At 21 years old, Queen Tobi Phillips, a 400 level Marine Sciences student of the University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, was crowned on November 3, 2012, the sixth World Miss University Nigeria title out of 30 participants. Tobi is currently the sixth Nigerian Student
Peace Ambassador to the United Nations and Goodwill Ambassador to the International Vaccine Institute (IVI).
She made Nigeria and the whole of Africa proud by clinching the World Miss University Africa 2012 title at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel, Seoul, Korea, on December 11, 2012. In addition to her national crown WMU Nigeria 2012; Tobi became the first African to have ever attained such a progressive position at the international level in Korea.
The World Miss University contest, franchised to Entertainment & Events Focus Limited, is a global peace initiative endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. Tobi, who has been making a name for herself in the industry since winning the crown, hails from Erinje- Ikale, Okitipupa in Ondo state. She spoke with MORAKINYO OLUGBIJI
How long have you been into modelling?
I’ve been into modelling since 2009. It all started in 2009 when I emerged Miss Madam Tinubu Hall(MTH) at University of Lagos. Then in 2010, I emerged Miss Sciences at the Faculty of Sciences. After then, I also represented the faculty and emerged first runner-up Miss UNILAG in 2010. I also emerged Miss Integration the same year. Miss integration is an international pageant held in Benin Republic to promote African culture and campaign against human trafficking. In 2011, I emerged the first runner-up, Sisi Oge. Sisi Oge is another popular pageant with the pride of Africa. In 2012, I emerged Miss Personality-Sisi Oge. Then I emerged World Miss University Nigeria after I represented UNILAG. I went on to participate in the international version where I represented Nigeria in South Korea. I emerged fourth in the world and first in Africa. So I got the title World Miss University Africa.
What challenges do you face as a model?
I love modelling so much so most things people describe as challenges are mere stepping stones for me. But one aspect I could see as a challenge is the fact most model agents are untruthful. As a model, an agent comes to you for a job after he has collected a sum of money and lies to you about the actual amount, whereas he has cut back a large part of the money. So that’s a major challenge. Meanwhile the agents will still collect his official percentage after you’ve been paid.
What’s your selling point as a model?
My selling point as a model is that I’m a total package – from my height, to my beauty and curves. Also my unique selling points range from my intelligence to my carriage and presentation.
What’s a marine scientist doing in the world of modelling?
I never planned to study Marine Sciences. I started in the science class in secondary school and wanted to study Medicine actually. So when I wanted to choose Medicine, somehow, I couldn’t register it, so I had to opt for Marine Sciences, which was one of the next available courses for me at the time. I particularly chose Marine Sciences because I liked a documentary I had watched on TV during the time.
Since 2009, you have made a great impact on the modelling scene as your name has been everywhere. How were you able to achieve so much within that period?
It’s persistence and determination. As a kid, I had always dreamt of being on a world stage as a beauty queen; especially since I’ve been watching TV. So I started from the grassroots. I participated in so many and won so many unpopular pageants and the ones I didn’t win didn’t stop me from going further. So I kept on trying until I found myself at the World Miss University stage. So I feel I have accomplished that childhood dream.
Are you saying that you are fulfilled with pageantry?
I’m fulfilled with pageantry. Like I said, my childhood dream was to be on any world stage and from nowhere, I was able to get to represent Nigeria in Korea. My plan now is to explore other aspects of modelling to the fullest. I also want to go into presentation and motivational speaking. I want to impact lives of young students. Already I’ve been invited to so many programmes where I talked to the youths. I’m also opened to work with NGOs or government agencies or personalities on projects that can impact lives.
You’ve been into modelling from your school days. Didn’t your parents object a little considering the way many parents still perceive models?
I’ve had the support of my parents from the word “go.” They never objected because they believed in me. They trust their daughter. Your parents will always support your dream once they know you are a child that always keeps to her words. Most parents make the mistake of caging their children instead of allowing them to express their talents. That’s wrong.
The industry is notorious for sexual harassment. Have you ever been a victim?
No. It depends on the model’s carriage. You’ll be approached the way you carry yourself. Like I said, the negative thing about the industry I have noticed is the aspect when agents cheat models when it comes to payment on jobs. That’s the only challenge I have faced in the past; but harassment? No, probably because of the way I present myself.