Unassuming and self-effacing, Tope Esan is the brains behind the Nigerian Entertainment Award. The soft-spoken showbiz entrepreneur shares his vision for the annual awards that holds in New York and why he is a Gucci acolyte. He spoke with Azuka Ogujiuba
What do you seek to achieve through the Nigerian Entertainment Awards?
The Nigeria Entertainment Awards is an award ceremony dedicated to recognizing the many talents and contributions of Nigerian entertainers.
I hear new categories have been created this year; what’s the reason for that?
Every year we reassess the categories to make sure we are taking note of an emerging and ever changing Nigerian entertainment scene. This year we added some categories to match certain entertainment industry that is thriving. Also, we added Pan-African categories. NEA has become very popular outside of Nigeria because of its success in those regions. By expanding the categories to Pan-Africa, it gives other non-Nigerian entertainers who are actively participating in Nigerian entertainment to be recognized for their work especially Ghanaian actors and actresses who are active in Nollywood.
How are the nominees selected?
We have a group of nine media and entertainment outlets to which we send nominations. The executive producers of the awards then collate the lists and deliberate on it. We have four executive producers who are responsible for the final list that’s published.
What else are you involved in besides being the face behind the NEA?
My company, Statsmedia Production, is an events and content production company. We co-produce the Nigeria Entertainment Awards, the African Global DJ Awards, several music concerts. We are also working with Lulu Productions on Africa’s Next Top Model, a new reality show coming to Africa in 2013.
What is your impression of the Nigerian entertainment industry?
The Nigerian entertainment industry has developed a lot in recent years. Nollywood films continue to enjoy tremendous successes and the production quality continues to improve. However, the acting, camera angles and sound quality still need some improvement. I am particularly excited about some new actors and actresses in the game now. I see a bright future. In the music industry, I’m a bit worried about the sound today. The industry is heavily pop with high resistance to any other genre of music. The creativity is starting to dwindle. I’m hoping for the day when soul, rhythm and blues and jazz music can have similar successes in the industry. I know many artistes that have had to change their strategy because they prefer to do r&b, but pop music is what pays the bill. That forces them to compromise. I guess I can’t really blame the artiste, they are serving the people what they want. But eventually I see a change in the near future.
Which celebrity in the world would you love to see at your music award?
Jay Z hands down. I’ve been a dedicated fan for years, pretty much grew up on Jay’s music. And since the Awards is in New York, I’m hoping he can make it one of these days.
Who in the world would you like to dine with?
Warren Buffet, because the man makes a good living making others rich. All I need is 30 minutes with him. I will convince him why he should invest in Africa. I also think that unlike many investors, he understands the concept of nurturing a business and not 12 months return businesses.
Which star’s phone would like to flip through?
Oprah Winfrey. I can imagine that she has everyone in the media and entertainment world on her phone.
Which celebrity in the world do you think has a near complete perfect life style?
I will probably say Tom Hanks. With all the success, he’s been able to keep a relatively level profile. He is one of my top actors.
Which celebrity in the world do you think has the sexiest body?
Probably Jennifer Lopez. Even after kids and in mid 40s still looking dope.
Which designer’s work do you think can stand the test of time?
Gucci, I believe. Been around for years and continues to be popular amongst older and newer generations. I can pretty much wear a Gucci design as my grandma to the same event and look dope.
What outfit can you not be caught dead in?
See-through muscle T-shirt.
If a fashion police were to search your wardrobe, would you be arrested for any fashion blunders?
No way. I keep my wardrobe on point. Relevant and simple.
Who is Tope Esan?
Tope Esan is an business executive that’s heavily invested in entertainment.
How old are you?
I’m in my late 30s.
Tell us about your background?
I studied in New York and worked there for over 13 years in corporate America. I have a BBA in accounting and an MBA in finance. I have worked for several Fortune 500 companies and until recently, worked as a VP of analytics for a top US bank. But now, I’m into media and entertainment.
If you had to go on an island for an exotic weekend, what are the five things you will take along?
BlackBerry, ipad, iphone, ATM card, briefcase full of clothes, I guess.
What is the most memorable Valentine gift you have ever received from your wife?
I would say it’s a nice pair of limited edition Ferragamo shoes.
How did you fall in love with your wife; was it love at first sight?
Yes, it was love at first sight. Saw her at a function and said to myself, ‘I have to marry her’. The rest was just formalities.
What does your wife do for a living?
She’s in the medical field, pharmaceuticals.
What does the word love mean to you?
Love means time to me. You love someone then you create and spend time with the person.
What is your most expensive fashion accessory?
My shoes. I’m so into shoes, it’s like a disease.
What is your fashion fetish?
Sunglasses. I don’t leave home without it, day or night. I’m that dude that wears sunglasses at night in a club. Not only for fashion, but I hardly sleep much and my eyes are always red so I wear them to cover up.
Why do you think men lie about their age?
I think society pays too much attention to age. I personally don’t care for it really. If you are too young, society says you are young; if you are old, they would say you are too old. Like the saying goes: age ain’t nothing but a number.
Which is the most favourite part of your body?
My brain. My brain will make me money and when you have money everything will fall into place.
What is your present BlackBerry ringtone?
Currently, it’s Sean Tizzle’s Sho-Lee for BB and Kcee’s Limpopo on iPhone.
Apart from the awards, what else do you like to indulge in?
I do two different awards now and have a couple in the works. And I also do music concerts and create tv content.
If you were the president, what would be the first law you will implement?
Electricity. With electricity everything falls into place. Nigerians spend too much generating their own electricity; that can be channeled to develop the country.
Which celebrity in the world would you describe as a sexy siren?
Beyonce. She pushes the boundary without overdoing it. She’s a triple treat - class, elegance and sexy.