Walter Wilson Nana
On Saturday, October 22, Miss Cameroon 2005 was crowned. Florence Rita Ebot Iyok received the attributes; a sash and the crown. It didn't end there; Iyok has more in her handbag to carry around.
Since October 22, the soft-spoken University of Buea student has to grapple with her newfound status, her academic life and more. "With God's grace, I'll make it," she told The Post. At home in Buea, Iyok had time to open up.
Amongst other issues, she talked on her goals, new challenges and the Cameroonian youth. Excerpts:
The Post: How did you feel when you were crowned Miss Cameroon 2005?
Florence Rita Ebot: It was like a dream. I'm still coming to terms with that. I was happy. It was a dream come true.
Had you been eyeing that status?
I've been eyeing FACE OF AFRICA (A yearly Pan-African Beauty Pageant organised in South Africa). My inspiration comes from Oluchi Onweagba (A Nigerian model who won the first FACE OF AFRICA Competition).
What have you been doing to get to FACE OF AFRICA?
I went in for Miss Cameroon Beauty Pageant to gather some experience. The FACE OF AFRICA scouting process begins in April 2006.
How did you get information about Miss Cameroon 2005?
I read the information on the CRTV news bar, while watching the soap opera Promise. It was a little difficult to register from Buea, where I'm based. I called my Yaounde-based cousin to register me.
The day was the deadline for registration. On the day of the competition, I travelled to Yaounde. Fortunately, for me, I was amongst the 14 finalists.
What happened before a final list was drawn?
Pre-selection tests took place at Djeuga Palace, Yaounde. We were about 33 girls. 14 were chosen. I was the ninth.
Did the 33 girls come from the 10 Provinces of the country?
Yes, they did. But the 14 finalists did not necessarily represent the 10 Provinces.
What did the organising committee of Miss Cameroon 2005 take into consideration in selecting the finalists?
Their smile, structure and academic life.
Out of the 14 girls, you were crowned Miss Cameroon 2005.
What do you think made the difference?
I know it is God. Like in Proverbs, it is said; "Thy righteous is more excellent than thy neighbour.” All the other girls were beautiful and elegant, intelligent as I'm, but the jury saw favour in me. And I was crowned Miss Cameroon.
Were you surprised at your being chosen Miss Cameroon?
I was. But it is a good choice.
What do you mean?
I wasn't expecting to be Miss Cameroon. But they made a good choice.
What is expected of you as Miss Cameroon 2005?
Being a role model for the youths, visit the poor, orphans, sensitise the youths on HIV/AIDS and many other things. I intend to do my best.
What are you doing about the aforementioned tasks now?
I've contacted IRESCO, the organisation that publishes the youth magazine - Amongst Youths. I've to do a write-up on and for the youths. I will also meet the youths at forums, seminars.
I will work on a project for unemployment in Cameroon. I'm also thinking of coming up with an NGO that will work closely with the Botanical Garden in Limbe.
You have to do most of these things within one year of your reign as Miss Cameroon. How are you going to manage all that with your academic and private life?
One year is certainly not enough. It will continue after my one-year reign as Miss Cameroon. I'll not be doing it as Miss Cameroon then, but as an ordinary citizen.
How are you going to raise money for the NGO you earlier talked about?
We're going to have sponsors. We are expecting the Ministries in charge of Youths, Health and Education respectively, to also help us.
What are you supposed to gain as Miss Cameroon?
The only gain I have is the pleasure of serving my country and working towards a positive step to make the world a better place.
Some people said you did not deserve to be Miss Cameroon because you do not understand French, that you are not beautiful. What do you say about this?
Their opinion doesn't actually count. The judges chose me in preference to the others. The fact that I do not understand French doesn't mean anything to me. The other contestants were not English-speaking either.
They don't understand English. However, I'm currently working on my French so that I could reach French-speaking Cameroonians. If that's not possible, my runners-up will assist me in reaching the French-speaking Cameroonians.
What have been the reactions from the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Youth respectively?
No reactions for now.
Have you officially introduced yourself to these Ministries?
No, I haven't. I'll do that in the weeks ahead.
Have you had contacts with First Lady Chantal Biya?
Not yet! We're still working towards that. We have to go through some Ministries in order to see her.
As a student of the University of Buea, what do you read?
I read Biology in the Faculty of Education. I'm using it as a stepping-stone to get into pharmacology. I want to become a pharmacist.
What about a career in modelling?
I've not yet thought about that.
Let's know you better?
I'm Florence Rita Ebot Iyok. I was born in 1984 in Limbe. I attended Karl Steane Memorial Primary School, Saker Baptist College, Limbe, Baptist High School, Buea, and presently I'm a third year student at the University of Buea.
Before Miss Cameroon 2005, had you some modelling experience?
I had never taken part in any modelling competition before. My father never encouraged me. This time, he couldn't help it. He said now that I'm 21, I can take my own decisions. If that is what I want, I should go ahead.
How did you convince him to get to Miss Cameroon contest?
I told him that's what I want to do. And if he knows me better, he should not think that I'm going to do something foolish. He gave the green light.
However, he is not enthusiastic about modelling. He was in Yaounde on the day of the final but did not come to the Congress Centre to watch me. He only saw me on TV being crowned as Miss Cameroon 2005.
There are some parents who think that modelling has to do with prostitution, nudity. What's your response to that kind of reaction?
Parents know their children better. They could always trust their children.
December 23, 2005, in Yaounde, there will be Miss Central Africa Beauty Pageant. You'll be flag-flying Cameroon in that international competition. How're you looking forward to it?
I'm preparing seriously for that. I do cat-walking at home; exercises not to lose my shape, take a lot of fruits to remain fresh and use beauty products on my skin.