People can dispute it all they want, but there’s no denying that the dynamics of a relationship changes when one party becomes famous. Whether it’s for good or worse is a different pot of soup.

In this story, Fred* (34) talks about how one of his oldest friends joined the crop of post-COVID lockdown creator stars of 2021. He can sense them drifting apart, but his fear of getting labelled as “entitled” has hindered him from having an honest conversation about it.

As told to Adeyinka

I met my friend in 2010, shortly after I graduated from secondary school. My mum gifted me a Nokia phone for graduation, and 2go was the in-thing then. When I first joined, I mostly had random conversations with users I assumed were also trying to figure out the app.

One day, I came across the rooms feature — forums with different topics. There was one for movies, politics, football and so on. I was preparing to study mass communication in uni, so it made sense that the only rooms that appealed to me were the ones tilted to the media. The rooms were almost as confusing as the 2go app itself. After you enter a room, there’s a barrage of messages from different accounts.

It took a while to get around it, but when I did, I started dropping commentary in the music and movie rooms. Soon, I noticed an account that always engaged with my contributions. Whenever I talked about a new movie or song, he backed me, and I started to do the same for his comments. He had the Mona Lisa painting as his display picture, which held me back from sending a friend request at first.

However, after a couple of exchanges in the forums, I could tell he was a cool person and I wanted to get to know him better, so I sent a friend request and he accepted almost immediately. It was easy to converse since we had similar interests, but I was curious to know more about him beyond what his profile bio said.

I learnt he was fresh out of secondary school, about to write JAMB and had plans to study Mass Communication too. He also resided in Lagos, and was just two buses away from my house.

Over the next couple of months, our shared interests and aspirations helped us form a bond, and we moved from the realm of 2go buddies to actual friends. We would constantly talk about our dreams to become OAPs and move around with actors, actresses and singers or even become superstars ourselves.

He had a thing for music and was always attending auditions, and I was always there to cheer him up when he didn’t get picked. I’d make jokes about how he had a better chance at blowing up since he could sing, and we’d laugh about it, ending the conversation with how I’d probably be his manager or someone of importance on his team.

Fast forward to 2012, we gained admission into different universities. It felt like we were a step closer to our dreams as media guys without either of us feeling left behind. Meanwhile, we’d still not met in person. We had super strict parents who didn’t entertain visitors or allow us to go visiting. But this didn’t stop our friendship from blossoming. We texted and took advantage of the MTN Midnight call package.

But with uni came a lot more freedom.

Our schools were in different parts of Osun state. We talked about visiting each other’s schools on weekends and breaks, but 100 level was hectic for both of us. We were two Lagosians trying to settle in a new environment whilst facing the harsh reality that was university life. Even when we planned to travel back home together, our schedules never seemed to work out.

Let’s just say we didn’t see each other until 200 level when he visited me in school for a week.

Even though it was the first time we saw each other in person, it didn’t feel like that. I was more than happy to introduce him to my new friends. But more importantly, I really wanted to show him how I was fairing on our shared dream of being media superstars. So, I made sure he attended classes with me. I showed him around our studio and was excited to talk about assignments, projects and all that. He also shared some of his experiences with me, how he’d gotten a slot to present for the school radio.

It felt good, we were both on course.

I never made the trip to his school even though he visited me a couple more times. But, I did visit him at home in Lagos. His dad took a liking to me after our first meeting, and he didn’t have a problem with me visiting, especially since he’d occasionally walked in on us passionately talking about our future in the media.

We graduated from university in 2016. I went to NYSC before he did, but it didn’t matter because we still had our passing out service at the same time.

After NYSC, I was retained as a writer at my PPA while he got a gig as a presenter at an online radio station in Ogun state. We didn’t get jobs with Beat FM, Cool FM, Silverbird or Channels like we both dreamt, but in a way, it still felt like we were on course.

Except, a little part of me felt left behind. Something about my first job being a writing role didn’t fully align with our joint dream. He was a radio presenter, and it didn’t matter that it was an online station because he still got to interview celebrities. It was the first time he was a step ahead. But I didn’t let the thoughts linger, especially because we were actively applying for jobs in bigger media orgs. It felt reassuring that we were still on the hustle for the same thing.

In 2019, I got a better opportunity as a journalist with one of the big digital media orgs. My friend had returned to Lagos because the online radio thing in Ogun wasn’t working, and to be frank Lagos was the real eye candy. All the while, our friendship remained intact, and he was always so happy to read my stories. On my part, I wasn’t entirely happy because it felt like I was a step ahead and he was behind because he didn’t have a job. The goal had always been to move as a unit.

Then, COVID happened in 2020, and he went into the lockdown jobless. I knew it wasn’t the prettiest period for him. I remember how he once broke down in tears during a phone call, and I didn’t quite know what to say. We’d had some vulnerable moments, but that was a lot to handle. I just stayed on the end of the call, and offered the overused “It is well”.

Now, you know how they say when life throws you lemons, you should lemonade? This was exactly what my friend did. Few months into lockdown, he started filming skits. He’d send them to me before posting and ask for my opinion. In all our years of friendship, I’d never really seen him as a comic, so I didn’t find the videos funny — at least, not CrazeClown or Taaoma funny. But it didn’t stop me from encouraging him and showing support by reposting, resharing and commenting.

Soon, what started as a lockdown hobby picked up significantly. His follower count went through the roof on social media. While I didn’t find him entirely funny, people online did. They were in his comments, they were reposting his videos on Twitter and Instastory. My friend was everywhere, and I couldn’t have been happier. He was no longer a step behind, we were on course to achieving our dreams as media boys.

By 2021, he’d fully taken his place among the new crop of lockdown creators. He’d gotten interviews with print and digital news outlets, and some appearances on TV. And the icing on a cake was when he landed an OAP job at one of the big media houses in Lagos. At this point, it became clear that he was on the fast lane to becoming a celebrity. Through all of these exciting changes, our communication remained pretty much the same. We’d chat on WhatsApp and Instagram, throw in occasional calls and even visit each other.

By late 2022, my friend became a full blown celebrity in his own right. He’d started hanging out with popular skitmakers. Celebrities were in his comment section laughing their asses off his videos, and he even interviewed some of them on his daytime job as an OAP.

At first, I refused to entertain thoughts that his new status would affect the dynamic of our relationship. I was constantly showing support in his DMs, and working to keep all our channels of communication alive. Instagram DMs, Whatsapp and Twitter DMs — all places were filled with chat histories that went back years. I’d sometimes quote old messages and we’d briefly reminisce about those times.

But soon, we started to have less and less things to talk about. Our conversation reduced to messages I’d send congratulating him about a new milestone or responses to his WhatsApp status. We both try to put up a front and act like we’re still the same buddies who had dreams of carving out a space for ourselves in the media, but the friendship isn’t what it used to be.

I’ve thought about talking to him on so many occasions. But you know how it is when people become famous. They sometimes put up a guard to protect themselves from people who feel entitled to being a part of their lives.

I’m scared of getting branded as an entitled friend. I mean, shouldn’t it be enough that I’m still on his close friends list on Instagram? That I can call him right now and he’d pick up the phone? That I can lay claim to being this celebrity’s gee and he’d co-sign. That I can show up at his place and he’ll let me spend the night? These privileges should be enough.

We still exchange messages across social media apps, but deep down, I know the friendship is hanging by a thread. At least, on my end. I fear that if I stop putting in the effort, the friendship is headed to its death. And he might not even notice because there’s so much exciting stuff happening in his life right now.

Read this next: All the Ways Friendship Breakups Are Worse Than Romantic Ones

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