“Big Brother Naija was an opportunity for me to learn and grow out of my creative zone” - @Elozonam. Photographed by Deoulu photography
Elozonam is one of the breakout stars of Big Brother Naija, a creative, an ally of women with a serious taste in a suit and a goofy side. As the women in the 80’s say, ‘that dudes got it! He got down with our Fashion Reporter, Z. Charlie for a deep and memorable conversation.
Despite racking over 400,000 followers, partnerships with stylists and brands, he is still very much Elo. I’d joked earlier that he had two sides. Elozonam, the savvy businessman, preferably in suit and Elo, the goofy creative in a tracksuit. But this isn’t an easy discovery, because he usually wears his suit with sneakers, merging the personalities. I think he understands himself as that as well. Any given moment, you can be served with both, as we got here.
I started off really easy. “So, what do you have for breakfast Elo?”
He laughed. “Really Charlie, this is what we are doing?”
Initially, I texted him.
“El, I won't accept any quick interview, people want to get the full you”.
Oh, he came fully prepared.
“Well, I like to eat healthy” He said. “I train often, so obviously, it would be a waste to eat mostly Junk”
Elo is known for his physical training and voice over. He is also a recording artist known for his short comedy skits. So, I was curious for a man to be able to sing and dance (boy, can that man move!) and almost crack your ribs with laughter.
“I am mostly self-taught. As would most Nigerian young creatives. These are things now available on the Internet. You want to learn music; you can just Google and watch videos on YouTube. The world has never been more helpful to creatives”
“I see. Yea, truly, I mean it can’t be easier. No?”
“No Charlie, it can’t. But, it’s equally difficult as well. You know, getting into that grind mode. Hustling really, every day. With zero results. It’s hard to keep the motivation. And people telling you, your time would come, while everybody’s time has been coming since”. He shot, and then sat up. “Charlie, I’m going to tell you a story”.
Before I got my pen ready, he’d begun, talking the way he does talk, bursting into phases of long and short speech, pausing momentarily, looking very deep in thought, as if finding better ways to articulate his point. His fans would notice this phase is usually accompanied by a head-tilt, and shooting his brows up. Really, the Elo way.
“Charlie, I think people NEED to know its okay (Pause), Look, it's Just Okay”. He’d said as if trying to get the world to just, fix its self.
“I know you have questions, but I think this is the right time for people to hear its Okay. I mean, it’s hard out there, isn’t it? And there’s not a lack of motivational speakers and inspirational guys, but I think it’s important to get it out there more often from people that have really gone through it, and its not just a profession for them to say these things –“
I’d stopped him right there. “What do you mean these things?”
“Look,” He said, clasping his hands on his thigh. “I was once in a place where I felt almost drowned and invisible. Sometime last year, I decided to focus on entertainment full time and quit my 9-5”.
‘That’s a bold move”. I warned him.
“Exactly, but at that time, it felt right, (it still does) because I was so full of passion. I wanted to create. So I made a choice. To chase my dream. I got signed to a management that was supposed to look after me and that didn’t work out. You know, after a couple of gigs, it dried up. So really, I thought it’s all down to me to make my luck. But it got harder. I put out stuff, and really, it was just out there”. He paused, so I replied.
“I see, waiting and hoping that luck kicks in anytime soon”
“Exactly” He said, emphatically. “You sort of just hang in there, keep going because really, what else? I know there was so much I could offer, but it felt twice as hard for me. The money was there, but there were so many dry spells. And I remember, it really took a toll on me, almost re-thinking my decisions”.
“Definitely. I know, it’s a difficult place to be, especially because you had a job before”.
“It was more than difficult”, he cut in with a wry smile. “I began working on a song. It’s called blessings on blessings. It’s on my EP. It really helped me believe in myself”. He sighed as if remembering that too wasn’t enough. “There was light at the end Charlie, and all I needed was to keep working smart and hard”.
“I see. It sounds easily achievable, but really, what does working smart means?”
“EXACTLY!” he proclaimed. “That is the question. When people say you’re not working smart, what do they even mean? But, I’ve come to find out, it’s different for everyone. Probably it means, do what works for you. Because everyone and every path is different”
“I hope they are listening”, I said, referring to his loyal fans. For the first time, he smiled, a big happy Elo smile. It was just happy. “I love them, to be honest, and I’m very grateful, and I’ve got their backs”.
“So, Hercules,” I said, attempting to lighten the mood, but keeping to the conversation. “BABY Hercules” he retorted, right back. “We are still growing”. He said with a smile, going back to his story. “ Looking back, the song actually made it worse for me. It sounded so good, but, people just didn’t want it, and that feeling sucks you know”
“While everyone is getting it. Oh, I can feel the pressure”.
“You get me, Charlie. But I wasn’t bothered by anyone to be honest. I had confidence in my ability and with that comes the confidence that your time would come. It was just difficult, and because we set so many high standards for ourselves, as young people. This is a good thing, but we need to take it easy too and find someone to lean on sometimes. For me, it was my brother”
“Your TWIN BROTHER!” I said. “You have a twin ELO! I literally found out when you’re in the house”
“Ha-ha, yea. Most people don’t know. He held the turf well when I was away— ”
“That he did. And the house. How was it? Days without Lagos”
“Well, a breathe of fresh air. Haha, but seriously its been a great learning process for me. I met incredible people. Just putting yourself out there, you know, handling criticism. But, the Love, the love has been overwhelming. I thank everyone again”. He gestured an ole, the goofy side beginning to show again.
"Oh you've dished out a lot of strong style since coming out. It was like.. Fashion Unleashed. There's a saying I heard, "Elo looks good even in Yellow' ".
"Haha, thank you charlie. Ive never heard of it. I think Fashion is more of an expression than just clothes. For me, personality is the most important thing. It never goes out of style".
" Words to live by. So, what is for the future. I mean whats in store for us?"I asked.
"I've got a song out now actually-"
"Already?" I cut him off. Amazed by the speed and dedication he works.
"Well. Look, its what I enjoy doing. Creating Stuff. Music is beyond entertainment for me. The new song, its called Sweet Dodo". He said, with such an expectant grin.
"Sweet Dodo. This is very catchy. One thing I know for sure is you locked Elozonam out to write this. This is fun and playful, has to be the work of Elo" . Making it clear to him, the stark contrast between his personalities. One day he's serving deep Adele-like melodies with personal and inspirational messages, next he's at the studio giving us hits for the summer like he's Flo Rida.
He'd only laughed. Shaking his head, the grand propagators of Elo Vs Elozonam and we cannot be defeated.
"Right, are there any more projects? C'mon. Feed us in!" I pressed.
"These would all be a surprise and are coming in due time. I have a lot in store and more I'm working on!" He assured with excitement.
"Fair enough. Can't wait, as long as you keep them coming. Right, speaking of we can't wait, when's the man settling down" I dropped the expected question we ask all fine bachelors.
"haha, Charlie?" he warned, as if we haven't being talking about him since. "You said this is not the kind of interview. Easy question. Give something harder".
"Well, sue me Elo" . I held my hand up. “Elo, you have been a fine Gentleman. Thank you so much for taking your time and discussing life with us. I’m sure a lot of people will find this very helpful”
“Thank you too Charlie. Like I said, I’m always here. If you need me, Checkout the song Blessings on blessing when it's not easy and Sweet Dodo to bring some dance. It really helped me a lot, and I hope it would to others too. You’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come. With passion, I believe the money would come too. It was never rosy, not just in hustle or work but also, in relationships, in life at large. We cannot forget that all of that is okay, and its part of life. This is my story”
This has been the greatest amount of Love and Purpose shared today. We thank Elo, for using his platform to share a strong message and positivity. Thank you for taking things seriously.
Get in the conversation and share your story with us using #HoHInsider or #EloIsFlyingHot, to get your own shoot and interview.