On Sunday 16th September 2012, one of the most anticipated shows on prime time television –Nigeria’s Got Talent premiered with a splendid bang on TV screens across the nation. Since the show began, Nigerians have been entertained with a different kind of Reality Show. The show has stepped away from the norm of the singing, acting or dancing type of shows, giving contestants the opportunity to showcase any type of talent they are comfortable with. For several weeks, the judges - Ace radio personality, Dan Foster, Nollywood A-list actress, Kate Henshaw, along with Port Harcourt-based ace-comedian, Yibo Koko - have had the task of sieving through the hundreds of people who came out for auditions to selecting a few who have gone on through several stages of the show. Now in the semi-final stage, the competition has gotten stiffer with the show gaining more popularity. Bellanaija’s Adeola Adeyemo caught up with the three judges just before the recording of one of the episodes of the show last week to chat about their experiences on the show. It was very interesting and revealing.
Why do you think you were selected as a judge and how has your experience been on the show so far?
Dan: I love it. Especially being an American from the outside looking in, now I’m inside and I can actually proclaim here is Nigeria with all the talent! It feels good to be able to actually judge and let the whole world know that I’ve been here over ten years and I think Nigeria’s got talent.
Kate: To be truthful I have no idea why I was chosen but I’m glad I was because I’ve enjoyed being a judge. I’m just glad to be part of it, to help shape someone’s life, give them encouragement and hopefully I make the right choices along the way.
Yibo: Because of the value that I was going to add. They wanted a comedian but at the same time they wanted somebody who had an academic background, somebody who they knew was not just going to make people laugh but give a sound judgment.
Yibo, people call you the strictest judge on the show, the one most difficult to get a “Yes” from. Why is that so?
Everybody keeps saying that. I know where I come from. When I see people that are not serious and come with so much buffoonery, I need to do a proper critique. I am there to say, I know you can do it, but is that the best you can do because the average Nigerian can do what you have just done. So you need to do something for them to say “wow!”
This is a different kind of Reality Show from what we are used to. We’ve seen a lot of people with interesting talents so far. Have you been impressed with the crop of talents you saw during the auditions and now on the show and do you have any favourites?
Dan: I’ve been impressed; I want to know if there is more. I think we could have done more to be able to let people know about the programme in the beginning, that is why the first start is really important. So it’s good to be a part of that process in the beginning, because now we are educating Nigerians that if they’ve got talent, there is a platform for them to show it.
Kate: Plenty favourites oh! And having just gone through the first semifinal results, people moving into the finals, oh God! I just hope I don’t have to break down and die on stage because it’s getting really hard for me to pick. For the fact that it’s just one winner, it’s gonna be hard. I’m sure viewers at home are going to go through the same journey that we are going to go through. The emotional turbulence of picking just one person out of the hundreds that came. Tough job.
Yibo: That is talent from the perspective of Nigeria’s got talent. Every other show is “I can sing” oriented. Being able to use your fingers to blow an imaginary saxophone; being able to be a ventriloquist with good humour and the ability to have a presence on stage. Comedy is a blooming business in the industry that is a kind of comedy that is different. I’ve been impressed so far.
Yibo, I agree with you that most Reality Shows on TV today are singing competitions. But they tend to be more commercial. What financial prospects do people who, for instance, play sounds of instruments with their body have in the real world?
Variety is the show. Whatever that is vividly imagined, ardently desired, sincerely believed must inevitably come to pass. So if you go back and do your homework well and you want to be a saxophonist with your fingers, by the time you go back and train, learn how to hold your breath well, the better it becomes and you’d be able to get the gigs that would get you money.
Kate, I saw a picture of you crying during one of the episodes of the show. What made you cry?
There was one of the contestants, who came to perform, Jude James. He is an albino. I didn’t give him a chance. I pre-judged him before he started singing and when he did, I was completely blown away.
There would be only one winner on the show who would take home a star prize of N10million. Do you think this amount is too much for one person?
Dan: You’ve got a N10million start, it’s no damn excuse anymore. That N10million can go a long way in helping you market yourself and catapulting you to your dreams. It is a dream thing. Wouldn’t it be amazing if that N10million was given to somebody that really needed it? It’s gonna bless and change their lives forever. It’s a lot of money, if you use it well.
Kate: N10 million? In Nigeria of today? It’s not enough! I wish that there could have been a first, second and third prize because it’s going to be so hard to pick just one person but thank God it’s out of our hands so to speak and into the hands of the voting public. N10million is not enough in Nigeria of today. It could be better. If you want to do something; buy a house, pay rent, the money has finished.
Yibo: What happens if you have that N10million is now the key in terms of your development. If you have that kind of money, if you’ve gotten N10million because there is so much backlog of what you need to do, N10milloin no even dey enough. That is the truth, because you have one lump sum that you have a catalogue of things to do with. But people who are more proactive use that money to harness, to improve for people to know that they do exist, and by getting them on gigs, they get more and more of the money and then improve on the things they have to do.
There has been a growth in the number of Reality Shows on TV in recent years. People are beginning to have the idea that the fastest way to quick wealth and fame is by participating on a Reality Show, without passing through the sometimes rough path of pushing your career by yourself. Do you think this whole Reality Show trend makes people lazy?
Dan: I don’t think it makes them lazy, I think it motivates them and lets them know that you need to keep trying to do what you need to do and you need to take that chance. If you have some confidence and you grow to the next stage, it could teach you to grow. It’s a growing platform for education.
Yibo: It depends on the follow up. One of the major things I like about Nigeria’s got talent is the fact that it is a show of talent that is in variety. If you are a singer, you have shows, but now if you are a juggler, or whatever you do that has to do with talent, this is the show that gives you the ample opportunity for you to be known, for you to have that N10million.
What are the terms of your contract like? How long are you going to be a judge on the show?
Dan: Who knows how they are gonna do that? But I’m enjoying myself while it lasts so I’ve just gotta give my all and see what happens.
Kate: We only know about this season so that’s about it. Once the show ends, the show ends. They might want to renew, they might not. It’s left in the hands of the franchise.
Finally, Kate. How has the journey been so far?
This has been an emotional journey. I’ve connected with some of the contestants and I really do wish I could take all of them through but it’s only going to be one winner. All the contestants that we’ve had have brought something along which I’ve been proud of. Some of them have really made me proud to be a Nigerian. It’s just been exceptional. It’s been a great show so far and I hope the best person wins.
Yibo, in conclusion, what qualities must the person who wants to win this show have?
The best is the person that is able not only to convince the audience, but know within themselves that they have a good enough art that is marketable, unique, and real. I hope that next year, people get to know about the show so that the kind of persons that we expect to be on this show will scramble for it.
Dan, as it is with every start up show, there have been mixed reactions by viewers. While some people laud it, others criticize it. What would you say to people who still have doubts about the show?
They’ve got to give it a chance; we’ve got to get this franchise off on a good start. For me it’s all about the promo, how do you promote it to get people here? When you see America’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent and you look at the winners and what they went through on those shows, you gotta ask yourself what about Nigeria? You know we’ve got talent. The only thing that won’t make it successful is if you don’t promote that platform well. So the first time it starts off rough a little bit, but once that education gets out, look out, we’re gonna be there. It might not be where it needs to be now on the first one, but give it a chance and watch talent come out!