Does it matter if the title is cliché? You’ll come to find out soon enough that I really put myself in my mother’s shoes sixteen years ago and it left a lasting impression on me.
In 2002 at the age of seven I was diminutive for my age and my uncles teased me about it all the time. They called me Agbani Darego after the beauty queen who in 2001 was the first native African to win Miss World, she was the most beautiful girl in Nigeria and part of the top ten at Miss Universe. She took the world by storm and gave Nigeria a seat at the table. My uncles wanted me to aspire to be as great as that. they began instilling in me at that tender age the virtues of a queen. I wasn’t all that and a bag of chips but I guess they saw something in me that I did not see in myself yet. Either that or it was another way of making jokes about my height
I was flattered and I would carry my swollen head around the place with such strong confidence. My parents especially my MOM (love you Ma) said I was going to be very tall and my uncles practically called me a beauty queen so it must be true right? Ms. Darego had no idea she was shaping the life of a teenage girl who only had a dream and nothing else.
She became my idol and my fascination. They might have been making fun of me but I took it quite literally. How could I not? At that time in my life, I had nothing. She became all I had. She was such a light and an inspiration and all I wanted to be was a model, just like her. Life is very rosy now and I bless God for that but it wasn’t always so rosy. A the time, t we were living or I would like to call it squashed up in a one room apartment, using one public bathroom and kitchen with our neighbors. My health was really tricky at that age and keeping up with it was not as easy as keeping up with the Kardashians. My parents obviously did the best they could but life kept happening.
People tend to discredit my life story because they can’t imagine a girl like me who has no war scars on her body having gone through war. We all have a story, we all started from somewhere. I do have a war scar on me that fit my past and it is the slanted scar between my eye brows. I have been known to be described as the girl with the scar on her fore head. At first it bothered me a lot because I thought at that age, my dream of ever being a model was lost because of a silly accident.
I wore my mother’s blue slippers which were way bigger than my feet and tried to catwalk for my uncles to show them how serious I took modelling. There was a small iron paint bucket right in front of me that I didn’t see and I slipped and fell on it. It was so bad that all I could see was my blood, nothing else and no one else. My mom rushed me to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, a man with a black shirt, a needle and thread stitched me up without any pain medication as I cried on my mother’s lap like it was the end of the world. For the next few days my head didn’t just hurt but my dream hurt too. I really felt deep inside of me that no one was going to think I was beautiful enough now.
Fast forward to a couple of years and it still haunted me. I kept thinking when I grow up and have a lot of money I’ll take it off my face for good. However, my modeling dreams were far behind me because it turned out that when my parents said I was going to be very tall they meant 5’3. Hilarious, we can all laugh about it now but it was not comedy back then. So there I was, diminutive for my age with a visible scar on my head. Have you ever felt like someone was talking directly to the imperfections on you and not directly to you? I felt like that for years.
Just because I left my dream that didn’t mean it left me. I still had people calling me nick names like “Miss Queen” and “Miss Nigeria”. That would make any girl glow but not me because I felt like I was being made fun of or taunted because I didn’t see myself that way. Whenever I didn’t win something, or get something I would blame the scar, we were such enemies. I don’t think it liked being on my head as much as I hated it being there.
But there was something about the dream of being a model that wouldn’t just let me be. No matter how hard I tried to kill it, it just wouldn’t stay dead. I had to change the way I reacted to what I saw every day when I looked in the mirror. I couldn’t pray about it because it didn’t need prayers, I just had to take bold steps and make better decisions about my life. Until I started to see myself in a positive light, I could never be what I wanted to be. simply put, I am who I am today because of my past. It makes for one interesting story and I am really glad it happened to me. There should not be a standard for perfection. Be your own kind of beautiful, scars and all.
The truth is I will never be Miss Darego because well I am Ayamba but I will always look up to her. I am not scared anymore to tell anyone my story and I do get a lot of questions. This scar has grown up with me and it is part of my identity. Removing it will mean taking away a part of me, leaving me half full. I still can’t fit into my mother’s shoes and I’ll probably still hurt myself if I did try to wear them. However, my shoes fit me perfectly and some days they hurt, other days they don’t but if I watch where the hell I am cat walking too, I wouldn’t fall on any more paint buckets.