All the way from Ethiopia, 22-year-old Misker Kassahun Teka, who is currently studying medicine at an Ethiopian university, recently emerged African Beauty Queen 2018 at a beauty pageant in Nigeria. Teka, in this interview with Ayodeji Ake, reveals how she would showcase the African culture through fashion and why her project is focused on driving international mental health campaign. Excerpts:
Is this your first time in Nigeria?
No I have been here before. I was here for another pageant last year. Being a beauty queen is one of my dreams. I have been modelling before now and have been to three international pageants and this is my first win.
How did you get to know about this pageantry since you don’t live in Nigeria?
I have Nigerian friends so I heard it through them.
So how did you feel when you were announced winner?
I felt really nice.
Were you confident that you were going to win?
I knew I had a good chance but I was not sure. Before coming to the pageant I was very confident and when I came I saw all the girls looking gorgeous and experienced so I was scared a bit. All Africans are really pretty.
What has changed about you since you emerged Miss Africa Beauty Queen?
A lot of people want to learn about my hobbies and people expect me to do charity and do good to the community.
Are there expectations from your family over there since you emerged?
Not really, actually my parents want me to focus more on my studies so they are not really involved in my pageantry and modelling career so I can’t pretty say.
What challenges have you encountered?
I have had experiences like that but I think as an Ethiopian the problem is that our fashion industry is not very developed, we don’t have a system for beauty queens, so for me the hardship I faced was getting sponsors, getting recognized as a beauty queen in my own country so, yes, there are lots of challenges. Besides, my school is very stressful and I am trying to do both.
How do you manage being a beauty queen and a student at the same time?
I always try to use my time properly, besides that, my school is very supportive in everything I do because they want to promote women that have both beauty and brains so my school supports me a lot and I always set my priorities straight.
Obviously, you been to a number of beauty pageants; what differentiates this from others?
What I like about this pageant is the fact that it wants to have women empowered and become role models to others and the way they treat you is very respectful, they also give you the platform to do what you’ve always imagined yourself doing like community works.
Were you not scared that the organisers might not deliver their promises?
No. From the day I met them when I arrived Nigeria I saw the way they were working and their system of operation, so I had no doubt. I really like the whole organisation from the first time I came.
What projects will you be working on as a beauty queen?
I have lots of projects in mind, one of them is to work on mental health issues which is a really neglected issues in Africa so I will like to do more, do media campaigns, people need to know that there is a problem because mental health is just like another kind of illness although I already lunched my project in my country a week ago I also hope to do that in other African countries. I also want to work on women empowerment; I feel like women need to be given more opportunities, needs to be more exposed and celebrated more.
How do you plan to take this project to other African countries?
I want to work with other queens for example we have people from Ghana, Gambia, Zambia so what I plan to do is share the ideas with them so they can take it to their countries and work on it because I am a student I can’t really be in those countries.
Why mental health? And how do you intend to drive it?
Why I am focused on mental health is because I have always been fascinated with the human mind. Since I was a child I have always read about how minds work, so growing up, I discovered we lack a lot in that area, especially, in my country. I see people with depression; people are committing suicide, people not being treated like humans. So I think what I saw made me to work on mental illness. There are things I plan to do and one of the activities is to print a pocket size magazines of the common mental illness in my country like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, autism, mental illnesses and others. So I will like to take these common diseases in a very simple way and just distribute to everyone especially to universities and high schools so that at least these people can go and share with their parents. People don’t even consider depression as an illness, so I want people to know the signs and symptoms of at least the common diseases. I am trying to do a documentary showing how people can deal with mental illness and how psychiatrist can handles it and how we can spot mental illness. One thing about mental illness is that you can’t really know you have it until someone sees you and notices the sign. I also plan to hold panel discussion and public lectures so that everyone can attend and hear about it and I also plan to do a media campaign. October is actually mental illness month; I am hoping that I would show my projects using the media. I will like to have rehabilitee centres in my country where people can come and get free treatment and recover from mental illnesses, I also want to become a successful business woman because I want to show women that you can be both beautiful and also be a good entrepreneur, you can be a leader and just want to have that personality that women can look at me and say I want to be like her.
Have you been getting some kind of special treatment in your school since you emerged Miss Africa Beauty Queen?
I can’t say special but they are always asking me about the pageantry lifestyle and they are always fascinated about what I do besides school like photo shoots and stuffs.
How is your partner coping with your new status?
I am actually single because I have a very busy schedule, there is school, there is modelling so I don’t really have time.
Have Nigerian guys been walking up to you for relationship since you came? What do you like about them?
I like the fact that they are outspoken, they appreciate what you have maybe for your looks or your brains, they appreciate you and I like that.
Would you pick a Nigerian guy over an Ethiopian guy?
I can’t really say because I haven’t spent a lot of time with a Nigerian guy so I can’t really compare them.
What’s your favourite Nigerian delicacy?
I like Jollof rice.
You must have listened to some Nigerian music, who are your favourite Nigerian artistes?
I love Nigerian music. I like Tiwa Savage a lot, Kiss Daniel, and Davido.
Have you learnt some Nigerian Languages?
No I haven’t. I actually have had hard time understanding the pidgin language.