Rescuing Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant: Another finalist shares experience

Entertainment of Friday, 29 December 2017

Source: Janet Maame Serwaa Arkorful Awotwe

2017-12-29

Janet Maame Serwaa Arkorful Awotwe, former Miss Ghana finalist

The past week has seen Miss Inna Patty and her Exclusive Event Ghana Limited (EEGL) sustain a place on the list of news headlines. At least three recent former Miss Ghana Queens – Antoinette Delali Kemavor (2015), Giuseppina Nana Akua Baafi (2013) and Stephanie Karikari (2010), have publicly accused Miss Patty, who is also the CEO of EEGL, of financial, physical and sexual exploitation.

In fact, some of the beauty queens have described the Miss Ghana beauty pageant, which Miss Patty and her EEGL run, as an “escort agency.”

Other former notable finalists, like Margaret Kuma-Mintah, Miss Ghana first runner-up 2013, who resigned from her post just two weeks after winning the enviable position, have corroborated the sordid allegations.

Public sentiments leave no one in doubt that Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, intended to lift the image of the black race with the Miss Ghana Beauty pageant, but today it is rather doing the direct opposite. It is in this light that I, a former finalist of the pageant, wish to share my experiences, suspicions and beliefs with the public. I am doing this believing that it would help the public know what has become of this public asset – Miss Ghana.

A. The Miss Ghana Philosophy

The Miss Ghana pageant has a philosophy. President Nkrumah in his profound love for Africa initiated the Miss Ghana event immediately after Ghana`s independence in 1957 to serve as a platform to extol the virtues of the African personality and physique, and also to prove to the world that the BLACK skin is BEAUTIFUL. It was also to offer the independent Ghanaian woman a platform to positively impact society. This move by Nkrumah was very much in tandem with his Pan-African ideological underpinnings.

Thus, Miss Ghana being the first official beauty pageant has also been part of the journey of the emancipation of the Black people; it was designed to showcase the beauty of the African woman in international beauty contests. In effect, the ground-breaking launch of Miss Ghana in 1957 offered a springboard to make a bold statement to the world that the Black skin is capable of standing at par with the Caucasian skin.

B. Organization and Management History

Naturally, Miss Ghana being the primus inter pares amongst other Ghanaian beauty pageants, came with so much prestige and honour from the day of its onset- the 6th of March 1957- the day of Ghana’s independence, when the beautiful Number 9 contestant from Trans Volta Togoland (Volta Region), Miss Monica Amekofia, was crowned as the winner. The event was then organized by the state agency, the Public Works Department (PWD). It was under the management of the PWD that Star Nyaniba Annan, Miss Ghana 1959 debuted at the 1959 Miss World competition as Ghana`s representative. Later, the pageant earned the responsibility to send representatives to Miss ECOWAS.

Over the years, the Miss Ghana brand which is owned by the State has been outsourced to various event organizing companies, including Malinro Ventures, Media Wizkids (I & II), Sparrow Productions and in recent times, EEGL, which belongs to Inna Patty (Miss Ghana 2004). Under the leadership of these private entities, many charity works and projects which focused on raising funds to empower deprived and vulnerable people such as the aged and street children have been undertaken. The winner also signs a one-year contract with the pageant organizer to become the spokesperson for their various charities.

Through the lead (tutelage) and direction of these private managements, young beauty queens have championed various altruistic initiatives to support various communities in education, healthcare, and sanitation among others.

C. Inna Patty`s Entry and Ensuing Cocktail of Scandals

Like any keenly contested event, managements of beauty contests are associated with one form of scandals or another. There had been cases which were found to be sheer fabrications, whilst others were proved as factual. The Miss Ghana pageant has had its own fair share of scandals and rumours of irregularity in the final selection of winners. These occasional scandals over the decades did very little to dent the prestige, grace and honour which the pageant had carved for itself since 1957. Not even the scathing grapevine rumours of sexual enticements and favouritism peddled against former organizers could wreak much havoc to the brand`s image as it has occurred under the current EEGL management. So the problem here is not the usual scandal kind of thing.

Miss Inna Patty and her EEGL won the franchise to run the Miss Ghana brand, which belongs to the Republic of Ghana, the bona fide owner, in 2012 from the Media Whizkid (II). From the very first organization of the pageant in 2012, there emerged a serious allegation of rigging against EEGL in the selection of the year’s winner. The victim of the alleged rigging was Miss Roselyn Okoro. Miss Okoro and her actress sister, Yvonne Okoro, took to the media to attack Miss Patty over her “unprofessional attitude and shoddy management style.” Since then, year after year, organization of the event had seen some of the beauty contestants go to town with series of heart-wrenching allegations ranging from rigging, through exploitation, unfair treatment to naked pimping of young girls.

In my opinion, the latest crusade by the three former beauty queens accusing Miss Patty of running the Miss Ghana brand as an escort agency and exploitative den SHOULD finally open the door to investigations into the reality of what appears to be Miss Patty’s clandestine operations under the aegis of doing public good. As alleged, Miss Party and her team have graduated to a point where they drag young contestants under the guise of seeking sponsorship for the pageant to big moneybag sponsors to spend the night. If this is true, would that not amount to a clandestine manipulative tool for taking agency over the bodies of young girls in order to profiteer from sexual transaction that could occur during such meetings? For me, the whole story, when verified to be true, will look like Miss Patty was cleverly turning the girls into an “industrial vagina.”

D. My Own Terrible Experience As A Miss Ghana Finalist

Being a Miss Ghana finalist myself under the management of Inna Patty in 2013, I am not surprised at all by the series of allegations being levelled against her. I can say unequivocally that when it comes to the organization of Miss Ghana pageant, Miss Patty sacrifices the welfare of the young innocent contestants on the altar of her myopic interest of grabbing more funds to swell her bank accounts. It is a shame that Miss Patty, a former Miss Ghana herself, would rather utilize her wide experience to prey on the innocent unsuspecting minds of young beautiful girls whose only mistake is to hope to be a Miss Ghana. Perhaps, my experience in Miss Ghana shall illustrate this point.

1. The Expectations

On the first day of Miss Ghana 2013, Miss Patty boasted endlessly about being an alumnus of the London School of Economics (LSE), a head-hunter at the London Stock Exchange, and how she passed the entry exams of law school. She followed this up with a stern warning to us – we dare not attempt to question her. She then threatened us with law suit should we breach what I now believe to be a terribly unconscionable contract. This was what greeted us in our first encounter. Being naïve young ladies who are only excited over our success in a competition to fulfil our childhood dreams, we had imagined that with her “Ivy League Education” and “great” professional achievements, she could be leading us to do the right things. We trusted her, even blindly and our trust, confidence and belief in her led us to do almost whatever she said without too much questions. We were in for the shock of our lives.

2. The Shocking Ordeals

Contrary to our expectation, Miss Patty cleverly consistently shirked her responsibility; in fact I now realize that as according to the contract she led us to sign, she had no responsibility at all. Unlike other beauty pageants where basic provisions such as housing, transportation, feeding, sponsorship for make-up, hair and clothing are provided to contestants, Miss Patty’s Miss Ghana was a far cry. For 4 out of the 6-week programme (and contrary to what we were made to believe at the scouting stage), we were burdened with almost all the heavy cost of transportation, feeding, dressing (which in any way was strictly dictated by EEGL), even make-up and other ancillary expenses. For example, I recall how we used to walk daily in a duckling-like formation under the scorching sun from EEGL office to the Assembly Hall of Osu Children’s Home for grooming sessions. Do not get it twisted, it was not for fitness. We simply could not afford a decent means of transport.

It was only after the first 4 (of the 6) weeks that we were finally moved into the Miss Ghana House (Mirage Hotel) at East Legon. This time round, we were fortunate to be given an undersized vehicle in which we cramped ourselves every day, carrying each other on laps. Another bus would later be added in the last week of the competition, but not before we vehemently complained of the series of ill-treatments. Breakfast too was provided at this time. However, we still personally bore the heavy cost of lunch and dinner at the hotel or we had to buy from town. This heavy financial burden continued way into the final event. In the finals, for instance, we were given some pieces of GTP cloth which we had to personally find ways of converting into a design prescribed by Miss Patty and her team. As if that was not enough, each of us was billed GBP£30 for the shoes we wore.

3. The Exposure to Sexual Harassment

The exposure to sexual harassment was staggering. Let me give you a picture. Miss Patty introduced “beauty-with-purpose” (BWP) concept into the pageant, an idea she carbon copied from the Miss World competition. It was to award the national queen with the most innovative social project. Like the Miss World version, each contestant was to come up with their own mini BWP project. Unlike the Miss World version, however, each of us in Miss Ghana was to singlehandedly raise at least GHC10, 000 within a few weeks (in the year 2013) to refurbish a maternity block in Korle-bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH). Obviously, this was a daunting task for many of us, as the only way to raise these monies was to visit big business people, politicians and other powerful people (most of whom were men anyways) to persuade them to help us win this Miss BWP.

I am unable to confirm the details of the ordeal that the other contestants went through trying to raise GHC 10,000 in a few weeks. Let me just say that the exposure to the risks of sexual harassment would be obvious to any woman who has ever tried it. However, the risk is even worst for us young ladies flying under the tag of “beauty”. In my case, one of the persons I approached, a basic boutique owner, asked me for sexual favour in return not even for the BWP money, but to provide me with 2 shoes and a dress. Thing is, if someone could ask for sex in return for 2 shoes and a dress, you could imagine what a person would ask in return for a whopping GHC 10,000 at that time. The strange thing was, the most respectable men you know in society were the ones who were more upfront with sex demands as quid pro quo for supporting you.

I must admit, Miss Patty never took me directly to see any man for sponsorship; and I am not exactly sure if she is to blame directly for the suggestive sexual comments and gestures that some of the men made at the night parties and social events we attended. Nonetheless, looking back, I wonder why Miss Patty readily shrugged aside our complaints and constant reports of the traumatizing experiences we went through. For example, when in a good mood, she would casually retort to your complaints in any of the following ways or similar ways; ‘try harder because you are going to get 10% of whatever you bring in’; or ‘winning BWP is gonna see you to top 5’; or ‘you’re a beautiful girl who has been given an opportunity to be Miss Ghana, you can raise the money if you reeeaally want to’; etc.

4. The Financial Darkness

Another area of worry is absolute lack of financial accountability. As I mentioned, we raised money for the refurbishment of one of the wards at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH). The sponsorship letter that Miss Patty and her organization issued to us specifically named a particular ward for whose refurbishment we raised the funds. As curious as I am, I went to that ward then, and interestingly, as at the time of the fundraising, that ward was, in my judgement, the most beautiful; and did not need further refurbishment. Therefore, one would wonder why the other dilapidated wards did not attract Miss Patty’s attention. I am currently a level 400 nursing student at University of Ghana. KBTH is one of the major hospitals where we receive our professional training, so I’m very familiar with the wards now. While writing this article, I took it upon myself to confirm again, when the particular ward was refurbished and if so by whom. For what it is worth, my casual checks revealed to my suspicion that the ward in question was refurbished before my time as contestant by Movie House Plaza and had not seen any further refurbishment since then. Now, I am left wondering what happened to the funds we raised, particularly since we are yet to receive our 10% commission on the amounts we raised, over 4 years down the line.

5. The Rigging Suspicions

What is probably most demoralizing in all this is that whilst we were all fighting tooth-and-nail, spending money, time and other non-existing resources in the spirit of competition to be the best, it appeared that Miss Patty and her team had in mind who they wanted to be the winner all along. Indeed, such allegations are hard to prove. Nonetheless, certain things happen after the event which makes these suspicions more plausible.

E.Post Event Exploitations

I also found out from my experience in the Miss Ghana that upon winning, Miss Patty and her EEGL enter into an entirely new contract with you. These contracts are often so unconscionable. For example, they require you to raise huge sums of money, say, GHC10,000, a month not for yourself or your projects, but for EEGL dictates. It prohibits you from suing the agency even in circumstances where the agency fails to fulfil its side of obligations. The new contract also threatens to strip the winner of the Miss Ghana title should she fail to attend a certain limited number of events. Meanwhile, neither EEGL nor Miss Patty owes the winner any obligation to get them prepared for these events. Apart from the unfair terms in this contract, the winner is also obliged to fuel her car with her own money while using it to run errands to raise money for EEGL.

As if that is not enough, the young unemployed beauty queen has to fend for herself in everything from feeding to sometimes paying of pre-paid electricity bills at the Miss Ghana residence while working for EEGL only. In all this, the winners’ residence which is provided by a sponsor and which is supposed to be the official residence of the three final queens, is now reported as being often utilized as the official EEGL Head office. It is obvious from all this that the new Miss Ghana`s welfare is of no interest to EEGL.

F. The Drowning Pageant

Inna Patty flaunts her monumental LSE managerial skills and successes, but what she had so far been able to exhibit to the world (with regard to her management of the Miss Ghana pageant) is her unsurpassed ability in getting all the longstanding headline sponsors of the programme to pull out. This is against the backdrop of Miss Ghana 2012`s remarkable effort in the Miss World 2012 edition. Under her supervision, Miss Ghana pageant is a pale shadow of itself, the public had lost interest in the event and even major TV stations do not televise the event at all.

In fact, the premium formerly put on the show is at its lowest ebb; sponsors and viewers prefer to sponsor and watch Ghana’s Most Beautiful (GMB) and Miss Malaika than Miss Ghana, and recently, Di Asa of Atinka TV (lol). Inna has not been able to stage the event in some years as a result of lack of sponsorship and controversies. As a result of her managerial bankruptcy, not even her own success in getting one Miss Ghana to place third in the Miss World, could attract more and better sponsorship for the pageant. As reported, she has now resorted to exploiting the ladies with the use of signing unfavourable contracts which compels the contestants to raise money to sustain her lavish lifestyle. Under Miss Patty’s management the pageant appears to be accumulating nasty controversies at an unprecedented rate. Rather than finding sensible ways of lifting the pageant out of the mud and cleaning it, she would rather resort to the use of useless threats against anyone who speaks to the shame she has brought to the pageant and stripping winners off the crown over very petty issues, as in the case of Miss Baafi (Miss Ghana 2013), who was stripped off her title only to be given to someone who was not even part of the 2013 contest. The lady did not only become Miss Ghana 2013, but reigned for more than 2-years, without her ever winning any contest as Miss Ghana.

G. Getting it Right Again

It is quite crystal clear that Miss Patty has run down the Miss Ghana brand with her seeming irredeemable managerial incompetence. EEGL in my opinion has outlived its usefulness to the pageant. Miss Patty in particular had demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that she lacks the acumen, finesse, skills and intellect needed to run a 60-year prestigious brand. The Miss Ghana brand belongs to the sovereign Republic of Ghana. It is our pride and must not be allowed to remain in the mud. Can we imagine The Ghana Black Stars team being run like this? I repeat; it is our pride, which we must not allow to be dragged into the mud by anyone in their quest to satisfy their insatiable greed. Thus, I humbly call on all who love the brand, especially the Government, all former queens and contestants who hold the brand dear to our hearts and most importantly to all the good people of Ghana to whom this franchise truly belong, to save the pageant from the huge shame Miss Patty has brought to it. The Brand must be rescued from her hands by repudiating the franchise holding contract between EEGL and the Government of Ghana if contractually possible.

The Government should also have an oversight responsibility in the running of the affairs of the pageant. In order to ensure transparency and accountability, I suggest that, in the future, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection or Tourism should be more involved in the running of the event alongside the franchise holders to secure the welfare of the contestants.

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