The world of showbiz is a pretty exclusive space. The pulsating feeling of being the frequent reference of gossips and newsflash, and the face of numerous brands and merchandise is the dream of many people. The oldest reality show is dated back to 1947. Since then, it has transcended to further notable depictions in various parts of the world. From Big Brother Naija to American Idol, America’s Next Top Model to our locally Big Sister Salone, Housemates Salone, or the Island of Secrets program, they all come with their content, focusing also on winning the cynosure from viewers.
Sierra Leone had its first reality TV show in 2018. A start of many ambitious ones to come. Entrenched in popularity and attention, it went on to capture fans both home and abroad. China Nicky, the winner at that time, particularly served as an inspiration to commoners and deprived people, reaffirming the idea that nothing is impossible. The actual whereabouts of China Nicky remains a mystery.
Like Big Brother Naija, every TV show in Sierra Leone is promoting an agenda of empowerment for young people. With your face being the regular one on TV, your influence upon your arrival from the competition allows for smooth brand endorsements or business setups. It is that simple. Sorry! If only it was that simple. The nuance from all show organizers is the idea of creating a space for the entertainment industry to thrive. Thus, the songs played on these shows are 90% Sierra Leonean. It also showcases the beauty of Sierra Leone’s heritage and rich culture. Contestants also may have the chance of meeting their top priority celebrities from across the continent. However, as posited, the agenda of these shows is empowerment. A reality check. Has that empowerment been a thing of reality? Contrary to what they say, are these TV shows not exploitative? Why have there been consistent discrepancies in their dealings with contestants?
THE EMPOWERMENT HOAX
I see reality TV shows in Sierra Leone as mere farce. A means to the end of corporate institutions or individuals.
The Big Sister Salone show targets women and incorporates them into the world of showbiz. They spend a month or two in a confined surroundings with various tasks or instructions to follow. The winner is said to be awarded a staggering amount of cash. Here is the problem! Empowerment simply means to enable— in a shorter form. However, each of these shows has been marred with controversies. I mean, don’t get me wrong, being empowered is a choice. But it comes with a tag. The controversies surrounding whether the actual prize monies set aside for the show are fully awarded. Just yesterday, the former winner of the season 2 segment was on Facebook explaining the constraints she faced in gaining her rightful entitlement for winning the show.
Let’s not fool ourselves here. Your relevance ends as soon as you leave the show. There is no actual backup plan or follow-up for former contestants. The winner takes all in fact. Furthermore, you return to your normal self after the end. Unlike Big Brother Naija which opens doors to multiple brand endorsements, the endorsement contracts in this part of the world are hideous, blurry, and obscure. You are left with nothing, apart from the fact that you participated in a TV show.
The Housemates Salone TV show is another blockbuster in the Sierra Leonean entertainment space. Almost similar to the Big Sister show, young men and women are placed in a setting where they compete for the ultimate price. The winner takes all eventually. A winning which is not even feasible.
Trust me when I say all of these shows are different from the other. It is just a filthy repetitive cycle. Both winners of different editions are reliably on their own. In fact, the previous winner had accused the management and a key sponsor of dubious doings.
Supposedly meant to be an adventurous and thrilled packed, the Island of Secrets was just a sham. It was a competition prescribed in a forest-like setting challenging one’s physical stealth. But like all the other shows, Island of Secrets was just a waste of time. It had to be regularly disrupted due to poor signals and even allegations of fixing all came up.
I don’t even know the winner of the show.
My concluding part is this: these shows are just exploitative. Your time and effort are needed to promote the show by making it entertaining and scooping up a large fan base—- an added advantage in racking up the bills. However, the idea that everything changes in your life after winning a reality TV show in Sierra Leone is unrealistic. Personally ask all the winners of these shows and you’ll relate to my resentments.