitutes, models are ambassadors. They are worthy role models, career women, and entrepreneurs. It is sad that the society see models as prostitute because of how the industry has been bastardized and debased by some unscrupulous pageant organizers and beauty queens. However there are still some of us who are very decent and upright in character.
Who or what do you consider as the greatest influence in your career?
My husband is my biggest influence, he makes me work hard to be better each day than I was yesterday.
What motivated you in establishing your pageant?
The ills in the pageant industry is quite alarming, everyone cannot continue to be on the same page. As an ex queen and from experience, there are so many ills in our industry that needs to be corrected. I came back into the industry to enforce my difference by correcting the wrongs, and eventually begin the process of sanitizing the industry and to make the industry a safe haven for our young aspiring models and beauty queens.
Where do you see your brand 5 years from now?
Right now, we are the biggest, brightest, honest and fairest teenage pageant in Nigeria. And in 5 years, we would have become the biggest teen pageant in Africa, if not the world at large.
If you had to advise upcoming models, what would you tell them?
Do not ever compromise your integrity for any pageant organizer, the day you do so, you automatically lose your voice forever. Always stay true to yourself, do what is right at all times and be very free to decline any form of abuse from any pageant organizer. Also, before you apply for any pageant, please do a research for background checks. Ask questions, find out who their past winners are, because a large number of pageants in Nigeria today, are well packaged but fraudulent. Open your eyes.