Ms. Tokunbo Kujore of Los Angeles, California was crowned the 2012 Miss Nigeria in America on Saturday, September 1, 2012 adding her to a lineage of Nigerian American women who have served as ambassadors of empowerment for African women in the Diaspora. The following is an exclusive interview with this talented, intellectual and very beautiful lady.
AM: Thank you Tokunbo (“Toks”) for taking the time to chat with ADUNAGOW Magazine and its worldwide readers. For those who don’t know you yet, can you present yourself?
Tokunbo: Thanks Eric for this opportunity. I grew up in Maryland, but I moved right after high school to Los Angeles, and I’ve been here for about six years now. I just received my masters degree from the University of Southern California in May, so along side all the things God is allowing me to do, I am also adjusting to the post graduate life.
AM: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Tokunbo: I have just one sibling. Younger sister.
AM: Who are your role models?
Tokunbo: I have quite a few role models actually. Our Jesus Christ is my role model for teaching me love, patience and forgiveness among other wonderful things, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela. Martin Luther King Jr. and the great women who stand as leaders and pioneers including, My beautiful mother, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and ChiChi Dike Emeson to name a few. I have found at least one characteristic through their various passions inspiring through all these people.
AM: How many languages do you speak? Which ones?
Tokunbo: I’m Yoruba and Edo, but I’m fluent in Yoruba. I represented Imo State in the pageant and tried to learn Igbo, but I was only able to pick up a couple of words. I am still trying to learn though.
AM: Something about you that people will never guess?
Tokunbo: A lot of people will probably find it surprising that I’m actually a private person. I love getting dressed and going out and meeting new people, but I love being in and reading a good book just as much.
AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do?
Tokunbo: I’m almost always busy, but when I do get time to myself I am always looking for how to plan something or create something.
AM: Favorite sport or hobby? Why?
Tokunbo: I love cooking, traveling, reading, writing, teaching and doing community service projects for fun. I didn’t really play any sports growing up. I considered being on the dance team my sport (laughing).
AM: How did you feel when they announced you as the 2012 Miss Nigeria In America Beauty Pageant Winner?
Tokunbo: A million different thoughts and feelings were going through my mind when they announced me as the winner. ‘Did they really call Miss Imo?’ ‘OMG I hope the top of my dress is not exposing my bra’ ‘Excited’ ‘I have to make ChiChi AND MNIA, Inc. proud,’ ‘Where are the other girls (contestants)? I want to give them all hugs for making this a great experience’ ‘The real work is about to begin,’ ‘Thank You Lord,’ ‘Lord please allow me to do that which is your will with this responsibility.’ (That’s why in my first couple of pictures you see me looking up, I was making my promise to Him). Every and any thing else you could think, I was thinking really.
AM: How hard was it to prepare for this event? From entering the competition to actually winning it?
Tokunbo: I wanted to be Miss Nigeria in America for over 2 years because I just really believed in what the organization stands for, which is empowering women through service and commitment. When applications were due in March I wanted to make sure that everything was done properly. In June the real work began.
Every week we had to complete written essays on different topics affecting Nigeria and Nigeria in the Diaspora. The topics ranged from tribalism to clinical depression to future goals for our country here and abroad. I thought it was a great experience actually because with the essays I was able to really think and ask friends and family who are fellow Nigerians what they thought about the issues as well. We also had to pick a charity or organization to volunteer with for the summer. I am so used to volunteering at different programs that I chose to create my own organization I called Project Promote Peace. Every week I took a group of youth from different ethnicities to do different community projects.
We helped feed the homeless at LA Regional Food Bank and Washington DC, provided clothing to women shelters, mentored children with their future goals at the YMCA, and helped a new mother in need who was battling with stage-4 breast cancer. Project Promote Peace’s mission is to allow the youth to learn the importance of service and commitment. From this I hope that the people that we help will remember what we did, and help someone else in need when they can in return; creating peace eventually. I have to give a special thank you to almost all of my loves, family, friends and people who were patient and supported me along the journey.
AM: Walk us through the whole event...
Tokunbo: All of the contestants spent the week together with the MNIA, Inc. Team, Queen, Kenny, Randi Lisa, and Ibiba, before the day of the pageant. We had a lot of fun. We went to the Nigerian Embassy, the White House, and volunteered with N Street Village, a woman’s home. We bonded, ate plenty plenty hotel cookies and learned about each other’s passions.
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