Africa: Real Queens Are Classy, Simple Yet Royal- Ebele Enemchukwu
Mrs. Ebele Enemchukwu, a trained Microbiologist, with Master degree in Business Administration (MBA) and until recently was a corporate executive (Customer Service Expert) with Globalcom.Former Mrs. Nigeria UN; Mrs. Tourism United Nations; People’s Choice Ambassador; and Most Outstanding Beauty Queen of the Year 2016 who also holds the traditional ambassadorial title of Asa Ugegbe Umudim – Nnewi. She recently set up a beauty studio in addition to her WABIO Foundation where the issue of the girl child and woman is a life time commitment. She spoke with ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA on her sojourn through the many stages of life
How would you describe your reign as Mrs. Nigeria/Mrs. Tourism UN?
It was amazing because it happened at a time when Nigeria was moving away from its mono product, talking about oil. The story then was diversification and tourism presented a low hanging fruit. It has been a lot of charity works and tourism works. I have done so much when it comes to tourism and beauty. We are not going back on tourism. In my opinion, my winning Mrs. Tourism UN was very timely. Between that time and now, I have worked with other like-minded individuals, governments and others to give tourism the positive visibility and promotion that it needs at a time like this.
What was the most outstanding experience for you throughout this journey?
If I tell you that there is one experience only that I will forever cherish then that might be me very narrow in my description of it. I will say instead that the journey has brought me in contact with a lot of amazing people.
Who are some of these amazing people?
The list is endless, however, I will mention Mr. Ikechi Uko of Akwaaba, because most of the other people I met in tourism were as a result of my link with him. My contact with him was what opened me up to the tourism family. You all are family but it was that meeting with him that gave meaning to my tourism crown because prior to that time it was more of my charity activities, going to schools, going to orphanage homes, treatment homes and other places. But my foray into tourism was because of am an amazing person that I met who led me to other amazing people. So, if you ask me what the best part of my journey was, it would not be very far from this.
How challenging was your reign?
It was one crown and then two crowns, so the challenges would come from trying to balance the home front, the work front and the beauty pageant front. A lot of travelling was involved but I will say that despite all of these challenges I was able to conquer because of the amazing support system that I have. My husband, my children, my extended family and my bosses, I had handsome bosses then. You would look at you and think that everything is happening effortlessly. Yes, it looks that way but it wasn’t always that easy. But with proper planning and an amazing support system I was able to handle it.
Could you describe your years as a corporate executive with Globacom?
I started my corporate journey in April 2006 with Globacom. I joined as a customer care representative. Shortly after that I applied for the training unit and that was how I became a training specialist. Anybody who come into Globacom as a customer care representative goes through the training unit. We take them through everything in terms of handling customers. It is not just that I can navigate the system, or I can pull out information but it is how are you delivering? And is the customer satisfied? That is where we come in as we ensure that we are churning out 100 per cent fully groomed staff for Globalcom and I did this for all those years. I spent a total of 12 and a half years until eight months ago when I said goodbye to Globalcom. If you look at it, customer service is an area that is neglected, no, the word is not even neglected but underplayed because the emphasis is always on the figures, where are the marketers? Where are the sales people? But forgetting that after these sales are made the next port of call is how to keep the customers and that is where we come in. That is how my journey was and it was interesting in Globalcom. An amazing goodbye too.
What was the most outstanding part?
The most outstanding part will be the number of people that I now know. I am big on relationship and for anyone who knows about telecommunications, Globalcom in particular, you have a 1, 000, 2, 000, or 3, 000 young, vibrant minds, and creative people residing in one place. When I look at them and talk to some of my trainees, I tell them that seated here right now are heads of states, first ladies, heads of conglomerates and CEOs but today you are all here seated and taking this training. You see, those things are priceless, you can’t quantify them. The dividends come to play later. So, if you ask me what will be the greatest thing that you took out of Globalcom? It would be the opportunity to meet wonderful people, the opportunity to show the world my skill.
There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing and in this case both your time, talent and of course, your experience. Those are some of the most amazing ones. Excellence is not a destination but a journey, something that you keep going at. The spirit of excellence is something that I am very strong on and I want it to affect even those around me.
You appear quite passionate and dedicated to your duties and the causes you believe in, what ignite that spirit of unalloyed commitment?
Without mincing word, I believe it is my mother. She is a disciplinarian to the core. For her, things have to been done properly, she is this Mrs. Integrity. If it is white it is white and if it is black it is black. If you can do it, do it but if you can’t do it, don’t beat about, say you can’t do it. If you have a task to do, execute it as and when due. She is number one on patience. If you can’t get it now hold on it will still come. These were habits that I picked up. She is number one on being organised. People who had known me way back always asked me, ‘Ebele, how did it take this long to contest in beauty pageant?’ The truth is that all through growing up I got tons of offers to either model or take part in beauty pageant but I turned them all down.
I am the first daughter and second child of five children and my mother always registered this thing in our heads that any girl involved in pageantry is loose and for some reasons it stuck. She meant well because there are not too many complimentary things said about pageantry. Her fears may not have been unfounded but growing up and going for NYSC was the first time that I will ever participate in beauty pageant as I won Miss NYSC Lagos State in 2005. But I was persuaded to represent my platoon in camp and that was the first time that I gave a shot to anything pageantry. It was sponsored by Nigerian Breweries at the time. I ended up serving in Nigerian Breweries. That was my first attempt and it was 10 years after that the Mrs. Tourism came after I had been married. With everything I know now, my mum was trying to protect her children from wolves.
But has that changed now?
There is a stereotype that it is just beauty without brains, that they don’t have something upstairs. That they are just pretty outside. But now we are trying to change that narrative. That is not true because you have beauty queens that are sound when it comes to content, intellectual content. We are trying to change that stereotype that often associates beauty queens with being morally loose and just there for the fame and fortune or to grace newspaper pages. No, we are more than that. That is what I know now.
Even my mum is my number one fan now. She understands it better now and it is possible that if I had contested as a younger person, just maybe I might not have been able to handle myself as well as now. Now I am in a place where I can advice young ladies who want to go into it to by all means do it if that is what you want to do. But if you have parents, for example, who have reservations about their children going into it, it is understandable and they have valid reasons for that. Knowing full well that all parents want the best for their children.
In such cases, if it is something that your child really wants then you can set a standard for the child and even when the child is ready to go in to it you can get somebody who could chaperon her when you are not in a position to guide her so that she avoids some of those pitfalls. The truth is that some girls are clueless. Some just go in for the glamour and they are lost and everything that they have worked for go down the drain or there is even nothing to show for it. So you get a pageant coach for them or somebody who can mentor them. I have quite a number under my wing even though there is no proper structure. But there are people who come from time to time and they want advice or counsel.
What inspired your charity works?
Charity for me is something that I was involved with before and I belong to this school of thought then that when you do any charitable act nobody has to know. But it was in Kingston (Jamaica) that my further desire was ignited and when I came back I got more involved and I had people who were always asking me, ‘who is funding this.’ I tell them that it is self-sponsored because at that time my salary was no longer going into buying human hair or one fanciful thing or the other. I was always planning for one project after another.
If I am not doing a feeding project in one community, I am doing breast cancer awareness somewhere or I am buying school uniforms, school bags and shoes for one school or the other. I went to a particular school and almost half of the children were coming to school without shoes and their teachers told me that when it rains the children would have to tie nylons on their legs to come to school. There are some things that you see and you want to weep. So you realise that there is something that you can always do. With each charity act you carry out there is this huge thought to even do more. The prayers, especially from the children, you know that they come from hearts of sincerity and gratefulness.
You just know that the reward for charity is priceless. So when my tenure was coming to a close I realised that I wasn’t going to allow my charity works to die. Therefore, I decided that I will instead develop a vehicle or means through which my charity activities would continue and that is how Women Are Beautiful Inside and Out (WABIO) was born. Prior to launching my WABIO Foundation in June 2017, our activities were general. Our first project was the 2017 breast cancer awareness campaign and we used various channels of the mass media to reach out to women.
What inspired the move to leave Globacom and set up on your own?
It is true that I left Globalcom only a few of months ago but my exit strategy was as old as two-and-half years. From the moment I won, I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to work for anyone else. I also made up my mind that with all the activities that came at the time with the crowns, I said ‘Ebele, if you ever get to a point where your activities begin to interfere with the excellent work that you are doing at Globalcom, just say goodbye.’ I had learnt the ropes, so I will like to think and from that point up until I left some months ago I was putting things in place, down to savings, down to contacts, down to relationships, capacity building, personal things, etc.
I have always being into makeup, personal makeup and capacity building led me into saying what is worth doing is worth doing well, so I took a course in April 2017 and got certified as a professional makeup artist. I should also mention that part of what pushed me into it is that I have spent a lot of money paying makeup artists because I have an event almost every week. And most of them would involve travelling and every time I have to pay for makeup artists. So, I decided to learn it and it is something that I enjoyed doing. I got the certification in 2017 and developing myself further because I know that at some point I will say goodbye but in saying goodbye there also have to be something on ground.
At a point I realised that the time was now, there was just so much happening and at a point I started feeling under utilised in Globalcom, like there was so much that I can give, almost as if I had overgrown Globalcom overnight. That is how I started honing my skill further. I haven’t commercialised what I did two years ago but I had a full grasp of it. But that was not enough for me. I just felt that with the international brand and flair that I possess that it will be nice to add an international flavour to everything. That gave birth to my journey to London where I took additional courses in makeup artistry for nearly two months.
What will anybody walking through your doors take away?
You will take way beauty for royalty. You will take away customer focus because you will be treated like a human being. That is exactly who you are. I trained my staff to know that you have to walk the talk because I can’t help people with relationship that they have with their clients by way of training their staff who are customers’ interfacing and my own end is found wanting. No. You will go feeling not just satisfied with the work that has been done but with an experience.
We want you to have an experience as we don’t want you to just have makeup but an experience and that experience starts from the moment you come through that door. We give you services with the most hygienic processes so that when you go, you have an enhanced version of you. We don’t do plastic surgery here and that I keep telling people. So it is not that when you go people are saying, I didn’t recognise you again, is that you?’ No, that is not it. It is you but we have simply enhanced your features. Real queens are not loud, you are classy you are simple but you are royalty. That is what whoever comes here will be taking away, be you male or female.
By ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA