Agbani Darego is a Nigerian model and beauty queen who was crowned Miss World in 2001. She was the first indigenous African to win Miss World.
Abonnema-native Darego was born in Lagos to a family as the sixth of eight children. At age two, her family relocated to Port Harcourt where she was raised in D-Line. Darego attended Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary School, and at ten was sent to boarding school in a bid to shield her from her mother who battled breast cancer. Her mother, Inaewo, owned a rice trading business and a clothing boutique, but died two years after her daughter’s move to boarding school. Darego has spoken of how the loss prepared her for tough challenges in the future. As a teenager, Darego longed to be a model, and auditioned for the M-Net Face of Africa modelling competition despite her conservative father’s wishes, but was not chosen as a finalist. Darego attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma. Upon completing her secondary education she attended University of Port Harcourt where she studied Computer Science and Mathematics.
In 2001, Darego was crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Contrary to popular belief, Darego did not replace Valerie Peterside after the latter was dethroned; Peterside had competed in rival pageant Miss Nigeria. A few months later she was a contestant at Miss Universe, and became the first Nigerian to place among the top 10 semi-finalists, finishing seventh overall. She was the only top ten contestant to wear a modest maillot as opposed to a revealing bikini during the swimsuit competition.
In November that year, she became the first indigenous African to claim the Miss World title (Past winners Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel, both of South Africa, are of European descent, and Antigone Costanda, who represented Egypt in 1954 is of Greek heritage). Darego’s victory was widely welcomed in her home country, and her one-year tenure included goodwill trips and scheduled appearances on behalf of the pageant, and an MFR. Photo Credit: Getty