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Big Brother franchise: Harbinger of fame and fortune

Uti Nwachukwu, OC Ukeje, Inyanya, Chidinma Ekile, Timi Dakolo, Arese, Karen Igho, Tayo Faniran, Beverly Osu, Tonto Dike-Churchill, Omawunmi Megbele, Katung Aduwak, and Ebuka Obi-Uchendu all have one thing in common. They attained fame hood through reality TV shows. From The Voice Nigeria, Nigerian Idol, Project Fame to Big Brother Africa, reality shows have become quite popular and a well sought-after platform by many young people to launch their careers or showcase their talents to the world, hoping to thereafter make it on the big stage.

Reality television shows came into public consciousness in 1991 when relative strangers were brought together and their interactions recorded to a live viewing audience in a Dutch series called Number 28. After the show recorded a high rating because of its novelty and the freshness of an unscripted entertainment for people, it exploded worldwide. The global success of reality shows like Survivor, Idol and the very popular Big Brother franchise, has proven that people are willing to observe and possibly experiment with the behavioural pattern of complete strangers when put together in a controlled environment as epitomized by George Orwell’s book Nineteen eighty-four, a fictional dystopia novel published in 1949. The book describes a world of never ending surveillance by a superior called Big Brother, who makes use of the slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

Regardless of a few concerns, particularly on controversies surrounding the graphic content of the show, Big Brother has been a runaway success and has provided a launch pad for participants to further their individual careers and gain fame, or notoriety, as the case may be. The show has become an important part of pop culture, which is why it records massive turn out for auditions at the start of a new show and drives conversations on social media.

The Big Brother reality franchise has successfully executed over 380 seasons in over 54 countries and regions, making it one of the biggest and the most popular reality shows on the continent. From information gleaned from bigbrotherafrica.com, the show garners a minimum of over four million views across Africa every season. At the start of each season, social media goes into a frenzy as people give support and loyalty to their favourite candidate and vote tirelessly to ensure their choice emerges victorious. Although it is a game of winner takes all, there is always something for the other contestants to take away as it auspiciously provides them with a solid platform to explore greater opportunities later in life. Besides, the show’s popularity and interactivity among viewers in different countries who forge an enduring bond and friendship continue to soar.

In 2006, the first Big Brother Nigeria reality show made its debut amid some controversies but as the show progressed, it gained popularity and attracted massive viewership by the Nigerian audience. The BBN house played host to 13 contestants who were between the ages of 21 and 32 years. The show lived up to expectation as activities in the house were both exciting and challenging.

Francesca Owumi, then a student and budding musician, was well known for her scintillating makossa dance moves. She had a large fan base who was captivated by her dexterity in displaying the makossa dance steps. Frank Konwea, another contestant who was a dancer by profession before participating in the show, stole the heart of the voting viewers when he proposed to his girlfriend while in the house. The show indeed lived up to its promise and the ratings were through the roof.

Other participants who brought excitement to the house included Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, a lawyer-turned media personality and host of his own talk show, Rubbin’ Minds on Channels TV, where he has interviewed a number of famous personalities including Seun Kuti, Banky W, Gbenga Sesan, among others. Gideon Okeke, who left the streets of Ajegunle to become a house-hold name and an award-winning actor, popular for his roles in Tinsel, Gbomo Gbomo Express,  Gidi Blues, 93 Days, among other movies.

Katung Aduwak, winner of the show, went ahead to study film-making at the Digital Film Academy in New York and is now a video content provider.

Sandra Osaigbovo, now a fitness trainer and Zumba instructor and Maureen Osuji, who currently has a degree in fashion from the Fashion Retail Academy in London, were the other housemates in the debut edition.

Ten years after the first Big Brother Nigeria Show, the viewing public is anticipating yet another exciting time on television as MuliChoice Nigeria gears up for the second edition of the show. Huge turnouts at auditions for the 2017 BBNaija edition was an indicator of how the show has become a phenomenon, so much so that the auditions had to be extended to accommodate many young Nigerians who wanted to tap into the limitless opportunities the show avails participants. It certainly holds the appeal of catapulting ‘ordinary’ people from different walks of life into fame and fortune.

The question on the lips of critics however is, will the show be worth all the hype and live up to expectations? The public will have to wait and find out. Deducing from the buzz online and the continuous media reviews of past BBN housemates and their current situation, we might just be in for a bigger treat this time around.

With this year’s prize money being a whopping 25 million naira plus a Kia Sorento SUV valued at N16 million naira, Nigeria and indeed the world waits with bated breath for the next big star to emerge from the reality TV stage and to what extent this fame will take him/her.

Likewise in Africa, the Big Brother Africa (BBA), franchise has in the past nine years, produced 10 winners with two winners emerging in the 2011 edition. Of the 10 winners, three of them are Nigerians: Uti Nwachukwu, Karen Igho and Kevin Chuwang, whose lives have forever been altered for good. It should be noted that Kevin met and married fellow housemate, Elizabeth Gupta from Tanzania.

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