The Big Brother Naija show which was first launched in Nigeria in 2006, is due back on our screens in a few months according to the organisers. But with months to go the show is already generating excitement and controversy which goes to show that no matter what side of the divide you sit on, BBNaija has become an important part of our culture and entertainment zeitgeist.
How is this so? Well except you’ve been living in Mars or under a rock, you must know these names: Ebuka Obi Uchendu, Gideon Okeke, Cee-C, or Ifu Ennada. What do they have in common? – Big Brother.
Ebuka may be popular these days as a fashionista and regarded as the most stylish man in Nigeria but he has parlayed his Big Brother stint into a lucrative career as a television
host; Gideon Okeke is a household name even though he is not a Nollywood staple; Cee-C since her BBNaija turn has become one of Nigeria’s biggest celebrities while Ifu Ennada has launched a hair care line.
Where would these stars be without Big brother? Well, the jury is out but chances are they would be grinding their way to becoming successful showbiz personalities.
We can make a good argument that without Big Brother, these guys would have struggled to become household names or stars in their own right but after spending just 90 days (or less) in the house, they step out as bonafide celebrities snapping up lucrative endorsement deals and becoming paid influencers. So, with the help of Big Brother, the participants basically achieve a boost in their career prospects, something that would have taken years to achieve. And the best thing about Big Brother Naija is that a housemate doesn’t even need to win to be a star. Just taking part can propel you to heights unimagined.
For instance, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu was one of the 14 housemates in the first season. He finished in eighth place but today, he is one of the most visibly successful housemates. After the reality show in 2006, he signed endorsement deals and in an interesting twist has been the host of Big Brother Naija since 2017. He is also an anchor for Rubbin’ Minds on Channels TV and was co-anchor on The Spot on EbonyLife TV. In an interview with Guardian Life, Ebuka credited Big Brother Naija with exposing him to more opportunities on TV, saying “I got on TV because I was on Big Brother and people called me for auditions and I got TV shows and started hosting events as a result of that”.
Efe Ejeba ex-BBNaija housemate is a more recent example. A Jos-based struggling artiste before his stint in the house. He came into stardom when he emerged winner of the 2017 edition and soon after scored a collaboration with Olamide, one of the hottest musicians in the country. This feat may not have been so “easy” without the Big Brother Naija show.
The Big Brother show is in many ways a psychological case study of a particular demographic. It provides not just entertainment but a handle on what drives and motivates the young.
If Big Brother had a message, it is that anyone could be famous, provided they wanted it badly enough.
One of the most interesting things about our time is how new markets are opening up ergo new career paths are emerging. In recent years, a new form of marketing has emerged on the scene – influencer marketing. Brands are now using “influencers” as the face of their advertisements. Big Brother Naija gives its participants automatic influencer status, granting them the power to affect purchase decisions of their audience due to their position. In Nigeria, Instagram influencers charge as low as thousands of naira for a post and as high as millions of naira as brand ambassadors.
The appeal of Big Brother Naija is its transformative power. How it can take someone who has an obscure Instagram account and turn them to someone who earns daily by posting on Instagram because they have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers and brands want to work with them.
We can argue that picking an average of 12 people every year doesn’t do much or that some housemates go into oblivion after the show but there are also secondary beneficiaries of the show. People who have latched on to the platform to become popular. Take Deji Mercury who creates content related to the show as the spokesperson for the Yoruba Demons Association or social media influencers who are contracted to promote content for the show.