Aisosa Osaretin, a third-year concurrent Juris Doctor student at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, was crowned Miss Nigeria International at the 2nd annual Miss Nigeria International Pageant in Minneapolis over winter break.
Miss Nigeria International Pageant (MNI) is a pageant based in Minnesota that seeks to empower women beyond just natural beauty. The organization’s mission is to celebrate beauty in diverse forms, uplift intellect and promote corporate social responsibility in the community. Anyone from any part of the world can participate as long as they are of Nigerian decent, meaning they have at least one parent who is Nigerian.
Osaretin first heard about the pageant from a family friend who gave them the number of the pageant director.
“At first, I refused without even thinking twice,” Osaretin said. “My mum encouraged me to speak with the contact and that was how I decided to participate.”
Osaretin, along with the contestants, had three months of pre-pageant activities which included phone interviews, pre-pageant judging and appearances at a variety of events. This gave the judges an opportunity to access the contestants’ communication skills, team work, self and mutual respect as well as their professionalism. The actual pageant itself included five different rounds. The first round was the contestants’ introductions, which included them stating the state of Nigeria they were representing as well as the slogan of that state. Osaretin represented Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in which its slogan is “Centre for Unity”. The second round was the “beachwear” portion of the competition. The contestants didn’t wear tradition bikini swimsuits and were instead scored based on their confidence and physical fitness. The third round had the contestants wearing traditional attire that represented the culture of the state they were representing while dancing to a traditional song. The fourth round was the talent portion of the competition where Osaretin performed the song “Great Nation” by Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo. The fifth and final round was the evening gown portion, where the contestants are judged on their pose, grace, catwalk and intelligence.
“I told myself that I was going to have fun and at the same time, I will do my best to win,” Osaretin said. “I resolved to do my best, but was also aware that all contestants came to win and I may not be the winner.”
Osaretin won three separate awards at the pageant before being crowned Miss Nigeria International; Best Traditional Attire, Best Beachwear (both decided by the judges), and Miss Congeniality (decided on by her fellow contestants).
“I was in so much shock for the rest of the week,” she said. “My parents and some friends were at the event and they ran up front screaming in jubilation the moment I was announced as Queen. My entire family and friends, both at home and abroad, were elated and I spent a good amount of time responding to congratulatory messages. I was most grateful for winning because it was a way of telling those who had supported and encouraged me from the start that their confidence and trust in me was not misplaced.”
It means a lot to Osaretin as a Nigerian living in the U.S. to be crowned Miss Nigeria International.
“As a Nigerian in the United States, I have always been aware of the fact that I represent my country in so many aspects, in the sense that people gain a perception on Nigeria just from interacting with me,” she said. “However, as the Queen, I take it more seriously and it feels more official. Also, it makes me proud to know that I embody all the values MNI supports enough to be an ambassador of the values of Nigeria.”
Because of her win, Osaretin must now participate in at least four hours of community service every month and must represent Nigeria in another pageant.
“For my community service, I try as much as possible to focus on human rights advocacy because I am most passionate about issues pertaining to human rights,” she said.
Osaretin has volunteered for a variety of different organizations and participated with some human rights organizations such as Write for Rights in Amnesty International, which is the world’s biggest human rights event that has people write millions of letters for those whose basic human rights are being attacked. She will also be appearing at events aimed at boosting the Nigerian culture and will be visiting the Nigerian consulate in New York. For personal reasons outside of the pageant, she is also in collaboration with her sisters, who are in the medical field, to start a group aimed at sensitizing children in her hometown of Benin City, Nigeria, on sex education.
“As through my research, this is very much needed to address issues on sex-related violence in my hometown,” she said.
Osaretin got her Bachelors in Philosophy from the University of Benin in Benin City, Nigeria and is currently a third-year student at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and concurrently pursuing a masters in Public Service at the Clinton School of Public Service. She is also a Post-Baccalaureate student at the UA Little Rock main campus for biology and chemistry classes.
“My goal after graduating is to be the lawyer you want to represent you,” she said. “The one who gives you hope that something can be done and it’s not time to give up yet. I plan to apply myself as a human rights advocate, specifically in relation to women and children. I am also working towards becoming a patent attorney, hence my post-baccalaureate status.”