Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered in Africa on Sunday, November 6, 2022, at Filmhouse Cinemas IMAX, Lagos. I’d been excited about the event because some of the actors in the movie were attending. I liked the idea of people from the same industry in different countries coming together to celebrate a blockbuster.
But while a few Nollywood stakeholders and actors attended, I quickly realised a large number of Big Brother Naija (BBN) alumni did too. If you looked at photos shared online alone, you’d think they outnumbered actual industry stakeholders. In an event that should’ve hosted legendary Nollywood actors, movie critics, directors and producers, instead, we saw ex-housemates of the reality show fill up the red carpets. But why?
Most entertainment events in Nigeria have become BBN affairs. It seems BBN stars are at the top of every (Public Relations) PR list these days. When Fenty launched in May, the PR agency thought it would be wise to invite them instead of actual beauty influencers who would have given target audiences more in-depth content about the launch and products.
When former BBN housemates attend high profile events, they simply become fashion shows. The conversation focuses on who wore what and little else. We barely hear much about the actual movies, products or anything being promoted during or after the events. At movie premieres, all we see are the same set of people with their sparkly and sometimes outrageous outfits. There are industry professionals, veterans and relevant influencers who would do better jobs at covering important talking points, so why not invite more of them?
I understand why PR agencies invite BBN influencers. They get people talking and create buzz around their events. People are still talking about what Hermes, Elo, Prince and the rest wore to the Black Panther Premiere, even though days have passed. People like Tacha trend for months on end because her fans keep talking about her.
It’s the same reason why brands rush to have them as ambassadors; they drive massive traffic to the business’ pages. But sometimes these brands stray too far off track. Tell me why a waist trainer brand decided White Money — a man who isn’t associated with fitness in any way and Mercy Eke who has told everyone she got her snatched waist through surgery — would make good ambassadors. Or why Doyin, a person who has always been slim — is an ambassador for a weight loss tea brand? At this point, Nigerians brands are just just signing reality TV stars for signing case whether or not these people align with their products.
When events revolve around BBN stars, it’s difficult not to think that these events are being diluted. Even the publicity they bring focuses on their personal brands than on what said events are about. All these reality TV stars do is dress up, create content around their outfits, show up and post pictures with uninspiring captions.
Some showbiz industry events could be great opportunities for both established stakeholders and rising stars to network, but many aren’t given the opportunity because the guest lists prioritise BBN alumni. Take Black Panther’s director, Ryan Coogler, for example. He attended the African premiere, but it doesn’t seem like enough Nollywood professionals got the chance to meet him. Imagine if more Nollywood directors or filmmakers attended. A collaboration might’ve come out of some interactions, who knows?
If PR agencies keep treating BBN stars as red carpet honourables for every entertainment event, stakeholders’ interest may become even more lukewarm. This is not to say don’t invite BBN alumni to your showbiz events. After all, they’re celebrities in their own right, and great for PR. But they shouldn’t take up centre stage or fill up guest lists every damn time.