“I’m going to prove to the world that you can have brown skin,
kinky hair, full lips, a bigger wider nose and you can still be beautiful.”
– Ola Alatishe
If you ever thought beauty pageantry is a load of farce with no purpose or real significance, you may want to reconsider that after learning of Miss Universe Great Britain (GB) contestant Ola Alatishe.
To many, a conjured image of catwalks and frockless polished women springs to mind, whilst to others, the entire pageant serves more than the spectacle its famed for.
University of Manchester student, Ola Alatishe, is one of 35 finalists in the 2016 Miss Universe GB contest, that sees its culmination and winner announced in Cardiff on 23 July.
Born in London from Nigerian parents, the 23-year-old – currently in her fourth year of studies – explained to TNT how she found herself poised for Miss Universe GB stardom, after a challenging and self-confidence-building stint in China.
Having spent a year in the far-eastern country learning Mandarin Chinese and speaking them fluently, Ola experienced racism, prejudice and ignorance from some of the Chinese people she came across.
“I would go to the hospital to get checked and the doctors would put their face masks on or run away from me. People would not sit next to you on the bus. People didn’t want to speak to me, point at me, laugh at me saying horrible things”, Ola told TNT.
“I almost felt like an animal in a zoo”, she added.
In her comeuppances with racists in China, Ola fluently responded to them in Mandarin saying “You know, I heard what you said.” The language barrier was one of many she faced whilst in the country and the first she brought down.
“The whole year knocked my confidence, and I thought to myself, ‘my kind of beauty is beautiful as well’. Yes they [Chinese people] are aspiring to have European features – that’s beautiful as well, but so is this [pointing at herself] as well”.
Joining the Miss Universe GB contest has been a by-product of her degree and now Ola feels that things have to change. With her focus on building bridges between Chinese people and people of African descent, Ola wants to show Chinese people that both Chinese and African have “a lot in common”.
In her journey towards transmuting her negative experiences of racism into positives, Ola states: “I don’t want anyone, especially girls, to go through what I went through in China. I feel I can bring change” to the warped ideologies of beauty predominant in China.
Upon returning to England, Ola applied to be in the pageant with just 2 days left of the application closing date. To her surprise, she was selected and is now on course to meeting her objective of change, should she win the contest.
In a time of surging racism in the UK following Britain’s #Brexit result that shook the globe on 23 June, perhaps Ola’s mission is central to not only the black movement, but the common positions shared by marginalised ethnic groups across the world.
Surely this, along with her beauty, is atypical of the misconceived view of the 50-year-old pageantry, thus more reason for people to vote via www.missuniversegb.co.uk for Ola in the contest. Voting ends 22 July.
TNT Beauty Yasin Chinembiri