Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The beauty pageant

One of the biggest cons in Nigeria is the beauty pageant. This is a completely unregulated part of society (which part is? I hear you snidely comment) where con-men can make hay while orun blazes down. The formula for abundant success is alarmingly simple:

1. You stick an ad in the papers, or maybe do 60 secs on AIT
2. Your ad has the following elements a) you tell punters that the winner will go forward to some spurious (ie non-existent) international competition as 'Miss x Nigeria'. b) you charge a minimum of N5000 for the girls to pick up the 'form'.
3. You get a miminum of 5000 girls applying (so you've made a cool N25m!)
4. You stage the show - blow about N10m on the event and do it at Eko Hotel (so you're still up N15m) - or do it in PHC to cut costs and make more moolah.
5. You sleep with some of the girls to help advance their chances (how benevolent you are). The prize for the winner is a night with yours truly in a circular bed with a mirror above (at the Royal Suite), washed down with three or four bottles of Cristal or maybe DP if you're feeling fly. Oh and the international competition the poor girl was looking forward to suddenly gets postponed..
6. You move onto the next event..


fola 1:04 am  

I know of one person in Nigeria whose name is synonymous with beauty peagents in Nigeria: Ben Bruce. And he has done modestly well.

On # 5 item of your post-- sleeping with the girls and all the rest... this is the standard practice in this business, (and I'm not stating that Bruce does this), but it's no biggie, and it doesn't make organizing beauty peagants any more a scam than organizing musical shows or running show biz anywhere in the world.

Nkem 7:15 am  

Nigeria = Capitalism wet dream. Capitalist wet dream = demand + supply - regulation. The con-men supply a demand that exists (vanity), and the lack of regulation - simple advertising regulations would solve this - means they can get away with it.

Styl Council 9:54 am  

Fola...I am absolutely shocked at your flipancy of such a serious (albeit common) issues. I beg to differ...Sleeping with the girls or guys for that matter is not de riguer for business...What business do YOU do?

I also know lots of people who are in business and yet refuse to sleep with any old dick!!
What CRAP.!!.Your wrong IT IS A Biggie...Please i'm trying very hard not to offend your person, but STOP spewing out this SHIT now!!!

What is perhaps more common is that some men have a perverted expectation of female business associates...Yes they make the proposal...and NO!! find a bottle should be your answer!! And if that doesn't work then a knee right in the middle of his meat and 2 veg will definatly do the job!

Its attitude like yours that promotes this so called crass-normality within the Nigerian society. IT IS NOT NORMAL!!!

I quite frankly could'nt care for beauty pageants...(and its not because i think its abusive to women) its more because;in a place as morally bankrupt as Nigeria...the promotions of such "businesses" should be BANNED!

grace,  9:54 am  

What pageant in particular are you talking about that's a con? Gist...

Anonymous,  10:32 am  

all of them. the latest is miss Earth. then their is miss tourism, miss campus, soon there will be miss ajagunle, miss Ikoyi (what will be the criteria for them i wonder). I think I must have seen the the same ad jeremy saw last night.

They are all con-merchants, exploiting young girl's vanity and more importantly, their desire to escape the wretchedness of their lives. Vanity can be blamed for young woman spending N6000 collecting forms, but the deeper issue is that many sees peagents as a meal ticket to stardom, to wealth and then perhaps somewhere along the way opportunity to do charitable work. There is beauty peagent for everything in this damn country. my feminist consciousness is deeply offended by them. They are ultimately exploitative of the young women. Only one or two out of the thousands that apply will actually break through. the rest continue the daily grind of existence and attempt to find an aristo.

The increasing proliferation of beauty peagents in Nigeria is an indication of how women are viewed in this society. Fola's statement that sleeping with girls is part of doing biz is sad but true. Think about marketers in banks who are giving condoms as part of their training packages ( and it is not about promoting HIV/AIDs awareness).

Chika Okafor 1:11 pm  

Well we are now reaping the results of the "anything goes" Nigerian mentality. alot of Nigerians see "419", "scamming" as being "Sharp" and being on top of the food chain. As long as you live big, buy a house in Abuja or Lekki nodody cares what you do. The scammers cannot get as much "419" loot from abroad so now they face their own "compatriots".

The ladies (some of which have been part time prostitues) are used to easy money from "419 Men", "Politians", "Oil bunkeres" and "criminals" and want to be next Naomi Cambell or Alek Wek with working hard for it. Some of them sell their bodies to pass exams, win contracts, build houses because that is the only way they have been brought up to achieve their goals in life.

Our women should borrow ideas from Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese women that are at par with their men in owning micro, medium and mega businesses or factories.

Ugo Okafor co writer Spectrum Women

ayoke,  1:20 pm  

Sisi-oge, thank you so so much for helping me find the words to hurl. I couldn't compose a better protest! Gosh, Jeremy! "Assumption is the lowest state of knowledge." Unfortunately, this piece of yours is exactly that. I don't care much about beauty pageants but to see someone make such blatant accusations... ha! Sure, some may do the things you wrote but to draw up some list of syllogisms like it's a Q.E.D is absolute fallacious.

ayoke,  1:22 pm  

"absolutely fallacious", i meant to write.

Akin 1:42 pm  

A visitor from Mars reading the comments might have thought there was no truth whatsoever in what Jeremy wrote.

On reflection, the emancipated cannot deign to acquiesce to the realities that face the less fortunate.

If only one of the victims of those scams and cons could come forward and debunk the vehement protests with inalienable truths.

The defensive reflex does seem to hold sway whatever the commentary.

fola 2:22 pm  

Sisi-oge: You need not be shocked simply because the world we live in is far from perfect and its full of gullible people. Where do you get impression that its only in Nigeria that this type of thing happen?

Show-biz is rotten everywhere and anywhere in the world, so clear the fog from your eyes and take a look around.

The participants are adults, so why must beauty peagents be banned? Does it in anyway put the general society at risk? Nah! Are the participants forced to contest? As far as I can tell it is a voluntary decision. But Ban it??? This is a free society m'am!

Just because I stated something is "standard practice" doesn't mean it's right (and I have not in any way stated that). But that is what happens; that is the nature of the show business, and its not a biggie except if you're a resident of the moon.

By the way, Ben Bruce as a beauty peagent organizer, has produced some concrete results...so its not all scam as Jeremy and others have put. Just beacuse Nigeria is messed up, this shouldn't be an opportunity to hurl more shit on it.

By the way Sisi-oge, I'm not offended by your comment, but just because you can't relate to my opinion doesn't make it shitty :)

ayoke,  2:34 pm  

akin, if you venture to read carefully, you'll see that my point is not that I dispute that these things occur. But, I think it is wrong to potray this generalisation as if it is ALWAYS the case.

Jeremy 3:17 pm  

Hi Ayoke

please re-read what I wrote. Nowhere do I say that this is what happens all the time. But to think that it is not a common form of scam: I worry that you are in denial. I agree with Fola, showbiz is a murky business anywhere in the world. Wherever there's a film industry, there are 'casting couches' as well as hordes of 'actress-models' who open their legs to climb ladders. Its not Naija-specific, but it is more blatant here.

Akin 3:48 pm  

Dear Ayoke,

I read your comments carefully and I separated the emancipated from the less fortunate.

The former who have had occasion to comment here, the latter who have not.

That some exegesis is required to read between my lines leaves me in despair.

ayoke,  4:25 pm  

No, Jeremy. I'm not in denial; perhaps only in denial of it being a norm and you've clarified that bit. I do worry, though, that you are more prone than most to believing the worst of Nigeria. And Akin, I'm sorry to have to leave you in despair 'cause no one said there's no truth to Jeremy's assertions.

St Antonym 5:13 pm  

"I do worry, though, that you are more prone than most to believing the worst of Nigeria."

I think this says more about the dearth of social criticism in Nigeria than about Dr J.'s tendencies. It's not about "believing the worst," it's about holding on to the idea that honesty is the greatest love there is.

ayoke,  6:13 pm  

st. antonym, I perfectly understand and take the point but social criticism cannot be replaced with unsubstantiated postulations. Thanks for your point, though.

St Antonym 6:33 pm  

Absolutely Ayoke. Thanks for your gracious response.

Jeremy must bear the burden of accuracy like everyone else. Speculation has its place, but this post seemed to be rooted in observation (well, other than the casting couch bit).

But, for me, my mission is to defend the right of people to make critical judgments of the societies in which they find themselves- and to insist that no one can be silenced on the basis of their origin or their views.

I'm a little tired of every single comment on this thread reiterating the "Jeremy criticizes Naija" whine. Akin criticizes Naija too. St Antonym, it goes without saying, is not hesitant to put the smack down. The most unforgiving critics that Naija has ever had are Achebe and Soyinka. Go and read "Open Sore of a Continent," you'll see what I mean.

Naija is a fucked up place. We all have to do our bit towards understanding why it is so. It has been said that understanding your problems is the first step towards solving them.

But that's going to be a difficult task if we don't control the rampant defensive emotionalism that taints any and every critical discourse on "our fatherland."

Akin 7:21 pm  

St. Antonym,

You could not have been more lucid in your comments. Unfortunately, the literal reading of my comments has left certain readers devoid of comprehending my views.

On the matter of criticism of the critique of issues; I remember last year when the Belgian Foreign Minister suggested the Dutch Prime Minister was a square Harry Potter chap without charisma or humour.

We all knew that, but the Dutch could not stand being told that by the Belgians.

The situation we have here is where people think challenging negative observations amounts to activism rather than mobilising the tools to remove the source of those observations.

It is the harder job, but we assess ourselves on our good intentions and others on their deeds.

j 7:51 pm  

Very true st antonym. Good one

ayoke,  9:08 pm  

Like I wrote, St. Antonym, point well taken in good faith. And to Akin: I fear I may have completely misunderstood your views but I'm going to re-read the whole thing over and over again until I can decipher beyond their literal meanings.

Akin 9:31 pm  

Hi Ayoke,

Your sarcasm exudes such good humour. I probably have failed to communicate my views properly.

I should adapt to writing more for a global English audience than in metaphors and irony.

My failing rather than yours.

This reads 6.6 on the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale, something I have not acheived for years.

Anonymous,  9:50 am  

People it does happen. More than you think.These girls get passed around. Trust me on this one.The Organisers don't really make a move on them. There is so much competition all the girls resort to the only way they think they can go one up.Please don't get this twisted.

grace,  10:44 am  

It's interesting how no one is talking about the issue of power. Like young girls really want to be screwed by nasty old men for a job.

I agree with Jeremy/Fola that this practice is a part of showbiz worldwide, and banking, and government (check on sex scandals in U.S. congress). Yet isn't it problematic that older powerful men expect these women to service them in order to get ahead? It is women who are sexually harassed by bosses in the workplace, not the other way around!

Someone might try arguing that girls who go into showbiz are "loose" women already (Joan from BBN being called a cheap Benue prostitute), so their having to sleep with the power-brokers is not as bad as a professional corporate-minded lady being propositioned. First of all, I have issues with those of you who assume because a woman wants fame and/or fortune, she is a prostitute or is "badly brought up". How about those suited-up agbayas who are sleeping with vulnerable young girls? How about those men that demand these girls "open their legs" for them? Pimps! And how about the young men on BBN or who go into acting/modelling? Why don't you call them badly brought up as well?

How do you even know these girls aren't being coerced and blackmailed into doing it? Let us stop pretending like there is an equal power-dynamic between young starry-eyed girls and seasoned pimps and power-brokers.

St Antonym 2:30 pm  

"Let us stop pretending like there is an equal power-dynamic between young starry-eyed girls and seasoned pimps and power-brokers."

Grace you're completely right. Even in the West, guys who sleep around are called "studs," while the girls are called "sluts."

It's a bad bad problem, misogyny.

The other issue is that so much of women's "success" has to be tied to their appearance, and the ones who reject that are accussed of "looking like a man."

There's a lot more we could be doing, in word and in action, to make the workplace less hostile for our sisters and our daughters.

St Antonym 2:34 pm  

For example, we're discussing here the misuse of power and the taking of sexual advantage in beauty pageants. Of course, that's a necessary inquiry.

But the very notion of a beauty pageant itself ought to be interrogated. In due course, nineteen year olds shaking their stuff in scanty outfits will come to be seen as crass as comedy performances in blackface now seem to us.

For now, the reigning idea is that men ought to make the world, and that women ought to be pretty. And that this is a law of nature. We might look back in a hundred years and be astonished that such views were ever so widespread.

(Catherine McKinnon has a brilliant new book out called "Are Women Human?")

Anonymous,  12:50 am  

The bottom line is that men have been and will continue to be have sex with young women because it is within their nature to do so.

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