LIGHTS, CAMERA, CONTENT!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word innovation? What about when you think of innovation in Africa?
For Nigerian media personality Bolanle Olukanni, innovation means affecting and changing narratives in the entertainment industry while creating platforms for young people to participate. The self-proclaimed 3rd culture kid recounted how her interest in the media industry was sparked when she started listening to Kenyan radio; which was not only entertaining but also very influential. During our conversation she recalled being enamoured by the fact that millions of people were tuning in to listen to radio shows which gave radio hosts a platform from which to share ideas and influence perspectives. Her enchantment with radio led to an internship at a radio station which encouraged her to pursue a Communications degree in university.
A recurrent theme in our conversation was the idea of evolution. The idea that change can also mean growth, a shift in perspective, and sometimes even an alternate career path. For Bolanle this meant changing what was initially a Communications degree, into a dual degree in Communications and International Studies and working for an NGO. Her move back to Nigeria to continue working for an NGO upon completing her degree was a productive one as it rekindled her interest in the entertainment industry. The desire to share her views and perspectives with a wider audience inspired the move to host a talk show. In Nigeria, Bolanle found a media industry that was not only expanding its reach but also welcoming creativity and innovative content.
“Being a presenter is great, but you present what they give you.”
Along with being a talk show presenter, Bolanle hosted a red carpet show which she acknowledges was a great opportunity and one that propelled her to create her own content rather than “present what they give you”. Hosting her own red carpet show gave her the opportunity to not only shape the content but also to use the platform to give up-and-coming brands an opportunity to market their products. This approach, she optimistically argues, creates a ripple effect that allows the younger generation to get started in the media industry.
Being part of the presenting team on “Moments”, a show developed by Nigerian TV producer and media personality Mo Abudu, gave her insight into the level of interest young people have in the entertainment industry as well as the need for more platforms. As such, in addition to creating content, presenting talk shows and working behind the scenes as a producer, Bolanle owns a production company with her sister where she is able to manage and edit her content while supporting young people with an interest in the entertainment industry.
In this day and age, with the advent of social media, there is a need to remain active and visible in order to remain relevant. “The entertainment industry is very narcissistic”, she explained, however, what matters to her is growing and developing her craft. Being a social media influencer, gave her the power to “affect the narrative”. One of the perks of social media is the fact that it has provided a relatively cheap avenue for younger people to break into the media industry. “People are creating a whole livelihood from social media and with social media, everyone can create content”.
“I finally got to a point where I’m able to merge the two things I care about most”
A modern day renaissance woman, Bolanle doesn’t stop at creating content solely for the purpose of entertainment. When asked about her current projects, the Project Fame West Africa host excitedly highlighted a documentary she was working on entitled “GOD’s Wives”. Born out of her intention to combine her development work with her media pursuits, the upcoming documentary was Bolanle’s chance to impact a narrative that she perceives to be very one-sided.
Based on the treatment and marginalization of widows in Nigeria, her documentary seeks to tell their story and challenge society’s attitudes towards women in these situations. This project, she explained, was tied to the work she did with an NGO called the Self-Worth organization which she partnered with to open an “empowerment centre” for widows. Here women were able to acquire and build skills such as tailoring in order to find and sustain employment. Alongside the project, a social enterprise known as “Fridays are for Maxis” was developed as a way to help the women earn an income by monetizing their recently acquired skills, thus putting them in a better position to care for themselves and their families.
Combining her passion for content creation with her will to actively support her country’s development, she has been involved in projects that are not only fulfilling, but have a lasting impact. Bolanle’s innovative approach to affecting change is both ambitious and incredibly inspiring.