What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subect of the week.
Not everybody has the “it” factor to make it after Big Brother Naija (BBNaija). But talking to Elozonam Ogbolu, I can finally see why the actor, singer and TV host is still in the spotlight three years after leaving the show. While Elozonam may not be a fan of all the sacrifices that come with fame, he’s more than willing to make it work, even if it means letting go of a massive part of who he is.
In this episode of Man Like, Elozonam talks about navigating fame as a shy guy, why he doesn’t believe men should show emotions and the one thing he wishes he’d done in the BBNaija house.
When did you get your “I’m a man now” moment?
For me, the concept of becoming a man is tied to responsibility. Luckily for me, responsibility, especially regarding my finances, is a value my dad instilled in me and my two brothers from a young age. He made sure we developed a savings culture early, to avoid one brother being dependent on the other because it can cause some level of disrespect.
Since I finished secondary school, I’ve always had a job every holiday. My brothers and I also contributed to the house financially. Transitioning into becoming my own man wasn’t jarring, and I have my parents to thank for that.
Always having a job sounds like a lot. Didn’t you want to do fun stuff?
Working while my mates were out having fun was annoying. I just wanted to be a kid. It was also hard on me because I was a very shy kid. It may be hard to believe since I work in entertainment now, but I’m a wallflower.
Anyway, I’m glad I started working early because it’s an investment that’s paid off.
Naturally, I love to spend money. Working and saving money from a young age has helped me find a balance because it’s now second nature. I’m spoiling myself o, but I’m wise about saving twice as much. Now, I don’t really need to start saving for something I want. I can just get the money from one of my savings accounts or investments.
Okay, funds! Tell me more about the wallflower comment you mentioned earlier
LOL. I’m very shy in person. But I’m also in the line of work where it’s a big problem, so I consciously try to control it and come out of my shell. I became more self-conscious after I left the Big Brother Naija house.
It’s not just what people think when they see me; I can feel it when they stare at me. So most times, when I go to a party or public event, I find the nearest hiding spot, and I disappear. I have coping mechanisms now, but shyness is still a part of who I am.
I wouldn’t have guessed. Care to share these coping mechanisms?
Man, I don’t know if these are the best, but for one, finding a place to hide. LOL. Then, I often look for faces I know or people I can just hang out with, who will help me loosen up. Finally, getting some alcohol in my system always works. It’s Dutch courage, but free cocktails make me chill.
Amen to alcohol. But what makes someone shy choose to go for Big Brother Naija or any life in front of the camera?
I’ve always known I wanted to do something creative. And since I started the 9-5 life early, I could decide on time it wasn’t something for me. I knew going into the Big Brother Naija house would give me the exposure I needed, so I had to decide whether or not I would allow my shyness get in the way of my dream.
Being shy has never paid anybody, to the best of my knowledge. My goal, which is to be an entertainer, became the number one thing; everything else became irrelevant. This doesn’t mean going into the house was easy. No.
I wanted to die when I saw the cameras and the other housemates at the door. It was like one of those Spartacus arena movies scenes with everyone watching, and I wanted to turn back and run, but the doors were closed. LOL. Another housemate, Venita, had to give me a pep talk and remind me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The first week was tough for me.
But I’ve learnt to psyche myself up when I want to do something. I tell myself, “It’s go time,” and the more I do this, the easier it becomes to manage my shyness.
I’m curious to know how you navigated being on camera 24/7 with your personality
I knew I’d be on camera 24/7, but nothing fully prepared me for my experience in the house. Nobody knows the emotional pressure involved. My body underwent physical changes when I was in the house.
It was harder for me because I came into the house about a month into the show. IThe other housemates were already friends, so it was unnerving. I was with 20 people who questioned my motives and didn’t trust me. I didn’t get to relax until the first party. Over time, performing house tasks with them made it easier.
What would you say the Big Brother Naija experience taught you as a man?
It taught me a level of patience I wasn’t accustomed to. It’s easy to get provoked in such a small space with many people, but I couldn’t fight or go off at the slightest provocation. I’ve learnt to let go and not react to everything or everyone.
What would you change about your experience in the house?
I’ve thought about this question a lot, and yes. I’d have been more intentional and brutal about playing the game instead of letting my emotions run most of the time. It was a game, and I forgot everyone else was approaching it that way.
For example, Frodd was one person who really got under my skin and annoyed me while we were in the house, but I’ve realised he’s not annoying in real life; it was a game. He’s one of my Gs now.
Talking about real life, what was it like coming out and dealing with attention from fans?
Coming out of the house and facing real life was jarring. I couldn’t walk ten steps without people asking for pictures or wanting to talk about my experience on the show. Everyone was in my business. I didn’t think I’d be that popular because I was shy in the house, but I came out, and the reaction was crazy.
I’d interviewed housemates from the last season on a show I used to host called The Cliffhanger, but nothing prepared me for life after the show. All the information I’d gotten from former housemates didn’t cover the experience inside and outside the house.
But do you enjoy being famous?
Yeah, I do. Does it have downsides? Yes. But I went for the Big Brother Naija show because I wanted the world to take note of my craft. I wanted to get opportunities, make money and enjoy my life. That was the plan then, and it’s still the plan.
As human beings, we all have a certain level of vanity. Being famous fills my vain side.
So what’s the downside of fame?
The lack of boundaries. Sometimes, it gets annoying when I’m trying to have private time, and people come to me with the expectation that I must take pictures or make videos. The sense of entitlement from people is what really frustrates me.
There are also misconceptions and rumours from people who don’t know me. I remember someone said something untrue about me that trended on Twitter, and I lost a job before the person made a public apology. I don’t have a problem with bants, but don’t mess with my bag.
That sounds intense. Not so random question since this is “Man Like,” but what does masculinity mean to you?
Masculinity means being responsible for yourself and others, setting good examples, and also, on the downside, showing less emotions. Because of how the world is, we can’t be ruled by our emotions.
Ah! So when was the last time you cried?
I can’t remember, but I’m sure I did it alone in my personal space where no one could see me. Only the closest people I can trust with my life see the emotional side of me.
As a man, showing your emotions can be detrimental. People are trying to change that narrative these days, and I’m all for it, but I still believe men were designed in a specific way. Our primal instincts is very strong and It takes control, whether we like it or not.
So there’s no hope for a society where men can be vulnerable?
We can get to a point where it’s not new for men to cry, but it’ll always be less attractive.
Is it an attraction thing?
Yes, it is. As men, we can show our emotions to people we trust, but when it comes to romantic relationships, especially with women, I don’t think a man who cries will go very far. There are exceptions, but I just don’t think it works.
There was this thread I randomly saw on Twitter where a girl spoke about how a guy became really vulnerable with her and she immediately stopped being attracted to him. It blew up and other girls came under the thread to agree with her. That’s just an example I can think of now.
Scrim. But has anything ever threatened your idea of what it means to be a man?
Nothing has ever threatened my masculinity because I’m comfortable with my identity. I mean, I don’t really play sports. I don’t drink beer. As a matter of fact, I’m not a guy’s guy. I prefer to hang out with women. But none of these things has made me feel less like a man.
Very sus. Why aren’t you hanging out and drinking beer with mandem?
I just naturally prefer the company of women. I have like five male friends, and even though we work together, we don’t hang out often. If you see me out, I’m with women and maybe one or two guys to balance it out.
As for the beer thing, it doesn’t go with my abs.
Honestly, I agree with the beer thing. What are some exciting things you’re working on at the moment?
Man, it’s a lot. I’m hosting The Big Brother Eviction Vodcast for Showmax and a cooking competition show called Street Food Naija. I finally have an EP coming out in October or November, to remind people I’m still a singer. LOL.
Music? Let’s go!
But before I let you go, what are the ingredients for living a happy life?
I don’t have a definite answer to this, but I can try. Find people who care about you and are willing to go hard for you. Secondly, Identify your talent, and if you can make money from it, omo, you’re set. Finally, go to the gym and don’t take life too seriously.
This gym part is a personal attack on me
Pele. Maybe it’s the sign you’ve been waiting for to go to the gym. LOL.