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Reality TV shows as platforms for talent development

By Tosin Ayinde
Nigeria has had its fair dose of reality TV shows over the years. The entertainment industry boasts amazing thespians who are products of reality TV shows with strong entertainment values. The Voice Nigeria, promoted by AfricaMagic,  is one of such platforms that brought to limelight great artistes whose heroic exploits might have been unsung if not for such stages. The show, which attracted huge followership and global appeal, gave the contestants a window of opportunity to showcase their musical talents. As soon as Agharese Emokpae, also known as A’rese, was adjudged winner by the voting audience, she was catapulted to fame and instantly assumed celebrity status.
Also, brands have been instrumental to  the successes recorded in the entertainment industry so far. These innovative concepts might have remained ideas if brands did not provide the necessary leverage. Youth talent development has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. The platforms have also served as a launch pad for talented youths to showcase their talent and chart new career paths.
For example, Big Brother Africa (BBA), West African Idol, and MTN Project Fame, among others, have produced great stars such as Uti Nwachukwu, Timi Dakolo and Iyanya respectively. Today, these entertainers are among the highly rated artistes currently holding sway in the industry. Gideon Okeke is another product of reality TV show whose profile has continued to rise.
BBN, a spinoff of Big Brother Africa, created an easy entry point for the housemates to make easy inroads into Nollywood. Beside its entertainment value, BBN also provided an opportunity for the ex-housemates to pursue their ambitions. After a 10 year hiatus, the popular reality TV show is making a comeback, and is now branded Big Brother Naija, sponsored by PayPorte, Nigeria’s online store. Days after its launch, throngs of youths took to the BBN portal to register for the re-invented BBN which promises to create fun and exciting moments.
John Ugbe, Managing Director, MultiChoice Nigeria, speaking on the return of the show, said this is another remarkable way of delighting customers through enhancement of the company’s product offerings. “The addition of BBN to our content is a demonstration of our commitment to consistently meet the needs of our customers through innovative, qualitative and varied content available on DStv platforms.” He added that the show has been repackaged to meet the current socio-economic realities, following the success of the past seasons of Big Brother Africa. “BBA was popular for its entertainment value and ability to showcase ordinary Africans from different walks of life in extra-ordinary ways. We decided to re-invent the reality show by bringing back the Nigerian version, which we are confident, will draw a pan African audience.”
The BBN auditions took place simultaneously in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.  Thousands of youths besieged the audition venues to have a chance of being selected to compete for the star prize worth N25 million and a KIA Sorento car. Twelve housemates will slug it out by showcasing their best selves, while also avoiding possible eviction by voters. The show will be broadcast live on dedicated event channels on all DStv packages and on GOtv Plus come 22 January, 2017. Millions of viewers across Nigeria, including Africa will, for eleven weeks, stay glued to their TV to find out who will clinch the ultimate prize.
Before their gracious entry into the house, a few of the contenders shared their experiences after making it through the first stage of the audition. It was a tale of excitement, fun, anxiety and passion. The auditions were marked by displays of unique fashion, weird hairstyles, exceptional beauty and allure from the youths who were all eager to make it into the house.
Okon Emmanuel, an undergraduate of the University of Lagos, Akoka, who was auditioned in Lagos, said: “This is one of the best auditions I have attended in recent times. The screening process is both transparent and fair as we were called in groups and interviewed in the presence of other contenders. I am excited that I am able to make it to the second stage. My confidence level has improved because I saw a lot of talented Nigerians who some of us were able to beat to the second round. The crowd kept building as everybody wants to make it to the house that can only take 12 people and I believe I am one of them.”
Jessica Mbajuka, a film graduate from Anambra State, who is based in South Africa but flew into Nigeria for the Lagos audition, “The return of the TV reality show is a unique opportunity for me to showcase my talent and make myself more relevant to my country.
“I was extremely excited when I got wind of the BBN audition through my younger sister. As a film graduate from a university in Johannesburg, it was an opportunity to tell the rest of the world that Nigerians are immensely talented. My kid sister played a very key role in my decision to enter into the competition. I am doing this for her and I know I am destined to enter that house. From what I have seen today and my interactions with a few of the contenders, I believe Nigeria is Africa’s hub for great talents”, she said.
Reality TV shows continue to be a conduit for creating stars for Nollywood, world’s second largest movie industry by volume, according to a report published in The Voices Magazine of The British Council, in addition to other entertainment genres. The shows did not only identify talent, but also position the youth for greater opportunities. The like of Uti Nwachukwu, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Timi Dakolo, O.C. Ukeje, Ivie Okujaye, after their victories in reality TV shows, have continued to shine brilliantly in the entertainment industry. The fame that accrued from their exposure has also brought substantial endorsement deals from various brands. For example, Ebuka and O.C. are making extra income as brand ambassadors of Gulder and MultiChoice, respectively.

Ayinde writes from Lagos

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