By Dennis J. Freeman
It’s hard to believe someone making fun of someone as radiantly beautiful as reigning Miss Black USA Osas Ighodaro. Growing up in New York that is exactly what happened to Ighodaro. Kids just didn’t make fun of the beauty queen; they hurled ugly taunts her way and often times bullied the Bronx native into having little confidence about herself.
For years Ighodaro hid behind self-pity and low-self esteem. She became withdrawn. Feeling beautiful was only in her imagination.
“I would stay to myself,” Ighodaro said in an interview with news4usonline.com. “I would be afraid people would make fun of me. I got teased. I got bullied. Kids can be so cruel and so mean.”
Ighodaro, with the help of her family, particularly her mother, got over that rough patch in her life. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Penn St. and on her way to a graduate diploma in Fine Arts in Acting from Pace University, Ighodaro said she had to grow into accepting and liking who she is.
But it was her parents who fast-tracked that growth spurt, signing up Ighodaro for her first beauty pageant at 14. This did wonders to help Ighodaro overcome her insecurities.
“I loved the experience. I had very low self-esteem then,” Ighodaro said. “Now I appreciate who I am. Having the support of my family helped me overcome my low self-esteem. I didn’t feel beautiful. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.”
The way Ighodaro felt as a young girl made it easy for her to identify with Celie, Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the “Color Purple,” she said.
“I adore the “Color Purple,” said Ighodaro. “I can see myself being tormented by other people’s actions. I can see myself feeling bad.”
Ighodaro isn’t feeling too bad about herself these days. There’s much to accomplish, too much work to put in to help other people. An aspiring actress, model and journalist, Ighodaro have dusted off her childhood insecurities and have blossomed into an advocate of health and and fitness and promoting wellness among African American women.
Ighodaro is particularly interested in talking to and educating African American about the dangers of heart disease. According to the MUSC Heart and Vascular Center, African American women are more likely to come down with cardiovascular disease than any other ethnic group.
Black women (44.7 percent) are more likely to be hit with cardiovascular disease than their white counterparts (32.4 percent). Heart disease is the leading cause of death of African American women here in the United States.
Working with the Heart Truth campaign, Ighodaro, who was Miss Connecticut before being crowned Miss Black USA last August, made the issue part of her winning platform.
“One of four women die every day, which is an amazing statistic,” said Ighodaro. “The fact is…we have to take better care of ourselves. We’re all affected by it.”
That’s not the only issue African Americans, especially black women, find themselves affected by. The image of black people, portrayed on screen, in videos and even art, has been muffled at times. At times, the images have been outright distorted. Ighodaro wants to be part of the solution to this evolving problem.
Being crowned Miss Black USA is a start in that direction, Ighodaro said. The projection of positive images of African American women is what drew Ighodaro to the Miss Black USA pageant in the first place.
She liked the way the pageant portrayed black women. The first Nigerian American to win the Miss Black USA crown, Ighodaro said being a role model for other young African American women is an honor and a privilege.
“I’m a very big advocate for positive images of African American people,” Ighodaro said. “I was looking for a pageant that celebrated African American women. I didn’t feel as whole as I did until when I participated in the Miss Black USA pageant. It’s a big responsibility. I want to continue to put out a positive image.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers sports, social and racial justice, politics, equal rights, and entertainment. Dennis has over two decades of journalism experience. He earned a degree in journalism from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”