By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Adesuwa Osayaren is electric. She is confident. And, boy, is she fearless.
When she rolls through a spoken word performance, the Grand Canyon University senior premed biology major punctuates her words. She points to the crowd, then lifts her arms to heaven when she speaks of God, insisting, with a no-questioning absoluteness, that we are all powerful in who we are.
That bold presence helped Osayaren win the title of Miss Africa Arizona just nine months ago on the GCU campus.
Now she can tout another title: Miss Nations of the World, a competition she recently won in Pleasant Grove, Utah, as a representative of Nigeria.
Osayaren, who was born in Las Vegas to Nigerian parents, competed against 11 other women. They represented Bolivia, Rwanda, Iran, Tajikistan and Vietnam, to name a few, in traditional pageant categories, such as talent and evening gown, though the Miss Nations of the World isn’t the traditional pageant.
Unlike other pageants, the cultural competition incorporates a Parade of Nations, in which contestants wear costumes reflecting their country’s flag. More importantly, the pageant’s focus is not primarily on physical beauty. It is educationally based, celebrates the diverse cultures of the world and embraces being tolerant of that diversity, said Gloria Mensah, Executive Director of the GK Folks Foundation, which organizes both the Miss Nations of the World and Miss Africa Arizona competitions.
Ironically, pageants “weren’t really what I did,” said Osayaren. Miss Africa Arizona and Miss Nations of the World were her first scholarship competitions.
Pageants really fall in her sister’s territory, she said. Itohan Osayaren, who helped Adesuwa prepare for her first pageants, holds the title of Miss Black Nevada 2018.
Osayaren learned about the pageant when she happened to pass by a GCU African Student Association table last academic year. She saw the information for entering Miss Africa Arizona and thought, “Why not? Normally, I’d be, ‘No!’”
She appreciated how the competition focuses on diversity.
It has been a busy summer for Osayaren, who juggled preparing for Miss Nations of the World with her summer classes at GCU – a university she chose after falling in love with the campus at a Discover GCU event.
Her family, she said, places a high value on education. Her father was just 18 when he left Nigeria and came to America to study – he is a pharmacist. Her mother, who followed him to America after they married, works as a medical biller. They emphasized to their children, “Education is the key to your future,” Osayaren said.
She is following in her parents’ footsteps in the medical field, hoping to become a heart surgeon. And she isn’t the only one in her family to do so. Sister Itohan is about to graduate from nursing school.
Osayaren’s parents worked hard, coming to America to give their children more opportunities. But they also worked hard to root their six children in their Nigerian culture.
For Miss Nations of the World, Osayaren showcased Nigeria in the Parade of Nations and also commanded the audience’s attention with a spoken word performance called “The ABC’s of Nigeria.”
Even though the Miss Nations of the World competition is behind her, Osayaren’s duties are just beginning.
She will make appearances throughout the year, posting weekly on Instagram and Facebook, and will host and participate in several community events. Coming up on her calendar so far: appearances at Miss Asia Utah and at Phoenix’s Deer Valley Middle School to speak with the Girls Embracing Monument Success, or GEMS, program.
She will be working to promote her platform, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: People of Value.” It is an extension of her Miss Africa Arizona platform, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Women of Value.”
It’s important to her, she said, for everyone to know their worth.
“My platform serves to build self-love and self-confidence, especially in youth,” she said. “I want to tell people to embrace their background and not be afraid of who they are.”
When Osayaren stepped onto the GCU campus three years ago for that Discover GCU event, she felt the excitement and the little bit of fear all college students feel when they leave home for the first time. She was confident before, but she has since grown more confident in herself since arriving here.
“I would tell them (students about to enter college) to walk at the pace of grace,” she said. “During that transition, going from high school to college, you’re independent, but it’s also about finding yourself and who you are.”
Embracing her family and their Nigerian roots, there’s no doubt Osayaren knows who she is, and she has no doubt who has been guiding her in her walk: “I really think this is all just God.”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at email@example.com or by calling 602-639-7901.