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FORMER BEAUTY QUEEN IBINABO FIBERESIMA SPEAKS: “WHAT LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME AT 50”

Ibinabo Fiberesima is a former beauty queen, actress and one-time President of the Actor’s Guild of Nigeria.
Born to a Nigerian Medical Doctor father and an Irish mother, Ibinabo had her early years in Port Harcourt, Rivers state and attended Federal Government College, New Bussa.
She holds a Bacherlor of Arts Degree in English & Literature from the University of Ibadan and made headlines in 1991 when she participated in the Miss Nigeria pageant and was first runner-up to eventual winner Bibiana Ohio.
Before that contest, she had already won the Miss Wonderland Crown in 1990. Today, she is the organiser of the yearly Miss Earth Nigeria Beauty Pageant.
In this exclusive 50th birthday interview, the gorgeous IB as she is fondly called spoke candidly about life’s lessons in the last half a century.
Looking back, what do you miss most about your youthful days?
In truth, I really miss the energy, that energy to be almost ubiquitous. But most importantly I miss the proclivity to take risks. You know youth is synonymous with risks, the age when you really have nothing to lose. When you can conveniently fail and have time on your side to rebuild. At this stage of my life, I have to consider too many things, too many people. Every decision I take affects someone, so a lot of caution is necessary, caution which defeats potentially enormous goals.
Tell us about your parents
Growing up was a lot of fun. I grew up in love within a very close knit family. I still experience that love and camaraderie that typified my early years. The support I got during my latter travails was proof of that. My family never abandoned me and till today I still get the love and care I received as a child. My dad dotes over me and as a practicing Medical Doctor I’m one of his priority patients. To my Aunty Bisola fifty is just a numerical thing. I was a heady kid growing up, just like that trending kid comic Bridget Bema, but I also stood for justice and ensured that everyone got their fair share of equity. My parents are the best I could ever ask for.
Who were you closer to, your mom or your dad?
It’s obvious. I was closer to my dad and I still am. Whenever I have current issues he is my go-to-guy. I will also notably mention my grandmother. She taught me the bible in Yoruba at a very early age and if she were still alive I guess dear daddy will be easily knocked off the top perch.
Can you recall some of your childhood friends or school mates?
Oh yes I can. I’ve got quite a few but these ones deserve notable mention. There was Janet Olu. I’ve been friends with Janet all the way from primary school till date. She’s a Jehovah’s Witness but boy, did we indulge in mischief those yesteryears. Then, there is Ibiwari, my sweet sister and best friend. Ibiwari is literally my wing-man and we’ve shared and still share so many beautiful experiences together. I became friends with Odiatu Patricia immediately after secondary and we did practically everything. Timi Oki and Muzaan Yellowe were friends from the same neighbourhood. My friendship with Muzaan is the classic cat and mouse one. We never agreed on anything and till present it’s still the same, but try to get in between us at your own peril. Then, there is Julie Abigo. She was the most intelligent of us all, the perennial first position kid. We secretly ‘beefed’ her. You know that kid, your parents would chastise you to emulate, while painfully pulling your ears, yes, and that was Julie. But I admit she did inspire us to better, bless her. I also have to mention London Kio. He’s the listening ear and literal shoulder. He’s always been there through thick and thin.
How did the decision to contest in a beauty pageant happen?
Well, I’ve always had an adventurous spirit and if you go through what I have accomplished in my life you’d see that that fact is manifestly apparent. Almost every goal I set for myself is something that took me out of my comfort zone, which challenged me, that threw me against the odds. I always love to take on daunting ventures. I always crave to try new things, and contesting for a beauty pageant was one of those bold, new things. A lot of people might say having beauty as an edge was perhaps a motivating factor, but as a veteran of pageants, both as a contestant and a judge, I can readily tell you that there is nothing farther from the truth. Pageantry involves beauty, yes, but it also involves intelligence, poise, talent, with speech fluency and a fair amount of luck. So once I thought pageantry was a fitting challenge, I gave it a shot. It’s much the same way I try to encourage the girls contesting for the Miss Earth crown to accept the challenge with grace.
You then went into acting, tell us how you got into it?
Recall I talked about trying new things; well this was another opportunity to explore a new terrain amidst the exciting buzz of a budding neo-Nigerian film industry. Looking back I am extremely grateful to have been a part of the early days of Nollywood and indeed further grateful to have played a latter role as her first female President. I like to believe that the history of Nollywood will not be complete without a paragraphed mention of Ibinabo Fiberesima, but then I must confess I was scared stiff on the set of my first movie and had it not been for God’s grace I probably would have called it off. A movie set is not as easy as people think and I have to thank my sister Regina Askia for her encouragement and for dons like Zeb ‘The Sheikh’ Ejiro and my dear friend the late Chico Ejiro for the opportunities and encouragement. The movie ‘Most Wanted’ marked a watershed for me in an industry that has contributed in an enormous part of making me who I am today.

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