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How to talk to a Nigerian celebrity

Harri Obi

“Guys! My favourite #BBNaija housemate, Ahneeka is literally standing in front of me. I’ve been trying to move for more than 5 minutes now, but it feels like i’m paralyzed.” When a gentleman tweeted this days back, I DMd and encouraged him to walk up to her, and with a huge smile, introduce himself and nicely ask for a selfie (if she’s idle) and afterwards, proceed to compliment her on how she was his favorite housemate in the #BBNaija house. Few minutes later, he DMd back a pic of him with Ahneeka and thanked me. Some of us would rather face a firing squad than start a conversation with a famous person. Experiencing temporary paralysis and shock is normal when star struck, even for people who have years of experience talking to celebrities. On the red carpet at the 2018 Future Awards Africa, which I hosted, I was one of such victims. I had interviewed a serving Federal minister and former two time Governor, I had also interviewed the award’s nominees and some of the biggest music and movie stars in the continent without any issue, but when Ebuka Obi Uchendu walked on to my red carpet, I was tongue tied. My lines escaped my head, I started to stutter and had to do up to 5 takes. It was so bad that he had to tell me to calm down and forget he was there. So ladies and gents, It is totally normal to embarrass yourself especially if the celebrity is someone you admire or look up to.

These are some pointers on to how to talk to your favorite celebrity. They are a product of my experience speaking and interviewing them for years and not watertight rules that must be followed religiously.

THEY ARE HUMANS: Obvious right? Well, not quite, especially to those fans who have spent years idolizing these celebrities. Some people hold celebrities in extremely high regard and treat them like demi-gods. Seeing them face to face for the first time can take one off guard, and people have fainted. It is hard for some people to fathom but celebrities do the same things you and I does, they have the same likes and dislikes, they cry, fight and eat eba with their hands. When approaching a celebrity, it is advisable you approach them as normal humans, not as famous people. Drooling over a famous person will not make you anymore likable, they are used to being fawned over and most have become complacent and apathetic towards it.

BE RESPECTABLE: Raise your hand if you can say you’ve never, even fleetingly, admired IK Osakioduwa’s likable personality. Most hands would, and should, stay down. Even if you’re not a celeb gossip junkie or die hard Big Brother Africa fan, you know him, and one reason he is still relevant after all these years is because people like the guy. On his TV and radio show, he knows how to endear himself to his celebrity guests. He does this by being funny without being disrespectful. You too can learn from this. A lot of people use the slightest opportunity to be insolent towards celebrities and so, many of them have learnt to cut people off at the slightest suspicion of impudence. Learn how to approach your conversations with celebs in a subtle and respectable manner and they’ll pay attention to you.

TALK ABOUT WHAT THEY ENJOY: When he is at home and not working, Wizkid is watching ‘The Johnsons’. He’s a die hard fan of the show and starting a conversation with ”Who is funnier? Tari, Muhammed or Spiff” is sure to get his attention. A common mistake in talking to celebrities is to stereotype them as people who don’t know anything about anything else except their professions. The entertainment business is full of intelligent, educated, informed men and women who are interested in, and involved in, a wide variety of activities and causes, yet they are asked only about acting, singing and stand up comedy. If you happen to know about the celebrity’s ‘extracurricular’ interest, you might find he or she’ll speak to you about it much more freely than they would about their professional life. Sound Sultan loves Basketball and even has a Basketball team, Uche Jumbo is a Manchester United fan who adores Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and singer Waje, loves cooking.

SHUT UP AND LISTEN: This is as important for fans as it is for OAPs, TV and Red carpet hosts. The current trend of OAPs interjecting while celebrities are speaking or being outrightly confrontational and disrespectful is worrisome. As a TV/radio show host, you’re not the focus of the show. The show and guests are more important. As a fan, learn to listen when you’ve got the attention of your favorite celebrity. It’ll help you know what kind of follow up question to ask. You don’t want to be asking Davido about 30 billion naira when all he has been talking about, wants to talk about and cares to talk about is Chioma. Shut up and listen!

Harri Obi is an award winning TV host, events compere and content producer. He was also the official red carpet host at the 2018 Future Awards Africa. Connect with him @Harri_Obi on Twitter and Instagram.

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