May Ikeora is a former beauty queen. The first runner up for 2003 at the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria contest, she represented Nigeria at Miss ECOWAS and emerged the winner in 2003/2004. She worked with ECOWAS and Kofi Annan’s peace keeping institute. She also bagged a doctorate degree in law from the University of Hull, United Kingdom, where she taught law.
She is back in Nigeria with her anti-bleaching campaign, her range of L’avyanna products with natural ingredients, a tool to champion her campaign against bleaching.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her about these and memories of her reign.
As a former beauty queen, why did you decide to go into academics?
We are all different people. We are all unique in our ways. Before I went into pageantry, I knew the kind of person I was and also what I wanted to be. My parents are not surprised at all with my choice of career today. I think, beauty pageant should not be a hindrance to my dream but a stepping stone. That is the mistake most people make. When they go into pageantry, they easily forget the little girl that wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer, but they follow the cliché and go into entertainment. It is quite difficult to stick to what you want to do. By God’s grace, I was able to do that and pursue my dream.
Would you say pageantry shaped your career to what it is today?
Definitely, it gave me the stepping stone to where I am today. It was while I was working with ECOWAS, that I got to know the university where I studied. It also gave me the opportunity to meet the people who today still matter to me in my line of work.
You have to choose the way you want to go, that is one thing with pageantry. Nobody will force you to do what you want to do. I decided the way I wanted to go. It also meant leaving the glitz and glamour behind in other to move forward. For me, I always think about the future, not what I can enjoy now.
One thing I learnt from the pageant was that, it wasn’t the peak of my career but an opportunity to launch me into my dreams.
Can you tell us some of the fun memories you had during your reign?
It was fun meeting people, getting to know more people. I attended glamorous events. It was fun being in places where ordinarily I would not be able to go to. The opportunities that came my way, the things you learn about being a woman. The pageant really made me grow.
How was growing up for you?
Growing up was a bit challenging. Everyone has got a story to tell. I had my fun time too. But, I value my challenges more because they helped me stay grounded. It also helps me remember the place I came from. I am not in competition with anybody. I am just in competition with myself.
Which pet project did you do?
I did stuff with ECOWAS, my pet project was around peace building. I went to secondary schools, spoke with them about peace keeping in West Africa. ECOWAS supported me in my project. I did a lot with many motherless babies homes. My work during my reign contributed a lot to where I am today. I am an expert in peace building. I have worked with different organizations in that aspect.
Is May married?
No, I am not.
When are you looking at settling down?
When the right person comes my way, certainly.
Does that mean the right person has not come?
I haven’t seen him yet but I am always praying to God to open my eyes to the right person.
You have been abroad for quite a while now, what brought you back to Nigeria?
I am here to experiment. I have a range of lush products I want to introduce to the Nigerian market. We have men exclusive products aimed at enhancing the youth and style of our men. The men’s power face scrub which exfoliates and purifies to prevent bumps for a soft and smooth skin. We have cooling after shave balm, we have the premium beard oil, super skin detox for women, Vitamin C face serum. It has 25 per cent potency vitamins.
Our range of products are localized skincare line, made from handmade ingredients. Beyond just making skincare, we are licensed skincare formulators. We also offer natural skincare training courses to those who want to start their own natural and organic skincare line.
Our range of products is called L’avyanna. We also cater for women as well. We will soon start our anti-bleaching campaign.
What stands your products out?
The ethic behind the manufacturing of the product. We are catering for women who don’t believe in bleaching. I am not fair and don’t intend to be fair. I love my skin colour. We want to promote the dark skin that cannot be bought over the store.
Our products help the skin glow, they preserve women’s health too. It is easy to buy a light skin in the store but a dark skin is priceless, it cannot be bought.
We will also educate women on keeping their complexion. We are not trying to tell people the choice to make while picking their creams but they should know why they are doing it and the after effects.
Some people bleach because of the effects of slavery. It is so obvious when you see someone that bleaches. I think we should embrace who we are, it is what makes us unique, why do we try to look like the white people.
Tell us more about your anti-bleaching campaign.
We are thinking of starting in February. It is just an avenue to let people know that black is beautiful. They shouldn’t change their skin colour for any price. That is why I said it is easy to buy a light skin from the store but a black skin is priceless.
What does L’avyanna mean?
It means strong and beautiful woman in Native American language. I came across the name in the course of my work and I thought it is the best name to give the products since they stand to empower women.