Imagine Femi Kuti judging a singing competition, or Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde living her everyday life for the entire continent to see? These are just a few instances which may have seemed next to impossible a few years back. Welcome to the era of reality television, a place where fiction meets reality.
Reality TV is a television programming genre that presents unscripted situations, documents actual events and usually features unknowns. The genre has recently exploded as a phenomenon with the success of such television series as Big Brother Africa, Project Fame, and Nigerian Idol.
There are two types of reality TV, competitive shows and shows following people’s lives. In competitive shows people get eliminated until there are a few people left and one is declared winner. For example Nigerian Idol, Why do we watch it? I think what draws most people is the hope that aspiring talents can achieve something extraordinary which is so inspiring. And of course, talented people and not so talented people auditioning for Femi Kuti, Yinka Davies, and Jeffrey Daniel also draw a huge audience.
Although the biggest shows in the country are adaptations of pre-existing western versions, some of the biggest names that we have grown to love in the entertainment industry are a product of reality TV.
Darey Art Alade: Son of the renowned entertainer Art Alade. Darey is arguably the most talented R&B singer in the country. Darey finally stepped out of his fathers shadow in 2004, and became a star in his own right on Project Fame. He emerged second runner up on the South African version of the show. Darey most notably headlined the country’s 50th independence anniversary with his “soul band” to a room filled with several African Presidents and past world leaders. Darey’s recent critically acclaimed concert was hosted by reality star Kim Kardashian.
Tiwa Savage: YES! Before stepping onto the scene in Nigeria, Tiwa got her first taste of the limelight on the XFACTOR; A British singing competition where she made it to the top 24. She won the hearts of Nigerians with her debut single “Love Me (x3)” in 2011 going on to achieve a huge success with her album. Tiwa has won many awards and accolades in recognition of her success, and she is the current Pepsi ambassador alongside Wizkid.
Iyanya: Years before spawning hits like ‘Kukere’ and ‘Your Waist’, or his infectious ‘etighi’ dance craze. Iyanya was fighting to be the last man standing on Project Fame West Africa which he won on the shows premiere season. He recently released his sophomore album ‘Iyanya VS Desire’ to rave reviews.
Tonto Dikeh: The controversial actress was first runner up on ‘The Next Movie Star’ in 2005. She is one of the most recognizable faces in Nollywood with a filmography of over 30 movies.
Singer Omawunmi, Chidinma Ekile, Uti Nwachukwu, Karen Igho, and the late singer Goldie Harvey are some stars that also gained tremendous popularity through reality TV.
Reality stars are picked from obscurity, and may end back there but they get a shot at fame through prolonged exposure on television even if they don’t win. The Idol grand prize is worth $100,000, and the lucky winner will get N7.5 million in cash, a recording contract also worth N7.5 million, and a brand new SUV. Runner-ups will receive prizes worth a combined total of N10 million.
The big success of reality TV is also seeing even the A-list celebrities ready to reveal it all to the cameras. Nowadays we have more access than ever to our favorite celebrities, thanks to social media. But no medium gives us a more in-depth look at their lives than reality television.
Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde ’s reality series: “The Real Me” broke records with its debut episode receiving the highest viewership on M-NET’s Africa Magic last year. Following in her footsteps is Yoruba actress Laide Bakare who is set to star in her own reality show ‘My Xperience.
As more stars are discovered, and dreams being fulfilled the emergence of reality television is proving to be great for the development of the entertainment industry as a whole.