She is the reigning Ada Imo-USA (Miss Imo USA) and currently contesting for Miss Nigeria-USA. At 19, still studying Health Science at Queenborough Collage in the United States of America, she already runs a pet project – Dera Unity and Cultural Foundation (DUC Foundation), with offices in America and Nigeria. She is Cassandra Chidera Adaeze Iwule, an indigene of Oboh in Isiala Mbano LGA in Imo State. Born in Lagos to Chief and Chief Mrs. Ben Iwule, she emerged victorious at the beauty pageant which held at Radisson Hotel JFK, Queens, New York in August, 2014.
In this interview, she tells Sunday Sun, among other issues, that she had returned to Nigeria to present her crown to the first Lady of Imo State, also to touch the lives of widows and less privileged. According to her, she encountered all sorts of calculated attempts to rob her of victory, adding that, “God still showed that he who He has blessed, no one can curse.”
How does it feel to emerge the Ada Imo-USA and why are you in Nigeria?
It feels great and the crown means every- thing to me. It testifies that my people love me. But it also means greater responsibilities because as a commissioned ambassador of my people, all eyes will henceforth be on me. So, I’m back home, however, to present the crown to the First Lady of Imo State and also touch the lives of widows and the less privileged because it is not just about wearing the crown, but more about what you have to offer. Every crown comes with its responsibilities and challenges. That is why it is said that there is no crown without a cross. As a queen, you have to be more careful about what you do, what you say or wear and your general comportment – everything about you.
Will the crown change your dress code or any other thing about you?
You know that with the crown, some people will start looking up to you as their role model and molder. So, heavens will be displeased if you lead such people astray in any way. For instance, a queen is not sup- posed to be arrogant, no matter the level of provocation. She should always wear a smile even in the midst of agony. She is expected to be polite, honest and responsible and always available to attend to people’s needs to the best of her ability. I have never been associated with wearing crazy dresses. Now having the crown makes me even more conscious of what I wear and about my general lifestyle.
As an Imo queen, how much are you at home with your culture – your language, local delicacies and the likes?
I love my culture a lot. In fact, in the US, I’m known as a cultural person. I regularly wear our local fabrics over there and even prepare our local delicacies for my family and friends. I grew up at home and I deeply appreciate my mother who taught me how to prepare our local delicacies.
What hurdles did you cross be- fore clinching the crown?
I went through several hurdles. First, many of the contestants, their parents and
sponsors saw the contest as a do-or-die affair, but I was reluctant to participate in the competition. But my mother encouraged me to give it a try. I did and the result is this crown you are seeing now. I encountered a lot of hurdles – in-house and external. But the one that threw me off balance was when my designer failed to deliver the dress I planned to use for the competition. I had decided to back out but my mother prevailed on me to push on. So, I had to use an old dress – over- sized ones for that matter, just to fulfill all righteousness. We took them to a dressmaker to shape them to my size. Incidentally, they were dresses that I had received as presents and never valued. But amazingly, it pleased God to honour me with victory. And I think that God had good reasons to compensate me with the crown because I even lost my job along the line. So, my mother sat me down and counseled me, telling me that in life, one must pay a price one way or the other in pursuit of every good cause.
What will you not do to become famous?
Never get too desperate for fame. Just put in your best and believe in God. You do not have to trade with your body or sleep with any man in order to achieve anything. Some people get too desperate for fame and would do anything to get to the top. But the fact about life is that if God wants you to be something, He will always help you to get there whether your family has a name in the society or not. That is what is called divine connection. No matter the number of people that try to pull you down or stand on your path of progress, once you have divine connection, all their ef- forts will be in vain. Your enemies will even work for you unknowingly.
Do you have acting or singing in your immediate plans?
Yes. I love entertainment generally and without blowing my trumpet, I’m pleased to state that I’m a good dancer. I love dancing, acting, singing and modelling – everything related to entertainment. And I am hoping to join Nollywood as soon as possible. It has been my childhood dream. My mother used to tell me that as a little child, I used to beat other children at birthday parties and walk home with the prize.
Is it true that you are also currently running for Miss Nigeria USA Beauty Pageant?
Oh yes. And I hope you will vote for me because voting is already on. Just check me out on Facebook and vote Cassandra Adaeze
‘Never get too desperate for fame’
Do you think you look good for the Miss Nigeria crown?
Victory belongs to God. I can only do my best and leave the rest to Him, while urging my people to vote for me on the pageant web- site. I’m not just contesting for the fun of it but for me to have a platform to reach out to the needy.
Considering that 12 months is such a short time for your present reign, how much do you hope to affect the lives of your people during your tenure?
Little by little, God will give us the grace to make appreciable impact. Like everything in life, it is not how far but how well.
Are you planning to float an NGO?
I already have one. That is why I’m in Nigeria to offer gifts to widows and orphans and present my crown to my role model, the First Lady of Imo State, Mrs. Nneoma Okorocha. I really admire her and appreciate her high level of concern for the needy and the less- privileged. I visited her foundation with a delegation few days ago to present the crown to her and also deliver my little donation to her NGO.
What is the name of your foundation?
It’s called Dera Unity and Cultural Foundation (DUC Foundation), with offices in America and Nigeria. Over here, we reach out to the poor, the less privileged and widows. For me, the crown is an opportunity to fulfill my dream of reaching out to the poor and the less privileged. I floated the NGO to actualize that dream. I have never been deprived; my parents have always provided for my needs. However, I don’t need to be hungry to under- stand what it means to be hungry; I don’t need to be homeless to know what it means to be
without shelter; I don’t need to be in rags to know how it feels. That is why I have decided to maximize this platform to make my little contribution and put smiles on the faces of many suffering people. In America though, we try to motivate and empower children and the youth. We teach them the Nigerian culture, especially Igbo language, local delicacies, our norms and values, among others. For many Igbo children born in the US, it is the only way for them to learn how to pre- pare our local meals, speak our language and dress like Nigerians. Initially, I was not good at cooking our local dishes.
But with continuous practice, I can now proudly compete with the best cook around here. That is what I am replicating. Back there in America, I always prepare ugba (oil-bean salad), egusi soup, oha soup and what have you.
Does your NGO have any sponsor yet?
No, we are still praying for one and pleading with philanthropic Nigerians and corporate organisations to support us. For now, I run the NGO from my personal savings and support from my parents. This Christmas holiday period, we distributed a total of 60 bags of rice, 100 packets of pampers, over
Iwule with family members.
100 pairs of shoes, baby wear and other items to widows and the needy. And there is still a lot to cover. So, with more contributions and sponsorship, we will achieve more and even provide shelter to the homeless. And I have to state here that the foundation is permanent and not meant to cover only my tenure as Ada Imo.
Which is your favourite native food?
I like oha soup with akpu (fufu).
How did you receive news of the abduction of the Chibok girls?
It was terrible. I can’t imagine my sisters or myself being among those girls. It is very frightening even as we discuss about it now. I pray for them and their parents every day. And I have strong belief that one day God will answer our prayers and help them to re-unite with their parents.
Fame usually attracts challenges just as it has its positive sides; how are you prepared to cope with the challenges?
I’ve experienced a lot of challenges in life, even as a secondary school girl. But my guiding principle is always the biblical passage that says: “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world.” Regardless of all the challenges, obstacles and the hurdles of life, what makes a woman strong are those elements she uses to build herself up and her ability to utilize them fearlessly at all times. No matter how good you are, people must find fault and pick holes in your life. Even some of your friends and mates will envy you. That’s just the truth about life and I’m used to it.
Are you also used to romantic overtures from men?
Normal, guys always want to talk to any girl they find beautiful. That is part of the distrac- tions and hurdles you have to experience as a girl. But as for me, I’m not interested in any relationship now. My focus right now is in my education and pet project. As for men, when the time comes, God will surely take charge. So, when the right man comes, I will know. I don’t have to stress it here. I’m currently too busy with my education, job and foundation.
How supportive was your dad during the competition?
He was very supportive. My parents were my backbone during the contest. And I’m grateful to them for believing in me.
If you had to model for a multinational firm, even if you were paid a staggering amount what would you not do?
Like I mentioned earlier, I would not trade with my body for any reason. I would never step down my integrity for such a thing.
What about being half nude or baring it all?
Baring all is out of it. But revealing some parts of the body is part of modelling. It’s al- ways nice to be professional in whatever you do. Just like swimmers putting on their swim- suit to swim, being professional at your job doesn’t mean you are a prostitute, it’s just part of the job.
Interview by Chucks Eze - Courtesy of Sunnewsonline