Sunday 8 April 2018

Here is Why You should Subscribe to My Channel…Even though it is a Mess Now

Picture of me

My Vlog. Sigh.

I started my video log in early 2016 as a way to put a face to my online persona and hopefully reach more people. But it wasn’t until I got a rude awakening at the end of 2015 that I began to think of my vlog.

Settle in. I’ve got gist.

I was a television presenter at a budding television station in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. I had been working as a radio presenter in the same corporation when I was invited for a screen test for the breakfast show of the station. At that point, it was the opportunity of a life time. You know how you don’t know you want something but as soon as it is given to you, you immediately know that is what you need? Yeah! That was me! I was gleefully nervous but eager to try.

After ten minutes of screening, they figured out that I could read the prompter and follow the direction of the camera; like a natural. I was told to resume work on Monday.

Since it was a show that handled topical national issues, I went in with a brand of presentation that was heavy on getting to the fact of the matter. I researched each topic and prepared questions designed for context and clarity. I also had a penchant for asking tough questions; not necessarily because I wanted to be controversial but because I wanted to really know what was happening. I believed that if I understood the issue, then my audience would too.

What was different about my style was that I didn't defer to powerful people; even though I was dirt poor and could easily be crushed. If I didn't like a person or a story been spun, you would know! And I didn't like a lot of politicians! So, many times, I came out as brusque. You have to understand that I was working in a community where women were expected to be mild mannered and have little or no opinions. With me, that was impossible. I maintained my professionalism – whatever that was at that time – but if you think of a slightly toned down Maupe Ogun, you had my TV personality.

Picture of Me, Aaron Isaac and representatives of the Adamawa State Electricity Distribution Company on Safiya Breakfast Show.
From Left to Right: Me, Aaron Isaac and representatives of the Adamawa State Electricity Distribution Company on Safiya Breakfast Show. 
In October 2015, I had a run in with a top politician which led to my removal from the show. Okay...maybe I had a couple of those but this one had smoke coming out of the man’s ears.

Let me put this into context.

There were four of us who anchored the show. Two of them were mild mannered and very courteous to guests. Almost too courteous, I thought. The last person was so eager to be controversial that he deliberately sought out taboo topics on air. If he was doing it for knowledge sake, it could have been understood. But he was doing it for laughs and he and I didn't work well together. Even though that was the case, Mr. Controversial and I were paired a lot on the show.

The day we had the run in that broke the camel's back was terse and one where I kept wondering why we were on the show together. We had a guest who was from a royal family in Adamawa State and an opposition political party stalwart. We were supposed to be talking about basic governance in the State and region. The show was going awry with some of the questions being asked by Mr. Controversial. I didn’t feel they had any baring on the topic of discussion. Unbeknownst to me, there was a lot of bad blood between our guest and many other powerful people in the community and those questions were deliberately asked to irk them.

As soon as we got off air, we were told that we had set off a couple of fires and molten magma was heading our way. I didn't know what it was that I had supposedly done, so I was cool. Plus, I cross-checked my questions and saw that none of them was trigger worthy beyond regular fact checking. My co-anchor was skittish but acting macho.

The consensus was that we shouldn't have asked certain questions. They went on and on. All the talk didn't come from our producers, so I couldn't be bothered. I went home...and missed the magma. Turns out all hell broke loose, drama was delivered, people were threatened, powerful men spread their wings and lots of begging followed to soothe frayed nerves.

Then the hammer came. We were to be booted off the show. I received a call a day later informing me of the decision. When I went to the office the day after my removal, I saw that our replacement was so politically correct, that it bordered on arse kissing. Was this what they wanted me to be doing? Should I stroke the egos of powerful men to stay afloat? I scoffed! At that point, I knew that even if I was called back to the show, I wouldn't do it. I needed to be true to myself but even more than that, I could not kiss anyone's arse. I am too proud and pig-headed for that.

Picture of me Interviewing Professor Oluremi Sonaiya and Abdullahi Bulla, 2015 Nigerian presidential aspirant and National Treasurer (respectively) of KOWA Party
Interviewing Professor Oluremi Sonaiya and Abdullahi Bulla, 2015 Nigerian presidential aspirant and National Treasurer (respectively) of KOWA Party
This was when I decided that I was going to leave the station. Many things had come together to make me jaded about my stay in Adamawa State and I just wanted an opportunity to start over. I thought of going back to Kaduna State but remembered why I left in the first place. (I will find time to share that story, but not today). Then I thought about Abuja and wondered if it was the town for me. My mother lived in Abuja, there was opportunity for creatives and I would be close to home (Kaduna) if I wanted to go back. As I mulled over what living in Abuja would entail, I saw an ad about a three month acting course in Lagos and I knew that was exactly what I should be doing.

I made up my mind…and at the end of December 2015, I left Yola, Adamawa State, in preparation for a great life in Lagos.

When I got to Lagos, I took a whole week to plan what I would do with my life. I would hit the pavement with my resumé and go searching for the big broadcast media corporations. I didn’t mind starting at the bottom again because I knew that my talent couldn’t be hid.

I was ready. I was eager. I was excited.

I felt so good about having been on television and what not, until I showed a film maker one of my best interviews and he couldn’t hide his yawn. He said (and I quote), ‘It is such a low budget production’. He proceeded to laugh at my presentation style.

I wanted to die! I had been so proud of what I was doing that I didn’t see the possibility that it could have been, for lack of a better word, trash. I had after all been working in a small television station in a backwater town. What I thought was raw talent and penchant for presentation could just as easily been below par in a buzzing town like Lagos. I went back to watch my videos. I couldn’t help but hear the verbal clutches, the off-the-mark questions, some poor facial expressions and every other negative thing I could find. Suddenly, that was all I could see! My presentation was at best, laughable.

To prove him wrong – or maybe to prove myself right – I started sending out mails to different TV stations in Lagos. I also started attending television interviews and auditions. In fact, one of them was my epic fail of an audition at EbonyLife TV. My reasoning was that, if TV stations wanted me, then I wasn’t that bad. And if they didn’t, then I had my answer. So I sent out application after application…and waited.

Nothing. No company wanted me. Wait! One did. In Abuja. The owner of the media corporation wanted a business presenter for a boring old show. I didn’t see myself doing it. So in telling this story, I am going to say, no one wanted me.

I was disappointed at what I perceived to be my over-inflated sense of importance. Self-doubt began to come in. Was I even good at all? Would I ever make it on the big screen? Had I been delusional to think that a presenter from a small town could make it in Lagos? I chided myself for daring to think my life was a fairy tale written by a writer working with eHarlequin or Mill & Boons.

Picture of Yetunde Oshinbiyi and I preparing for our set on Safiya Breakfast Show
Yetunde Oshinbiyi and I preparing for our set on Safiya Breakfast Show
As weeks went by with still no response, the thought of a video log came into my head. I think I had read somewhere how Toke Makinwa used her video log to get endorsement deals and the attention of prospective employers. I told myself that if I could get loads of content out there, people would notice me and I could become someone television stations wanted.

Then, the questions I pushed to the back of my mind suddenly reared their heads and refused to be drowned out.

Was it more important for me to be famous or to tell stories of dysfunction in Africa? Was I drifting from my purpose in my search for validation? If I could never be on TV, would my work and passion die?

I mulled over them. It was true that my desire to be on TV had become less altruistic than I had originally planned. In the space of time that I had been on TV, I had become more interested in being famous than in speaking my truth. I remembered that it was speaking my truth that got me into television and radio before that. If I started to change who I was, what would be left of me if (or when) I became famous?

So I went back to my roots. Why did I want to create content in the first place? Who were my target audience? Why was it important to connect to them? When the answers pulsed in me, my purpose was renewed. I was going to talk about the issues that mattered to me and if fame came, c’est la vie.

So I told my friend who is a filmmaker – Tunde Raphael – about my plans to start a video log. He responded by saying, ‘When do we shoot?’ and I couldn’t have been more happy. Tunde came to my house with all his shooting gear – you know how heavy those things get – and we shot the first five episodes.

That was how the Shades of Us vlog started.

Like the blog, it was originally called Shades of Brown. I shared a new video every week until I ran out of content. Again, Tunde came to my rescue. We shot the next five episodes and had content to go on.

But we couldn’t sustain it. First, combining film school and filming (and the subsequent post production that followed) had become stressful. Second, I needed to go back to Adamawa to get my things and then figure out what I was going to do with my life. 

My videos began to fail. And since that time, it has been hard finding my feet. From weekly uploads, my vlog became random, erratic and…just not there at all. As at today, I haven’t posted any video since November, 2017. I know; appalling!

But alas, there is hope! (Imagine the soundtrack from T’challa’s victory over Killmonger)

I am going to try (one more time) to ensure I have a new video up every week. I mean, it is four videos per month huh? How hard can that be?! And before you put on your sceptics’ hat, here is why the vlog wouldn’t fail this time.

My biggest problem with getting new videos up was editing. That took too much of my time, especially because my laptop is not suitable for the editing software I have. So what would have normally taken an hour or two, takes me nothing less than eight hours to do. For someone who has an eight to five that feels like a twenty four hour job and other platforms to run, that seemed like too much time that I didn’t have.

The second problem was that I didn’t have a camera. I needed to depend on people for every shoot I did and when I finally shot some videos myself, it came out horrible. If it wasn’t the video quality, it was the sound. And at first, I said that I couldn’t be bothered with the quality of the product I was putting out as long as I spoke my truth but honestly, I am too much of a critique to just keep putting out things that are subpar. Just like I would for others, I understand starting small but I will not tolerate staying small. That is just wrong!

After months of contemplating why this is important, I have finally decided to outsource the entire process! Whoot whoot! If you have some money, things become generally easier. Hey! I should do a video episode on that. Eventually, I would want to go back into the production process but until I get a camera, studio lights and a MacBook, let someone do it for me for now. And yes, that was me stylishly begging for these things! If the spirit leads you, holla at me.

Anyway, starting this month, I am going to be uploading a new video every Wednesday at 3pm.

So…here is why you should subscribe to my channel, even though it is a mess now.

I will be talking about dysfunctional issues affecting Africa, Africans and people of African descent. I will focus more on how these issues affect women and children (especially) and what solutions can be proffered to improve our lives. Also, you get to pick the issues that you want me to talk about. This is because I keep getting messages to talk about issues affecting women and children; and men too. Hey! I am not a hater! This could be issues relating to human rights abuse, feminism and social roles, equality, education, marriage, poverty, health, sex, employment, governance and leadership, and many more.

I pride myself on being open and my space a no-judgement zone. This means that there are no taboo topics with me. I will talk about any (and every subject) as long as it affects black people. So if you want me to talk about anything, just holla.

I can be contacted by;
Phone (SMS or Whatsapp): +2349059127552

Or you can send us a direct message via any of our social media platforms:
Facebook: Shades of Us
Twitter: @shadesofusmedia
LinkedIn: Shades of Us
Instagram: @shadesofusmedia

Tumblr: shadesofusworld

So…like Ayo, I am down on my knees, begging you to subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Let us get talking!

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