Stella BIDA, in conversation with Nyekachi DOUGLAS, Miss World Africa, International Model
Summarised conversation transcript
This is a summary version of the conversation. More details, stories, and amazing insights are mentioned in the video!
Nyekachi DOUGLAS is Miss World Africa, as well as Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. International Speaker, she has been featured in FORBES top leading events - as being one of the most inspirational women in the world.
Stella Bida: Hi, everyone and welcome to this new Conversation of Excellence. I am so excited today! As you can see, I'm not alone. I am here with Nyekachi Douglas. She is Miss World Africa, Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Her video went viral when she was showing an expression of leadership of excellence, during the last Miss World. The first time that we met, what I absolutely loved about her is the fact that she is a sharing person, a sharing leader. Delighted! Nyekachi welcome!
Nyekachi Douglas: Thank you very much. Honestly, it's a huge privilege for me to be here. I just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story and to be able to reach someone with it. That is something that's really important to me, as I've been growing up and listening to other people's stories, that have brought me where I am today. Thank you for inviting me to this prestigious platform.
When I was preparing for the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, I remember saying that my biggest weakness was speaking. But now it’s an honour to speak to you today, and to have been invited by so many - including a few months ago by FORBES - to inspire others. I just want people to know that what you might think is your weakness can become your greatest strength, if you put your mind to it. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to inspire and speak about my story!
Stella Bida: You are an inspiration! Before we dig into the conversation, is there anything that I’ve forgotten to mention about you, as an introduction?
Nyekachi Douglas: What I think I want people to know is that I’m a Human Being. I am imperfect, I make mistakes. I know the world has put me in a place where I'm supposed to be the most selfless person, but then selflessness is something that I aspire to. I'm working on it every day, and I love it! I want people to know that more than being a Beauty Queen and being Miss World Africa, or being someone that is glamorous or looks glamorous, I am a Human Being.
Stella Bida: What does it mean to you to be a Human Being?
Nyekachi Douglas: Being a Human Being for me is being able to think about yourself and think about others as well. It's very important to me. My mother always reminds me that no matter where you are, you have to not just think about yourself. It's so easy to be focused only on the “Me, me, me” and “I, I, I”… But It’s about being able to empathize with others, and put yourself in other people's situation. It’s also about being conscious about of what's happening around you. So to summarize, being a Human Being is about being empathetic and in understanding of not just yourself.
Another point to mention is that it’s about giving yourself the liberty of making mistakes. Honestly, that's pretty much the only way to learn.
Stella Bida: I love the fact that you brought up the freedom of making mistakes. How do you encourage yourself to continue to dare to make mistakes?
Nyekachi Douglas: I think that I'm going to use the Covid situation. I thought tha tthis year was going to be the greatest year of my life, but finally that seemed impossible. The Covid situation held me back and I had the feeling that I could not make any impact on this society. That really hit very hard, I felt very powerless. I couldn't do anymore what I wanted, I was so overwhelmed and afraid of what would happen.
A way I brought myself out of this place of feeling powerless and feeling useless to society, was by taking myself back down memory lane. I had to think of myself being a year before and seeing all that had been done, and all that had been accomplished. I realized that at that time, I really could have never imagined that I would actually be Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, or be Miss World Africa. That was a fairy tale!
So looking back, what really helped me to get myself out of that space of fear of making mistakes, is remembering that I came from a place from which I had to take a risk in order for me to get where I am today. Just reminding myself of the fact that making a mistake and taking a risk doesn't mean that my life is over. It just gives me room for me to learn.
Stella Bida: I wanted to have your feedback about the way you welcome change into your life. I work with organizations and teams in which it's not always easy to embrace change and new ways of working, especially in this day and age. From your perspective, what is the thought process to have in order to welcome change into our lives?
Nyekachi Douglas: I think change for me is something that scares me. I've noticed that with my life, and the things that I've been through. I'm still learning how to accept and receive change.
I don't know if I know an exact solution, but I know that for example, when Covid hit and the change happened, I had to stop for a minute. It took me by surprise! I had to stop for a minute, go back to my previous times to appreciate the things that I've achieved so far.
It's so easy that once you achieve what you have always wished for, you start to look down on it and to forget that at one point in time, it was the goal, it was the diamond, or the biggest thing that you could have ever imagined! It’s so easy to look down on our accomplishments.
I can't remember who shared this with me – People that provide solutions to things of the world are the ones that are remembered. So how can you create a solution if you can't change something? In order to solve something, you have to change the way that it is. So just think about it in the way that when you change, you are solving something. I think about change as a solution to something that I have. I think about change as a possible win.
Stella Bida: What do you do to stay grounded despite the storms and distractions around you?
Nyekachi Douglas: What I do first of all is to pray a lot. It’s so easy to feel that we're useless, that we're not doing anything, that we're not impacting as much as we should. This is reinforced because of the changes that Covid has brought. I would just encourage people to remember where they come from.
What is helping me is going back to where I've come from, and appreciating what I have today. Really, it’s about being content and having gratitude, having a thankful spirit for where I am. Even looking at the smallest things that I have. When you’re thankful about what you have now, then you can see potential of what you can do with it. But if you already see it as small and useless, how are you going to use it? How are you going to produce something out of it? I always say: “Use what you have now to get what you want. And if you can't see potential in what you have now, you're not thankful for it, if you're not content with it, you're never going to be able to use it to make what is your fullest potential”.
Have a look at the things that you have, with a thankful, grateful and content eye. That’s how you can bring something bigger than where you are now into your life.
Stella Bida: What I love about your answers is that you take time to appreciate and value whatever happened to you in the past. According to you, what are the most significant things from the past that have shaped you into who you are today?
Nyekachi Douglas: I think growing up, I was a completely different person because of the way that life had put it. I wasn't from a wealthy family. But my parents valued education, so they managed to save up everything that they had to send myself and my siblings to a really prestigious school in my neighborhood. I remember that I used to wear a uniform that my sister had passed on down to me.
I used to be called names by others – such as dirty - and all of this it affected me in a way that I did not understand, until I actually went to college and studied public health. The things that people said about me, even though I know they were not nice, molded me. My mother guided and supported me when those things were told to me.
I would say that what really molded me is being able to have the background of someone that is not very privileged, and seeing privilege in my childhood. I feel that it was so important for me to have that, and also being able to go to a great school. I could see and know that there is a difference. Now, I want to build a place where people from my background can also experience that difference. I want to give them a chance to explore their own passions, their dreams, and their creativity as a child.
Stella Bida: I remember that the first time ever we talked together, you were talking to me about your mother. It seems that she had a huge impact in what you're doing today. Could you share with us how much your connection with your mother has been important for you?
Nyekachi Douglas: My mother is in fact the very reason why I'm standing here today. She made sure that we had the education that I have, and she gave me the opportunity to see the difference between different types of lifestyles, and to pick which one that I wanted for myself. She had that vision to give other children from my similar background the chance to you know and see for themselves.
She has taught me something that has been so important to me, and that’s honesty. She has taught me about being honest not just with the people around me, but with myself. In this industry, with this sudden fame that I have acquired, it's so easy to want to lie not just to others, but to yourself. I think that's the worst kind of lie, the lie that you tell to yourself.
She has taught me humility, and not to look down on the people from the home that I was brought up in. So I'm very grateful for that. Honestly, I'm still learning to be humble. But she is always reminding me to know where I come from. My mother is too important for me, she's the driving force for me standing here.
Stella Bida: What is the most significant change or transformation that you want to see within the world or your community?
Nyekachi Douglas: One thing that I want to see change is related to the education of our children, and of our parents as well. I would like our society to see the importance of protecting children’s dreams. I understand that parents want the best for their children, but I fear that when the dreams are not protected, when the children grow, they are not going to be fulfilled. Otherwise, the children are growing to live their parents' dreams, not theirs. Let's let children live their dreams, and let's provide a space for us to protect their passions and their creativities. I wish to give youth the education and the space to grow on that.
Definitely, the change that I want to see is that people start valuing and seeing the resources that children are, by seeing them as are human beings, and then investing in their dreams.
Stella Bida: Nyekachi, if you could have a conversation with you 10 year old self, what would you tell her?
Nyekachi Douglas: I would tell her: “You did it! You actually became Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria! You are actually a Beauty Queen!”. When I was small, a lot of people told me that I wasn't beautiful. I had to the create my own definiton of beauty. My definition of beauty before was about how you looked, on your face. I've been made to not see myself as beautiful.
I was told that I wasn't pretty… The way people defined beauty and the way that this affected me… The worst thing is when you don't even see yourself as beautiful, when you've been made to believe something that isn't true about you.
I would just tell my younger self not to doubt herself anymore and not to look down on herself, because she is just as powerful! I would tell her that she has it all inside of her, ask her to keep chasing that dream. Don't let anybody say things that don’t empower you – if it’s bad, just throw it away.
Nyekachi Douglas: Something I want to talk about also is beauty. I think most people, when they hear the word “beauty”, they think about the way that a person looks physically. But my definition of beauty has changed so much over time! There's been a time when I thought about it from a physical point of view. It was also about how many people liked you... But now, I think of it differently!
What I see now as beauty is someone's ambition! I think that it's so beautiful when someone is passionate about what they are doing, and when they chase what they love with passion! Especially from a space of things being hard, and still going for it. I love it when they're ambitious, it’s the most beautiful thing to me, the most attractive thing to me!
Don't let someone define your own beauty. I want you to look at the things that you like and the things that you value, and let that be beautiful to you - not what people say. Don't let that put you down, don't let someone else’s define of beauty define who you are.
Stella Bida: What would be your last word before we close this beautiful moment together?
Nyekachi Douglas: Thank you Stella. I want people to see that being a Beauty Queen is not just about being glamorous. It needs to be seen as a space where you can reach out to people. It’s a space to understand that a lot of people are looking at you, and that your actions and the words that you say translate for others. It’s a responsibility. It goes beyond being famous. This is something which can mislead many people.
Do things that show your heart… It’s about the inner beauty, rather than the outside beauty.
Stella Bida: Nyekachi thank you very much for being with us today. You are an inspiration to myself and to many others.
What did you enjoy? How do you think that this will help you in making your life and career vision happen?
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