OK! Nigeria catches up with entrepreneur and Miss West Africa UK 2012 contestant Tonisha Tagoe
Ghana-born community activist, entrepreneur and film-maker Tonisha Tagoe also the Producer of the now World Famous “Azonto” Viral Video, which has made internet celebrities of Ghanaian Fuse ODG and Serbian David Vujanic is one of the Finalists for the Miss West Africa UK 2012 Charity Beauty Pageant.
Award winning Producer Tonisha Tagoe founded the Asantewaa Charity to support education and positive development of young African women in Africa in 2009. The Miss West Africa UK 2012 Charity Beauty Pageant supports the reigning Queen into developing charitable projects around West Africa. Tonisha’s Passion for charity work and Love for Africa has brought her to participate in the pageant tomorrow.
When Ok! Nigeria caught up with her earlier this week to find out how she felt, about the Pageant, the young entrepreneur responded simply with “It’s a pleasure and honour to be able to embrace and share my West African heritage on such an empowering platform!”
Words by: Amica Anselm
Here’s how we got on:
For those who don’t understand the relevancy of beauty pageants, what is its importance in the UK and West Africa today?
In my opinion, beauty pageants are a great way for women like me to gain the opportunity to both express our comfort with our feminity and use it as a way to engage audiences in causes which they may not otherwise be aware of.
Not all pageants are quite like Miss West Africa UK though, which to be honest, is why I was so interested in participating in this pageant rather than any of the others that have been around over the years.
You have recently been entered into the Miss West Africa UK (MWAUK) competition on behalf of Ghana what made you choose to do this?
As I mentioned earlier, Miss West Africa UK stood out to me because of the differences it has with most pageants.
Miss West Africa UK 2012 is the first pageant I’ve heard of which I found out about because of its charity work before knowing about the actual pageant itself. The reigning queen will work with the team to support not only the resident charity – the Joshua Tree Foundation – but will also support a charity of her choice which works with the under privileged across West Africa.
To me, this is perfect as I have been working for a UK based charity – Kids Company – for the past 3 years teaching Film Studies to underprivileged young people from around the world based in London; and I have been thinking about how to do more in not only Ghana, but across Africa as a whole. I felt that the opportunity to start small with a focus on West Africa would be perfect, especially with the help of such a fun and dedicated team.
The Miss West Africa UK pageant is about celebrating the beauty of the modern West African woman, what do you think you encompass that is elite compared to your peers?
To be honest, after spending 3 months with my beautiful West African counterparts, I have learned so much about how different cultures can be in neighbouring West African countries and I’ve grown to see how special and individual we all are.
I would hope that my personality and life experiences will be the key to my success in the pageant. As a Freelance Film and Television producer, outside of my role at Kids Company, I have worked across cultures for the past 10 years. This has hopefully given me the insight and skills to be the Ambassador that the pageant is looking for.
I think there is no doubt that all the contestants are beatiful, and so I’m fully aware that a win will be based on much more that beauty.
MWAUK is considered to be the most prestigious African pageant in the UK, what do you aim to offer to the UK as well as aim to claim from the pageant and its sponsors?
Well, as you know, I’ve joined the pageant at a late age of 26. Initially, I had thought this to be a downfall however, I have grown to realise that it means I am able to provide a more focused package in terms of my value as an ambassador.
I have been working in Film and Television for the past 10 years and with a portfolio of mainstream projects ranging from Adulthood to most recently, The Story Of Lover’s Rock.
I’ve also travelled extensively both for Media related work and charity work, noteably the African schools Tour which took me around Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2009 studying the education systems and programmes within West, Central, and Southern Africa.
I would aim to offer the same amount of dedication to the role as Miss West Africa UK 2012 if I were to win the pageant. I would also attempt to draw on some of the experiences when developing my own charitable project over the following 12months.
What is your most nerve racking part of this entire pageant?
To be honest, the ‘Beauty’ element has been the most stressul part for me! Most people who know me, know I’ve been a dedicated Tom Boy for the first 20 years of my life! The past 6years have been the real turn for me as I’ve grown to love shoes, handbags, and makeup a few years behind all my friends.
I also shaved off all my hair 3years ago in an attempt to be more comfortable in my own skin, however, when surrounded by the beautiful women in this competition, I must admit, it all gets a bit scary!
What are you most confident about?
I’m most confident about my skills and ability to perform and stay focused. I’ve spent most of my short life working in Media and Education which require such skills, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to stay focused for so long.
When I was a teenager, focus was not one of my strong points as most people would probably be able to agree with! (Laughs) but it’s nice to look back and see that change in myself.
You have personally won awards for your hard work, what would it mean to you to win Miss West Africa UK?
Being recognised for my work by those I respect and look up to proffessionally is a priceless priviledge and honor! However, I worked hard and studied over the years to gain the skills necesarry for that to be able to happen.
Winning the pageant could not really compare because it comes down to a judgement on me as an individual. With only a few months to prepare, winning the Miss West Africa UK pageant would be amazing for my confidence in myself and would allow me to express my self personally and put my skills to use outside of the proffesional roles I’m more widely known for.
Your company U-Media films is dissimilar to the overall concept of MWAUK, is this step imperative to you professionally or personally?
Miss West Africa UK is important to me personally. For me, this is the first time I’ve entered something because I’m a woman. I work in a male dominated industry, so I’ve never spent so much time with so many women so regularly before, especially so many varying cultures and languages.
Our rehersal times and meetings have actually become a part of my life over the past few months, so regardless of if I am able to win or not, I will have this as a gift to remember and tell my daughters about in future.
U Media Films which most recently focuses on the African music industry (Afrobeats) proclaims to be a platform,’ aiming to boost the efforts of young film producers and directors’ which obviously comes at a price, what have you or your company done for charity or that has been altruistic?
I work closely with Mi Firi Ghana and the WAM (What About Me) Campaign which is headed by amazing young Ghanaians, one of which, Arnold Oceng has been a great friend of mine since the African Schools Tour project began in 2008. The ambassador for The WAM Campaign is Fiifi Atta Mills, son of our late president, and they do amazing work both here and in Ghana helping the future generation to dream and have their dreams realised.
I offer U Media Films’ services to the WAM Campaign at no cost to help them raise awareness and funds for their project. The guys are amazing! You should check them out when you get a chance! They did an amazing Sky Dive last year which I filmed from the ground in shock! Haha!
Who do you look up to and what has inspired you to gain your achievements and be a role model to others?
I spent the ages 7-16 living with my Ghanaian Mother and Grandmother here in London which I must admit was intense!
My Grandmother is a Head Mistress so school never really ended and there was never a good reason to be idle, which was contrast to the lives of my friends. As a child I will admit I thought there was no fate worse than that. (chuckles) However, I seem to have adopted her methods and words not only into my day to day life as I’ve grown up, but I am also now a teacher. I think therefore, it goes without saying that she wins the crown on my work ethic and focus.
My mum however is the side of me that’s more comical, reserved and charitable. She’d always laugh when I came crying for getting in trouble for obvious mistakes and give me that reassuring hug. I bring that same love into my classroom with my students when they complain about getting in trouble with other teachers in College or at home.
On the contrary what disappointments have you embarked on in your life and how have you come back from?
Outside of work and especially in this pageant, I am your average 26 year old! I have gone through as much, if not more than the next person. However, the fact that I am able to wake up every morning and try again at mistakes means a lot to me. Therefore I try not to think about situations that don’t go the way I wanted as disappointments, but more as a learning experience!
If I don’t win the Miss West Africa UK 2012 Pageant, I’ll still have learned so much more by participating than I would have if I hadn’t taken part.
What can we expect from you in the next five years?
In the next 5 years I hope U Media Films can become more of a household name for Film and Television production around the Globe. I am currently focused on rebranding Africa to the world and reintroducing The World to Africa. I feel there is a lot that people can do for themselves with the help of the internet and so I will be focussed on welcoming people with new ideas and not enough expertise to join us on the journey.
The U in U Media Films represents ‘You’ the audience, the Creatives, the People! I hope to see all of U on the 1st of September!
You can vote for Tonisha and attend the Miss West Africa UK pageant tonight from 6pm – 11pm followed by the after party 11 – 2am at the mermaid theatre, Black Friars. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!