Maristella Okpala, Nigeria’s representative at the Miss Universe 2021, has won the award for Best National Costume in the pageant.
The award was announced on Monday after Okpala strutted the runway in a costume inspired by ‘Mmanwa’, a traditional masquerade from the southeastern part of Nigeria.
Mmanwa is a female masquerade costume that is designed for ceremonial and festive purposes to celebrate the rich Nigerian cultural heritage, paying closer attention to the strength women possess.
According to Miss Nigeria, she picked the costume because she could see a reflection of her cause in the Mmanwa who is said to protect children and women against any form of abuse.
“This costume pays attention to the strong will of women in attaining whatever height they want to attain, no matter the challenges faced while reaching their desired goals.
“My costume is a representation of hard work, perseverance resilience and consistency and it embodies one of the major aspects of my @missuniverse preparation,” an ecstatic Maristella wrote in a post on Instagram.
She also revealed that the designer of the costume was Filipino, Kennedy Jhon Gasper.
“I feel so ecstatic and without words to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who made this dream come through. Most especially to my costume designer @kennedy_gasper thank you for giving me exactly what I have envisioned in my head for so long,” she said.
“Before embarking on this journey, I told God I wanted my footprints to be left in the sand of time, to make history not only to Nigerians but one that touches across the whole of Africa.
“I went in with an open heart, taking on every stride as they came, need I know that there was a special gift he has kept aside for me.
“I wanted the universe to connect and feel the rich African cultural heritage. I’m also very glad I passed a message through my costume and made a huge impact on the universe stage”.
Maristella is an advocate for early childhood education and against child abuse.
The 70th edition of the annual pageant held in Israel, with Miss India, Harnaaz Sandhu, emerging as winner.