Agbani Asenite Darego, born on 22 December 1982) is a Nigerian model and beauty queen, best known as the first native African to win Miss World.
Darego’s family roots are in Abonnema, Rivers State. She was born in Lagos to a family of eight children. At age two, she relocated to Port Harcourt and was raised in D-line. Darego attended Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary School. At ten, she was sent to a boarding school in a bid to shield her from her mother who had become very ill with breast cancer. Darego’s mother died two years later, and her daughter has spoken of how the loss prepared her for the future. As a teenager, Darego longed to be a model, and despite her conservative father’s wishes, she auditioned for the M-Net Face of Africa modelling competition, but was not chosen as a finalist. After finishing her secondary education, she attended University of Port Harcourt where she studied Computer Science and Mathematics.
In 2001, Darego was crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Contrary to popular belief, Darego did not replace Valerie Peterside after the latter was dethroned, as she had won Miss Nigeria. A few months later she was a contestant at Miss Universe, and became the first Nigerian to place among the top 10 semi-finalists, finishing seventh overall. She was the only one to wear a maillot as opposed to a bikini during the swimsuit competition.
In November that year, she became the first native African to claim the Miss World title (Although past winners such as Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel are South African, they are of European descent, and Antigone Costanda, who represented Egypt in 1954 is of Greek heritage). Darego’s victory was widely welcomed in her home country, and her one-year tenure included goodwill trips and scheduled appearances on behalf of the pageant, and a national honour of MFR.