“I went into the competition to win … I wanted to win. But getting to Moscow … winning 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,” she said.
‘People are losing their lives’
Taking part in the Miss Africa Russia pageant was first driven by her desire to “break beauty stereotypes,” Udeh said.
“At that time, I wasn’t comfortable with my skin because I had a lot of acne all over my face. So, 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,” she told 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.
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,” she said.
However, Udeh said that wearing the colors made her “very emotional,” prompting the decision to also carry the flag. “I felt like people are losing their lives every day in Nigeria … so it bothered me,” she added. “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,” she said.
Swift condemnation and praise
Meanwhile, Udeh’s actions prompted swift condemnation and praise across social media. Some Nigerians described her performance as unpatriotic, while others called her brave.
Udeh denied that claim. “It wasn’t a way to cheat,” she told 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,” she said.