The pageant queen and the bloodied flag, how a Nigerian model used a Russian catwalk to protest police brutality

Abuja, Nigeria As Victoria Chiamaka Udeh strutted confidently down the runway during a beauty pageant in Russia, brandishing her country’s red-stained flag, she thought only of one thingthe young people who lost their lives during the #EndSars protests in Nigeria last year.

The Nigerian student and model was intent on using the Miss Africa Russia platform to make a statement about the anti-police brutality demonstrations that rocked her country last October, and which culminated in security forces firing on unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate.
I felt like ‘right now I don’t care about what the judges think about what I’m doing.What mattered to me was using the platform that Miss Africa Russia had given me to pass a message,” Udeh, 23, told CNN from Stavropol, southwest Russia, where she is studying medicine.
    In un video from the June 13 event that went viral on social media, Udeh is seen on stage dressed in Nigeria’s green and white colors and holding the red-splashed flag. She said the banner symbolized the blood of young protesters who lost their lives l'anno scorso.
      I went into the competition to winI wanted to win. But getting to Moscowwinning didn’t matter to me anymore. I just wanted to portray and create awareness on what happened on the 20th of October 2020, and the recent insecurity situation in Nigeria,” lei disse.
        UN judicial panelset up by authoritieshas been investigating reports of police brutality and the violent crackdown on #EndSars protesters by the army.

        ‘People are losing their lives

          Taking part in the Miss Africa Russia pageant was first driven by her desire tobreak beauty stereotypes,” Udeh said.
          “A quel tempo, I wasn’t comfortable with my skin because I had a lot of acne all over my face. Così, I wanted to prove to myself and people like me that I can break beauty stereotypes and that the flaws on my skin are part of what makes me perfect,” ha detto alla CNN.
          Miss Africa Russia is a beauty pageant held every year in the Russian Federation to promote African culture and empower African women living in the country.
          Udeh did not win the competition, but she was rated top in thepeople’s choicecategory by the organizers.
          She says her decision to parade the stained flag was because one of the competition’s categories required contestants to walk down the runway in a dress representing Nigerian culture.
          I didn’t have access to a traditional dress, so I felt since I had access to the green and the white.. I decided to dress in green and white,” lei disse.
          tuttavia, Udeh said that wearing the colors made hervery emotional,” prompting the decision to also carry the flag. “I felt like people are losing their lives every day in Nigeriaso it bothered me,” lei ha aggiunto. “I thought about the families that had to mourn the death of their loved ones.
          Udeh said that her statement was not an attempt to tarnish the country’s image.
          I did that for a good cause. We need to be safe in our country and not losing lives every day. It was just a call to the Nigerian government to address the country’s security issues,” lei disse.
          Nigeria has been plagued by a rise in insecurity in many parts of the country. Dozens of security operatives have been killed by armed assailants e police stations razed in regions of the West African nation. Kidnapping for ransom has escalated in northern Nigeria, where hundreds of schoolchildren have been abducted since December.
          Marauding gunmen, locally known as bandits, continue to terrorize local communities in the northwest region, while Boko Haram have also ramped up attacks in Nigeria’s northeast, secondo quanto riferito hoisting flags in its dominant areas.

          Swift condemnation and praise

          Nel frattempo, Udeh’s actions prompted swift condemnation and praise across social media. Some Nigerians described her performance as unpatriotic, while others called her brave.
          One Twitter user ha scritto: “STUPID OF THE YEAR. You can disrespect anyone you want but DO NOT disrespect your Flag!! That is your identity.
          Un altro utente ha scritto: “She displayed the #Endsars flag to the entire world. Projecting Nigeria to the outside world. Using the most powerful tool at her disposal. She deserves some accolades.
          A Nigerian-American lawyer, Susan Henshaw, stated thatshowing up at a contest with a desecrated Nigerian flag was nothing but a ploy to cheat her way through with sentiments.
            Udeh denied that claim. “It wasn’t a way to cheat,” ha detto alla CNN. “Those are people’s opinions, and it doesn’t matter to me.
            The fourth-year student says she is not deterred by the backlash she has received. “If I’m given that platform again, I would do it over and over again,” lei disse.

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