The ladies behind the ladies.

Author:Goodwin, Clayton

Clayton Goodwin whose other life is in the promotion of beauty pageants, writes here about the ladies behind the African beauty pageants in the UK.

African beauty contests in the United Kingdom are something special. Three thousand Ghanaians cannot be wrong -- and that was just the number of spectators who were able to obtain entry to the venue for the Miss Ghana UK at Stratford in London. They were not just Ghanaians, because Africans of all nationalities, and their friends, were also there to support the occasion.

As with so many such pageants, one of the prime organisers behind the proceedings was a young lady as beautiful as the lovely ladies in the parade itself. Mavis Amankwah is the undisputed Queen of African beauty contests in London.

The surprising thing about Ms Amankwah is her youth. In spite of several years of concentrated promotional experience, she is still only 26 years old. In fact she looks much younger - Mavis would not look out of place in a schoolgirl's gymslip -- but she is a married lady with two children to her credit, the youngest born just a few weeks before the Miss Ghana UK pageant on 26 August this year.

Schoolgirl is an appropriate term, because it was while she was at a convent school that Mavis, who even then had been noticed for having an adventurous spirit, decided to do something to promote her community, her culture and her country.

Mavis was born and educated in London, but has been always close to her mother, Dora Karikari, and her mother's homeland in Asante Bekwai.

As a Ghanaian, she was often overwhelmed by the prevailing Caribbean culture of her neighbourhood. Most people assumed that she had to be Jamaican or from some other island in the Caribbean.

Gradually, however, she became aware of her cultural identity, of the shared heritage with Caribbeans through the experience of slavery, and of her own social context.

Once she had grasped that, Mavis decided to present public events which would induce Ghanaians to have pride in their country's achievements and would make others aware of those achievements.

It was, at the beginning of the last decade, when African heritage beauty contests were just beginning to rake hold. Naturally her first inclination was to enter as a contestant, but by the time she had got around to it the original promoter, Yvonne Boateng, had found the increased activity to be too much for her and wanted to hand over the reins.

That is where Mavis saw her opportunity to get a...

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