I’m not slim or tall, but I’m Miss Africa USA’

I’m not slim or tall, but I’m Miss Africa USA’

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There is a general notion that only slim ladies are beauty queens. But Frances Onyemaechi Udukwu defied the odds when she emerged winner of the Miss Africa USA after competing with 28 African ladies.
Though, a Nigerian by birth, she has spent all her life in Washington DC. Her mother is from Enugu State, while her father is from Anambra State. But, according to the current Miss Africa USA, she has never felt far away from her root.
“In my house, it feels like I still live in Nigeria. My parents speak Igbo and we eat Nigerian food, though they live in America too. I come to Nigeria often,” Frances noted.
She recalled how challenging it was growing up in America as a Nigerian. They were days she would go to school with a traditional hairstyle and her classmates would taunt her. Since her last name was strange too, she was subjected to ridicule by her peers.
“There was also the identity crisis. In some cases, you do not know if you want to be identified as an African or American. I think most African children who grew up in America have had that challenge. In school, I wrote essays on people bullying me because I am an African living in the United States,” said the 25-year-old beauty queen.
On her journey to being crowned Miss Africa USA, the graduate of Public Health and Health Systems Management from Temple University in Philadelphia, admitted that pageantry was never her thing. She, however, did not discard the idea that it could now be part of her destiny.
She said, “When a friend was helping out for a local event and they needed a contestant, she asked if I was interested. It started as a joke and I won the pageant.
“Looking back now, I love the experience and the fact that everyone wanted the crown. I think the greatest feeling was being able to represent where I came from even though it was done in America.”
While admitting that she does not really fit into the category of a typical pageant girl, she insisted that it was a competitive advantage for her. A neither slim nor tall figure, she was true to herself, knew her strength and used it well.
She noted, “I have heard from people that my creativity stood me out. All the outfits were carefully chosen. Disc Jockeying is something I do for fun and I did that. Other competitors did spoken word, music and dance. So, I am using this opportunity to tell other women that you do not have to be like anyone or pretend to be another person to win something or speak against something.”
Frances, who previously won Miss Nigeria USA to qualify for the African version, maintained that being a queen has made her more confident and professional.
As part of her mission, Frances has started a non-profit organisation, the Lead Girl Foundation, aimed at helping women of colour who are between the ages of 18 and 35. She plans to start with a vocational training in Enugu in December.

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