Agbani Darego became the first native African to be crowned Miss World on this day in 2001. While other African nation-based models have won the coveted title, the women were not of African descent.
Ms. Darego was born December 22, 1983 in Lagos State, Nigeria, as one of eight children. After the passing of her mother, Darego kept her dream of becoming a model intact despite resistance from her conservative father. While attending the University of Port Hartcourt, Darego became a fixture at local pageants and won a handful of them. In 2001, she became known to an international audience when she won the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria contest.
That same year in the Miss Universe pageant, Darego was the first Nigerian become a top-10 finalist. Later that year, the Miss World contest came around. Darego easily vanquished her competition for the title. In her year-long reign, Darego signed with Donald Trump’s management company and landed contracts with top agencies like Ford Models and Next Model Management. As a result, Darego became just the second Black woman to sign a contract with L’Oreal, after Miss America Vanessa Williams.
Darego has used her fame to promote causes in her native country such as the elimination of communicable disease. She also started a clothing line and completed a psychology degree at New York University in 2012. Modeling is still very much a centerpiece of Darego’s life, but these days, she mostly serves as a pageant judge and consultant. Some publications list Darego as the first sub-Saharan African to win the title as well.
Grenada’s Jennifer Hosten is the first Black woman or woman of African descent to win the Miss World title in 1970.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.