By Anote Ajeluorou
The yearly Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN), which held about a fortnight ago, still has its ripples reverberating in some music circles as artistes that performed gave less than a sparkling showing. And this puts a whole question mark on the entire proceedings of the night, including the pageant itself
He did not even enjoy a single mention in the massive promotional campaign that preceded the high profile beauty pageant that enjoyed wide publicity and live telecast. Even to most people who saw the show live at the New Expo Hall of Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, or on television, the name Praise never came up. That is, until the first elimination of beauties that night, when only 15 out of the 34 contestants remained standing on stage awaiting what was to happen next.
Wande Coal had done his bit earlier. Not anything spectacular from what he is known for. But the evening had just begun and the audience was just warming up to an evening that had been hyper-hyped and even a little over-priced in ticketing. But that is nothing to worry much about. The venue maketh the event, is the pay-off line of the under-utilised National Theatre, Lagos. The New Expo Hall is first rate and not for every comer. The audience had come expecting stunning elegance in the form of 34 beauties showing off what spectacle Nigeria has to offer the world in feminine allure. Agbani Darego is still the stuff of myths; could another be made on the night?
But there was also a certain awkwardness in the catwalk amongst the girls. You don’t blame the girls for it. They had been groomed well enough for it, yet the awkwardness was there. First the evening gowns seemed too long for most of them, if not all. They seemed to be making an effort balancing on incredibly high heel shoes, walking like models (or indeed like acrobatic dancers on stilts) and trying very hard to lift the helms of the gowns with one hand so they wouldn’t step on them and tumble to the ground. Indeed, one did stumble, and only just managed to regain balance; she shuffled the rest of the way to the dressing room, her heart probably in her mouth in the near mishap.
Also, the stage seemed too small from their point of entry to where they were to turn and show off their feminine wares to the audience. Instead of a lateral entrance, a side entrance should have been ideal to give the girls full expression. They seemed all too inhibited and crammed in the catwalk, and the audience couldn’t see the full potentials of their graceful gait; it just didn’t show on the night. And indeed, all their synchronised movements seemed like prancing, just a little short of dancing, on stage.
Another puzzle of the contest is that the real MBGN girl gets chosen last. That is, after all the sponsors have taken their pick of girls to represent their products. Isn’t the pageant being left with the crumb amongst the beauties after La Casera and the others have taken their pick of girls?
On the performance side, Links succeeded in unleashing a hail of noises on the audience in what passed for music. And, what was he singing about? And, when did strutting round the stage pass for dancing or choreographed dance? Even chairman of Silverbird Group and eldest of the Bruces’ entertainment empire, Mr. Ben Bruce, couldn’t be convinced about the choice of Links as an artiste to serenade the girls on the night. The deadpan star on his face spoke volumes about the wrongness of the artiste in performance.
Perhaps the biggest flop of the evening was overhyped female hiphop performer Waje. She was referred to as a music sensation in the promo; it never showed. First perhaps, it seemed she wasn’t used to walking in her high heel shoes; it showed as she shuffled on the polished floor. She literally picked her way around for what appeared like dancing. Then her choice of song (hope she’s got some other songs up her sleeves) jarred the ears with her needless high pitch that needed moderating if she wasn’t to shout. Waje certainly needed repackaging, a musical overhaul, if you please, to really be the sensation she aspires to be.
Dr. Sid did his best in his second and hit song ‘Something about you’ but clearly not in his first. But that was understandable. He still deployed remarkable musicmanship, even if it was miming to the CD just like the others, to get some ladies in the audience dancing.
But the crown jewel of the evening was Project Fame graduate, Praiz. He was the guy who knew why he had come, to really serenade Nigeria’s bevy of beauties. And, he spoke individually to the ladies in the language they seemed to understand having just crossed the first hurdle to being the queen on the night. In what could have passed off as a Lion Richie performance and touch, he literally ignited something deep in the 15 girls in a wooing fashion in a voice laced with passion and romance and magic.
In him coalesced the entire proceedings of the evening as he effectively rescued what already had passed off as terrible choice of performers for the night. Certainly, what was on display musically at the choosing of Nigeria’s most beautiful girl was less than average. Only Praiz raised the stakes to show that Nigeria has performers that can compete at the global arena, musically, and not be disgraced. MBGN organisers certainly didn’t put the right foot forward in its choice of performers. The likes of Asa, TY Bello, Bez, Excetera, P-Sqaure, TuFace abound to pick from. Or was it some quota preference at work? Indeed, mediocrity was what it got!