Chief Agbani Darego, MFR (born 22 December 1982) is a Nigerian model and beauty queen who was crowned Miss World in 2001. She was the first indigenous African to win Miss World.
Abonnema-native Darego was born in Lagos to a family as the sixth of eight children. At age two, her family relocated to Port Harcourt where she was raised in D-Line. Darego attended Bereton Montessori Nursery and Primary School, and at ten was sent to boarding school in a bid to shield her from her mother who battled breast cancer. Her mother, Inaewo, owned a rice trading business and a clothing boutique, but died two years after her daughter’s move to boarding school. Darego has spoken of how the loss prepared her for tough challenges in the future. As a teenager, Darego longed to be a model, and auditioned for the M-Net Face of Africa modelling competition despite her conservative father’s wishes, but was not chosen as a finalist. Darego attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma. Upon completing her secondary education she attended University of Port Harcourt where she studied Computer Science and Mathematics.
In 2001, Darego was crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. Contrary to popular belief, Darego did not replace Valerie Peterside after the latter was dethroned; Peterside had competed in rival pageant Miss Nigeria. A few months later she was a contestant at Miss Universe, and became the first Nigerian to place among the top 10 semi-finalists, finishing seventh overall. She was the only top ten contestant to wear a modest maillot as opposed to a revealing bikini during the swimsuit competition.
In November that year, she became the first indigenous African to claim the Miss World title (Past winners Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel, both of South Africa, are of European descent, and Antigone Costanda, who represented Egypt in 1954 is of Greek heritage). Darego’s victory was widely welcomed in her home country, and her one-year tenure included goodwill trips and scheduled appearances on behalf of the pageant, and an MFR.
Prior to winning MBGN, Darego featured in print commercials for boutique chain Collectables. After Miss Universe she was invited by Naomi Campbell to participate in Frock ‘n’ Roll, a charity fashion show in Barcelona, and soon negotiated a modelling deal with Trump Model Management in America. Shortly after her reign as Miss World she was represented by London and Paris branches of Next Model Management and landed a three-year contract with L’Oréal, becoming only the second Black model to accomplish this feat after Vanessa Williams, and was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, a big name in Americans portrait photograph sphere for Vogue. Other brands she has modelled for include Avon, Christian Dior, Sephora, Target, and Macy’s. Darego has also appeared in Elle, Marie Claire, Allure, Trace, Stitch, Cosmopolitan, and Essence magazines, working with numerous designers including Oscar de la Renta, Marc Bouwer, Tommy Hillfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Gianfranco Ferre.
In her homeland Darego has appeared in advertising campaigns for hair care brand Gentle Touch with model Oluchi, and served as the face of Arik Air. She has also graced the covers of Complete Fashion, Mania, ThisDay Style, Genevieve, True Love, and TW Magazine.
In the aftermath of her win in 2001, Darego was awarded an honorary chieftaincy by the Council of Chiefs of Lagos. At the time of her investiture, she was one of the youngest chiefs in the country.
Due to her busy work schedule, Darego left the University of Port Harcourt, but after moving to New York where she was signed to Next Model Management, Ford Models, and Trump Models, she enrolled with New York University to study Psychology, graduating in May 2012.
In April 2017, Darego married her longtime partner Ishaya Danjuma, son of billionaire General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, in a ceremony held in Marrakesh. Together they have a son who was born in September 2018, and welcomed another child in December 2020.