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The Only Star In The Universe

One thing that has struck me about the Nigerian entertainment industry, is what I call the “I am the only star in the entire bloody universe” syndrome.

In this context, ‘entertainment’ encapsulates music, fashion, film and everything even remotely ‘creative’.

Nigerian artistes do not know how to collaborate. Except there’s a photo-op involved.
It is a sad and disgusting fact.

People who sound alike, think they are better than each other.
You have folk who are frankly delusional about the level of their ‘talent’, not wanting to even be in the same room as someone else.

I am a massive fan of collaboration. My entire career was built and continues to thrive on collaboration. I am not stupid, crazy or egotistical enough to believe otherwise. I feel very lucky, because I have what constitutes a freaking incredible team.

I remember that before my first novel was even published, my publisher (Word2Print) suggested pre-viewing it. This basically means getting people who we think are the target market, to tell us what they think about the book before it was published. I agreed, because the concept made sense. The pre-viewing taught me so much; you see, if more than one person pointed out a flaw, I went back to the original material and took another look. Then I clarified or removed it. One of the examples I usually give – there is a glossary at the back of “Forever There For You”. It was not part of my original intention. But there are some non-English words in the book, that every pre-viewer complained about. Some of the words and phrases are Igbo; some are not. The suggestion was “Remove these, or find a way to explain them” – because they confused and irritated the pre-viewers. It’s difficult to stay on track with something, when you feel like you’ve missed a thread; which was what kept happening. The non-English words and phrases made sense to me, so I didn’t think they would be an issue. I was wrong. I vehemently refused to remove them, because I felt that doing so would tamper with the authenticity of the book; so, the glossary (although I was told that it was a bit unconventional) was born.

If I hadn’t collaborated with my publisher and the pre-viewers, I dread to imagine how many readers would have panned the book, that took 18 months and seven re-writes.
At the end of the day, my name is on the cover, which I did not actually design. My publisher hired a professional editor. The entire thing was a collaborative process. One whose outcome I am thrilled with.

I use other people’s platforms, as quickly as I lend mine.
I have never hidden the fact that I did not design my blogazine – Ibukun Onitiju did. I might have chosen the template and we might have gone back and forth, discussing what I wanted vs what was actually necessary; but Ibukun spent his time and effort, bringing my dreams to life.
I guest-blog for African Business Communities – I thought my eyes were deceiving me, when I saw my blog posts on that platform, had garnered over 1.3million hits in one month.
Pauline Long‘s BEFFTA Awards opened doors for me, that I didn’t even know, existed.
Muzvare Betty Makoni being a guest on my radio show in the United Kingdom, boosted my profile … and my morale. Her profiling me on her website, lent me credibility that I would not get, anywhere else.
Usha Oliver‘s recommendations – even on social media – have this effect on my career, that I cannot buy, even if I tried.
Tola Onigbanjo is another woman I totally respect; I swear I do a little jig, whenever she re-tweets my stuff.

Your ability to collaborate will help you become a more sensible human being, as well as a more credible artiste.
That is why it pains me to see Nigerian artistes act like … idiots.
I remember asking this individual to collaborate with another person, because I felt, “They have something you need – including longevity and credibility – which will take you forever to try to acquire.” They said, “Ah, I cannot be doing collaboration at this stage of my career. I want my own thing.” I thought, “What career? You have none.” I wasn’t being mean; it’s now five years later, and nobody knows their name. They keep hurtling from one PR disaster to the next, hoping for perpetually-elusive media coverage and attention.
It is completely unnecessary.

I don’t understand where folk who haven’t even mastered Acting, think they should add Directing and Producing to their dubious ‘portfolio’ – in the same production! Tyler Perrry, you ain’t. It makes no sense for you – who are the producer and director – to be in 18 out of the existing 25 scenes in the production. You cannot even act, but you want to go around saying, “I did my own movie for N20m; I acted, produced and directed it!” Are you kidding me? That is not proof of being multi-talented; that is just a sign that your ego lives where your brain should be. Ultimately, it’s the reason behind the irredeemable crappiness of some Nigerian productions. Because if you had a second or third pair of eyes, looking at the same thing, some avoidable mistakes wouldn’t see the light of day. It’s not rocket science!

It’s the same reason that some ‘stars’ claim they are into philanthropic gestures, then set up a ‘foundation’ or charity. Once a year – usually on their birthday – they will get some pictures of themselves handing out packets of biscuits and cartoned juice to the most impoverished-looking children, in the slummiest area they can find. Because they are “the only stars in the universe”. I am not saying that philanthropy should be private, secret, denied, whatever.

Just so you know – a real star is one who is not intimidated by the rising or shining of another.

Copyright ©Chioma Nnani

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