Remarkable Second Shot at Fame

Tayo Faniran

Tayo Faniran is one of Nollywood stars whose exploits as a versatile and talented actor placed  in the public eye.  His fame grew when he emerged the runner-up in the ninth season of the Big Brother Africa reality show in 2014. Faniran expected the perks of fame to follow him around and bring him fortunes but the reverse was the case. After a nine-year hiatus, Faniran returns to the screen as ‘Ninolowo’ in the riveting crime drama, ‘Gangs of Lagos.’ In this emotional interview with Funke Olaode, the Oyo State-born actor says he is a child of fate and thankful for having a second shot at fame.

Decked in black suits and dark goggles, Tayo Faniran looked appealing and seemed not to have lost  his allure as an actor despite almost a decade off the screen. He was a household name in his heydays as an actor before he relocated abroad in 2008. But he found fame when he participated in the reality show, Big Brother Africa where he emerged the first runner-up but fizzed out thereafter. However, fate smiled at Faniran when Jade Osiberu came with a role in ‘Gangs of Lagos,’ thus giving him a second shot at fame.

That Tayo is an emotional person is obvious as he intermittently shed tears opening up about his life as an actor and how favour found him again when all hope was lost.

“It’s not easy to have it one time, and then it slips off your hands. I have been there but then, I have been living in South Africa since 2008, and that was home for me. I just wanted to go back, and I left Nigeria when I was hot, and it just looked like I vanished.”

He would later discover that the instant fame that the reality show brought would only be short-lived without substantial work to back up the experience.

“Even though I didn’t think it would be like that, Big Brother’s fame would make you feel like they would look for you. I thought I was on the same level with Davido and Wizkid.”

Faniran is a maritime-trained expert whose heart has always been in entertainment since childhood.

“My major interest in that was for me to have my certificate because my parents wanted me to go to school. I also love to go to school but I already knew that I wasn’t going to do any of these jobs. But I love the maritime academy because it also gives power. We were wearing naval uniforms which gave power. So that was my major interest in choosing that particular line. So, I would not want to say that maybe I have a passion for living on the sea and stuff like that. But I just needed education and at that moment, the maritime academy was more attractive to me because of the uniform and the paramilitary part of it.”

Like the ‘parents of old’ who always wanted their children in prestigious professions, the elder Fanirans weren’t different.  They still supported him.

“Actually, my parents have always known that part of me is that I love entertainment. How I was going to make it a profession or something that will bring success was what they didn’t know. Nobody has done it in our family or even in our vicinity and become successful. But that is one thing I am grateful to my parents for and I will be grateful to them forever. Despite the fact that they were not sure how it was going to go, they still supported me. They believed in me and they trusted me. So, they supported me, they risked it. They decided to take that risk with me and I am glad it paid off.”

Before Big Brother Africa, Faniran was doing his own thing and when one thought he had arrived, he fizzed out.

“You know Big Brother Africa will give you fame, and then when this fame comes, what are you going to use it for is now the next question. So, because I was in South Africa as a professional model, I wasn’t really used to living in Nigeria and I was also not used to the industry game in Nigeria. It is played differently. So, I wasn’t prepared for post-Big Brother living in Nigeria. So, while I was in Nigeria, I had endorsement with some prominent brands, which was the most part of it that kept me here. But however, in terms of things to do next, the road wasn’t just clear, because I wasn’t prepared to continue that way here. So, I went back to South Africa.

“Unfortunately getting back to South Africa, I couldn’t be a full-time model as well because I couldn’t go for every audition. I started being picky. Also, I couldn’t get involved in acting in South Africa because most of their stories are always written in their indigenous language. It was very hard for me to get roles as a Nigerian in South Africa.  But I was still  there enjoying my star life, I will get paid for guest appearances and then I had one or two businesses in fashion that I do. I was okay, but when you talk about career changing here and fulfillment, I wasn’t really getting it. That is why I had to come to Nigeria in 2019 to face Nollywood squarely.”

Faniran’s immense fame has made his career life a subject of interest to his fans. Finding his feet this second time wasn’t easy but the message learnt is being true to himself by rebranding and evolving.

“I learnt a lot of morals in people’s hearts, so my face became registered in people’s minds. So, the fame doesn’t go anywhere but then the questions will be, oh, what are you doing now? Where have you been? So that made me realise that fame may be forever but conquering challenges will probably be forever. Which means I cannot be a hero by just winning one battle. I must continue searching for another battle to conquer again and that is what is going to keep me as a consistent role, that is what is going to make my moment a forever thing and not just a one-time thing. I learnt that aspect. I also learnt that fame can be really exciting and it will make you get carried away and feel like it is going to go on like that forever.”

Since his return to the country, Faniran has succeeded in dabbling into many things. At first, he needed a lucrative business which would bring daily income. After the COVID-19 pandemic, he  started his food and bar business called Nsuku Food & Chillz at Elegushi Beach (Nsuku means wealth in South African language) and his clothing line.

“I have had different clothing lines in the past but when I moved back to Nigeria, I started the one that I put my name on, which is Tayo Faniran Clothing. I have been doing Nollywood films here and there. And I also produced my own TV film which is called ‘Man Like Jimmy’ and it can be found on IbakaTV.  I have an African Magic original film that is out, called ‘Adele Oba’ and then ‘Gangs of Lagos.’ As a fashion designer and creative person, there is always a story behind whatever I am creating.”

Faniran is currently enjoying the rave of the moment as his role in the thriller movie ‘Gangs of Lagos’ is beginning to open doors. “Doors were beginning to open immediately when the premiere happened. There were some international individuals who came with  Amazon, or some people just came to the premiere, they were invited by Amazon and some worked with Amazon. And we have had meetings and discussed future plans and things we could do together. And also, in the country as well, I have had people reach out to me. But you know in the film industry, in entertainment, it is not like a place where they have a vacant space for a person, and the moment they see the person, he is asked to occupy the position. It is not like that. People now have seen me in ‘Gangs of Lagos,’ they have been influenced. I have made my mark in their hearts and minds. I am taking my time but by the grace of God very soon, people will begin to enjoy more of me on their screens and as well, they will be hearing a lot of good news about me,” he said with excitement. 

Is Faniran back with a bang? “Yes oooo!! I am back because I have gotten my confidence back. Mind you, Big Brother Africa  will remain with me and a major part of me forever but my name being attached to only Big Brother Africa makes me seem like a ‘one hit wonder guy’.  And I am more than that, I have so much to offer, I have so much talent.  With modesty, the ‘Gangs of Lagos’ is proof that I am actually really talented beyond just being a reality TV star and I have a lot to offer and I have new fans from ‘Gangs of Lagos.’ They are called ‘Nino Gang.’

“So I have my confidence now and when I step out now, people are not only seeing me as Tayo of Big Brother, they  are seeing me with new excitement, which gives confidence. And also, even though I am not feeling like I have reached the end of my career in acting, I know that the ‘Gangs of Lagos’ has already planted my feet on the right path of becoming greater. Because now I see the result of my effort in the ‘Gangs of Lagos’ which is encouraging for me to actually do a lot better with my other projects to come?”

Despite his reputation as a ‘ladies’ man Tayo has kept his private life out of public view, especially when asked about his marital status.

“I will be answering this in a couple of months’ time but for now like I said, I want to focus on my craft and career.”

But if this handsome dude could turn back the hands of the clock, were there things he would have loved to do differently?

“I would say God orchestrated my journey and everything has played out the way God wanted it. When it was time for Big Brother Africa to happen, he made it happen. The lessons I learnt during Big Brother Africa, they are useful to me and they will be useful for ever. My scars are part of my successes. My mistakes, even my regrets are part of my success and what will actually serve as the lessons that will drive me into the more successes that I aspire to achieve. I don’t have any regrets, I like the way the story went, I like the journey is going and I trust God that He is just starting with me.”

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