And for her, it’s not about being popular, neither is it about outward beauty. She is on a mission to show that confidence is key.
The Nigerian-American student has always been very active in her community and schools. And it was perseverance that led her to many leadership roles.
“I was often teased growing up because of my background, my skin color and my weight,” she said. “I was made to feel inferior and often felt ugly and ashamed of myself.”
Amid the tough school atmosphere, her father passed away when she was only nine years old, leaving her to feel even more alone.
As the years passed, Ukwubiwe, who was born Ashley Chioma Ukwubiwe, recognized her musical talent and when accepted into Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside, she witnessed a big change in herself and in the way people treated her.
Her personality and active participation as a ninth-grader garnered her the title of secretary of Cardozo, where she served as one of the student leaders for over 4,000 students.
The following year, she entered a modeling program. “I believe that really changed my perspective on what my life could turn out to be,” she said.
She began to work with Shortstack Modeling Agency, an organization promoting the use of petite models in the fashion industry, and fell head over in heels in love with the industry. That year, she also became her school’s vice president.
“I was no longer the ‘ugly, fat African girl,’” she said.
As a child, she often urged her parents to put her in gymnastics, vocal, acting, dance and cheerleading classes. She never once thought of beauty pageants. “I had dreamed of entering many professional fields, but I never thought that pageants would be a stepping stone,” she said.
Now, she is hoping that if she wins the Miss New York Teen USA competition, she can go on to be Miss Teen USA. Through both roles, she hopes to inspire many girls to be aware of their “absolute” beauty, worth and strength.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” said Ukwubiwe. “As long as one takes a stand against their defamations, they will be able to conquer the world and achieve all their dreams.”
(Lisa A. Fraser)
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