Agbani Darego, MFR (born Agbani Asenite Darego, 22 December 1982) is a Nigerian model and beauty queen ,who was crowned Miss World 2001. she is best known as the first native African to win Miss World.
Darego’s family roots are in Abonnema, Rivers State. She was born in Lagos to a family of eight children and she was sixth out of them. At age two, her family relocated to Port Harcourt, and was raised in D-line. Darego attended Breton Montessori Nursery and Primary School. At ten, she was sent to a boarding school in a bid to shield her from her mother who had become very ill with breast cancer. Her mother was known as Inaewo and had a rice trading business and a clothing boutique. Darego’s mother died two years later after her departure to boarding school. Darego has spoken of how the loss prepared her for the future. As a teenager, Darego longed to be a model, and despite her conservative father’s wishes, she auditioned for the M-Net Face of Africa modeling competition but was not chosen as a finalist. After finishing her secondary education, she attended the 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 as she had competed in a 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 contestant to wear a modest maillot as opposed to a revealing bikini during the swimsuit competition.
In November that year, she became the first native African to claim the Miss World title (Although past winners such as Penelope Coelen and Anneline Kriel are South African, they are of European descent, and Antigone Costanza, 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 national honor of MFR.
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 and Ford Models, she enrolled with New York University where she studied 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 with her husband in December 2020.