Agbani Darego, MFR (born Agbani Asenite Darego, 22 December 1982) is a Nigerian model and beauty queen who was crowned Miss World 2001. She is best known as the first native African to win Miss World.
Early Life and Education: Darego’s family roots are in Abonnema, Rivers State. She was born in Lagos to a family of eight children and she was sixth out of them. At age two, her family relocated to Port Harcourt and was raised in D-line. Darego attended Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary School. At ten, she was sent to a boarding school in a bid to shield her from her mother who had become very ill with breast cancer. Her mother was known as Inaewo and had a rice trading business and a clothing boutique. Darego’s mother died two years later after her departure to boarding school. Darego has spoken of how the loss prepared her for the future. As a teenager, Darego longed to be a model, and despite her conservative father’s wishes, she auditioned for the M-Net Face of Africa modelling competition but was not chosen as a finalist. Darego attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma. After finishing her secondary education, she attended the University of Port Harcourt where she studied Computer Science and Mathematics.
Pageantry: In 2001, Darego was crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Contrary to popular belief, Darego did not replace Valerie Peterside after the latter was dethroned as she had competed in the rival pageant, Miss Nigeria. A few months later she was a contestant at Miss Universe and became the first Nigerian to place among the top 10 semi-finalists, finishing seventh overall. She was the only contestant to wear a modest maillot as opposed to a revealing bikini during the swimsuit competition.
In November that year, she became the first native African to claim the Miss World title (Although past winners such as Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel are South African, they are of European descent, and Antigone Costanda, who represented Egypt in 1954 is of Greek heritage). Darego’s victory was widely welcomed in her home country, and her one-year tenure included goodwill trips and scheduled appearances on behalf of the pageant, and national honour of MFR.
Modelling: Prior to winning MBGN, Darego featured in print commercials for boutique chain Collectables, and following her stint at Miss Universe was invited by Naomi Campbell to participate in Frock ‘n’ Roll – a charity fashion show in Barcelona, soon negotiating a modelling deal with Trump Model Management in America. Shortly after her reign as Miss World she was represented by the London and Paris branches of Next Model Management and landed a three-year contract with L’Oréal, becoming only the second Black model to accomplish this feat after Vanessa Williams, and was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, a big name in Americans portrait photograph sphere for Vogue. Other brands she has modelled for including Avon, Christian Dior, Sephora, Target, and Macy’s. Darego has also appeared in Elle, Marie Claire, Allure, Trace, Stitch, Cosmopolitan, and Essence magazines, working with numerous designers including Oscar de la Renta, Marc Bouwer, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Gianfranco Ferre.
In her, homeland Darego has appeared in advertising campaigns for hair care brand Gentle Touch with model Oluchi and served as the face of Arik Air. She has also graced the covers of Complete Fashion, Mania, ThisDay Style, Genevieve, True Love, and TW Magazine.
Other work: Darego has judged numerous pageant, fashion and modelling competitions including Miss World 2014, Miss England 2002, Mr Scotland 2002, and Elite Model Look Nigeria 2012 and 2014. In 2010, she launched a style and fashion reality show Stylogenic on Nigerian television, and three years later announced her denim range, AD by Agbani Darego, which includes jeans, dresses, sunglasses and bags.
Personal life: Due to her busy work schedule, Darego left the University of Port Harcourt, but after moving to New York where she was signed to Next Model Management and Ford Models, she enrolled with New York University where she studied Psychology, graduating in May 2012. In April 2017, Darego married her longtime love Ishaya Danjuma, son of Billionaire General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma in a ceremony held in Marrakesh and together they have a baby boy which was delivered in September 2018.