The plunging neckline of her gorgeous floral dress accentuates her slender frame. Her gait is a trademark catwalk. Her dark pupils contrast her glowing light skin as her lissom lips calmly form a smile. She is the quintessential confident lady: courageous, convivial and cosmopolitan. She exudes class and quality with simplicity. Eku Edewor is one of Nigeria’s finest actresses, TV hosts, and models with international repute. Vanessa Obioha explores her views on stardom, influence and the social media space
In the crowded room of the Whitespace Creative Agency in Ikoyi, Lagos, Eku Edewor, the British-Nigerian TV host, actress and model perched on a stool, her hands folded on the table. A charming smile lit her oblong face each time various individuals stopped by for courtesies. Her tall, slender frame was difficult to miss in the room bubbling with laughter and chatter. Edewor was among the cast members of the latest production from EbonyLife Films ‘Your Excellency’ who were invited to a media parley. Her first feature in the company’s production was a legal TV drama series ‘Castle and Castle’. In ‘Your Excellency’, she played Eki, a hard news TV presenter in the political satire film. It was a role that was similar to her real-life profession. In the eyes of the public, the pool of personalities that filled the spacious room fall under one term ‘celebrity’. The term is used to define a state of being celebrated or a famous person.
But in a social media-driven age, Edewor interrogates the meaning of that term. Does it have a definite meaning?
Born to a Nigerian mother and a British father, Edewor came into the limelight when she featured in the M-Net produced show 53 Extra. She was one of the hosts of the lifestyle show. Before then, she tried her hands-on modelling, film and TV production and even managed her mother’s restaurant business. Having spent her formative years between Nigeria and England, Edewor’s understanding of the word celebrity is different from the one that is paraded today.
“Who is a celebrity? The term has changed over time. When we were young it was a term used for inaccessible stars. But now everybody is accessible,” said Edewor.
Nowadays, she argued that the word has assumed different meanings due to social media. The arrival of social media birthed new famous people who need not feature in a blockbuster movie, have a record-breaking music album, hail from a wealthy background or belong to the elite class. All they need is a huge following on social media, and voilà they are famous. This has inadvertently given rise to another prominent title, social media influencers. The term is attributed to a social media user who has access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.
However, what Edewor found disturbing is that most people equate their social media following to real-life popularity.
“There is this level of social media that people think they are entitled to give. It can be very hurtful. Maybe because I have always worked in the media. I always have a professional approach to social media as a work tool. Recently, I was talking with someone on how people who are not popular compare the likes on their posts to those who are popular. It can be very emotionally challenging,” she explained.
Such psychological effects on social media users are what prompted Instagram, the photo and video-sharing social networking app owned by Facebook to start hiding likes from followers. It announced last April that it will start running a test that removes the total number of likes on photos and video views in feeds. The aim the company said was to get users to concentrate on the pictures and videos instead of likes.
Though Edewor who has over 115,000 followers on Instagram and over 20,000 followers on Twitter qualifies to be called a celebrity or influencer, she rather opts to be known for her profession. Both social media accounts described her as an actor and TV personality.
“Everything is perception. If you think I’m a celebrity, good. But I would rather you call me by what I am. I’m an actor, a producer, an entertainer, or a mother. I think it is more important to define who you are and what value you bring than to limit yourself to the title of celebrity. Just because you don’t have that social media following doesn’t make you less important. It is wrong for people to believe that social media clout is the real clout,” argued Edewor.
She has also found a way to handle trolls on the internet.
“I stand by a lot of things I say or post. As (regards) my personality, my friends know that I’m a debater. I’m someone who is willing to engage in a conversation. I don’t like to engage with abusive people. I’m never going to abuse you. I can have a banter with you in a way that is fun,” the actress admitted. “A lot of times if I’m going to tweet something, I mean it, so I’m going to stand by it. I don’t feel the pressure of trolls because I know words have impacts. I’m not somebody that is easily provoked. You know some people go on Twitter and tweet something just to attract noise. I’m not looking for noise.”
The impact of social media is also a theme in ‘Your Excellency’. The plot is woven around a boisterous billionaire who is very keen on running for the presidency. The opportunity finally arrived when a dance video of his went viral.
“I was very excited about this because when I read it, it was a real page-turner,” Edewor said of the film. “I love the way they made social commentary in a way that was fun. They dealt with topics that are serious and relevant but made them easy to digest. I think that it’s also a good way to tell stories at times because we don’t want to go to the cinemas sometimes and feel that we are being morally taught. So sometimes, when you have messages that are packaged nicely such as the dangers of social media and the impact that it has had, people can watch, learn and laugh about it.”
Prior to ‘Your Excellency’, Edewor who is a twin featured in Beverly Naya’s documentary ‘Skin’ where she talked about how she was judged for being too white. She revealed that featuring in that documentary opened her eyes to what other people are going through.
“It shows you that people have different opinions and ways they look at similar issues. The only thing is for you to have compassion for everyone despite your privileges and advantages.”
With a light complexion, the actress never imagined she would be judged by her skin colour
“It’s interesting because all through my life, I never thought about my skin until I was in the public eye and then it became a topic of discussion. Prior to that, I had never felt anything about it. I started getting conscious of it because a lot of people started commenting on it and questions started arising. People wondered why I was treated differently or better. It questioned many things. Once you start exploring these things then you realize that in life you can only do the best you can do,” Edewor noted.
Another topic that put the model in the public eye was when she became pregnant in 2016. She was trolled on the Internet for not getting hitched before welcoming a baby. But the choice to co-parent is one the graduate of English Language and Theatre Studies from Warwick University made deliberately.
“It’s just the circumstances that we found ourselves in. When you are a co-parent, it’s a mature choice to move forward in a particular way so that your child has the best experience because a child should always be a priority.”
Edewor who honed her acting skills from the New York Film Academy also disclosed that she planned to direct a film someday.
“I would love to direct a film one day. I don’t think it’s my time yet. I’m one of those people that everything in my life has been about timing. Whether it’s divine timing or whatever form. When it’s my time I will do it. When there is a story I’m very passionate to tell people, I will do it,” she disclosed.