Though he looks thin and fragile, Adenrele Oluwafemi Edun has a larger than life image in the entertainment industry. In this interview with BUSOLA AFOLABI, the Soundcity presenter says he is at home with controversies. Excerpts:
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Germany (Hamburg) June 13, 1983. My dad is a Yoruba man from Ogun State while my mum is half Indian - her dad is an Indian and her mom is from Mauritius. So I tell people that I am nationality confused. I do not know where I am from. I am the first and only son, I have two sisters - one is 20 and the other is 17. Presently, I am with my dad and grandma. My mum is out of the country. She is in Dublin so we hang out with some of my cousins, who are also crazy like me. I grew up in Germany for the first five years and that was where I got my first modelling job. My dad took me to a photo studio and told me to take pictures and somebody just saw the pictures and said they were lovely and the next thing we knew there were bill boards everywhere in Germany with my picture. My dad was very happy, he didn't know he was supposed to collect some sort of compensation but by the time somebody told him it was too late to sue. It was a baby milk advert so they gave us about 100 cartons of milk. I came back to Nigeria when I was five, I could not speak a word in English. I went to many primary schools just to polish my English. Later I began to speak English and Yoruba well, then I ended up at the Federal Government College, Ijanikin (the staff school) and later went to St. Gregory College, Ikoyi from there I went to the University of Lagos and now here I am.
Can you share some of your childhood memories with us?
When I was a lot younger I loved music a lot, but the thing is I can't sing, I have a very terrible voice. I sing off key, off tune and I used to be in the choir. My dad was a DJ in Germany not for serious business, so he had lots of records, so I used to take his headphone and then I will start singing and jumping all over the place. My mom used to overlook it because she was not a Nigerian so she just thinks I like music but my grandmother thought I was mad and she told my dad that I needed to be examined. At that stage I loved fashion. I loved to watch fashion shows and to read magazines. At the age of seven, I was a good reader of the popular Mills & Boons. I love to read. I read any thing that came my way. I loved to style my hair in different patterns, just to make people envy me and in my school I wore the longest socks which was up to my thighs and this even made my schoolmates think I was abnormal. During the period I was in the choir I was singing treble, my voice just broke down and I still don't know why till today. So, in church I would open my mouth like I was singing but no sound was coming out so people thought I could sing until I messed up when I had an individual performance. But I was a very fantastic dancer. Because of that I used to have a terrible mouth, I was rude and insolent. I felt I could just talk to anybody anyhow, but I am now more cautious. There was a time I begged my dad to buy me a story book (My Book of Bible Story) because everybody in my class had it except me, so he bought me another version that was different from everyone's own. I was angry and I threw it away. My dad beat me black and blue. Along the line, the mirror in the room broke and cut me on my leg. I refused to talk to him for a week. When he came to pick me up from school I refused to enter his car. I trekked home, which is like trekking from Berger to Ketu so you can imagine how stupid I was to have walked.
There was also a time my parents went out for dinner and left my baby sister with me and she used to cry a lot so I called my friend and told him, he asked me if we had Vodka in the house and told me to give it to her, so I put Vodka in her milk, she slept for two days. In fact, I thought she had died and till date I never told them what happened.
What was your childhood dream and how is it related to what you are doing now?
I always wanted to be an artiste because I loved music a lot, I loved singing to myself, I loved Boney M. I knew all their songs but later I saw that music wasn't working. In school whenever they asked us what we wanted to be in future I used to wait for one of my classmates, Yemi Dawodu, to talk first. So anything she says I will say too. When she said she wanted to be a lawyer I said I wanted to be a lawyer, later she said she would like to be an air hostess I also said I wanted to be an air host. But everyone kept telling me I would be a good lawyer because I could lie myself out of any situation. I won't do my homework when they beat everybody they won't beat me because I will give you an excuse. I would say I had chronic twitch and my teacher would be wondering what that means, at the end of the day they would still have to pardon me. But when I got into secondary school, I didn't know what happened I just found myself acting 'Kidivision 101' on NTA. Though I wasn't prepared for acting, it just came and I found out that I could cram scripts a lot and very fast. I still wanted to read law but when all my friends were scoring 263 in the Joint Matriculation Examination (JME) I got 209. I was given English Education so I became an aspiring teacher. So, if I leave entertainment, I plan to teach but that is when teaching profession becomes lucrative in Nigeria.
How about your journey into the entertainment industry?
Professional showbiz started for me at the age of 11. When I started acting 'Kidivision 101,' my cousin told me about the audition so I went with a couple of friends. When we got there, there were too many people so I started making noise and abusing the other children because they were not from my school. Then the producer came and told me to stop making noise but I told her to go and sit down. She asked me to shut up; I told her to shut up too. Though I did not know she was the producer, she asked me if I knew who I was talking to I told her I was important too. Later she told them to give me the script so that she can see what I can do or maybe it was only noise I could make. But when she saw how I performed she told them to give me a role. Even my cousin that took me there did not get a role. I learnt everybody's role in the script so anybody that made a mistake I would just shout and correct the person. People started wondering what kind of a child was this. Later on I grew into a major character. I was the first kid they put on TV Guide so I bought all the copies of the magazine and took them to school because I wanted to make them know that I was going to be popular. At that time it was good for me because even on the street when people saw me they became excited.
Adults would give me money but the younger ones would ask me annoying questions like "Are you a boy or a girl?" later I got tired of answering them, so if anyone asked me I would just open my shirt so that they could see my chest. But it was great for me. When I got into the university I did a lot of stage act. I later went into modelling. I modelled for Mon Ami, Dakova, Kesse Jabari and some others. I used to model with the old models then but most of them are married now. Today I do everything apart from singing which I still hope to do.
Why the crazy dressing?
I am just expressing my individuality. Most people ask me that question and I would say I just want to be me. Some people think I dress like this to attract attention, but I have always had attention from childhood. So you know when I am somewhere, you can pick me out of the crowd and modelling is part of it because the models I was modelling with were very tall so you can hardly notice me. But with my crazy dressing you could single me out. So it was clothes that started inspiring my intellect. When I see all those clothes they wear on the run way, of course you know people don't buy those clothes, I thought of utilising them and they weren't paying well at that time and you have to look good. So I always redesign my clothes and if I repeat my trousers 10 times you won't know because I will keep redesigning it. But it was good for me because I was getting negative criticism. My lecturers would walk me out of class. They used to bug me everyday. In the school magazines people will write all sort of things like Denrele is a useless boy; at times I could stand at the bus stop in front of Education in UNILAG people will just park their cars and start insulting me like eight times a day. But the same set of people that abused me then are the ones now running after me. That is life.
So does this crazy dressing have any positive or negative influence on your personality?
It is an extension of my person. It is a reflection of my individuality. For me my look is fun, it is not too serious but it is serious to get compliment. At least when people see me they ask like does this boy have parents at all; because behind every form of madness or craziness, there must be at least a certain degree of creativity. It is not easy to sew these clothes and wear but then when you look at the dressing you definitely know that the person who sewed the clothes is not a dullard. So for me, there is nothing special in it because many people have started dressing like me. When I had my birthday party last year, everyone that came dressed like me. I am not trying to make anything out of it; it is just me expressing myself.
So do you spend a fortune on your mode of dressing?
If I was spending money I would be broke by now; but when you make them yourself, you know how to manage the money and make something good out of it.
Do you make your clothes yourself?
Yes. I do but now I have someone who makes it for me because my work is so demanding and I travel a lot. I don't spend a fortune except if they are torn but I will still redesign them to look nice. The only thing I know I spend more money on is shoes.
What is it about your shoes?
This one I am wearing was given to me by Peter of P-Square. I have this new pair I just got from Atlanta and it cost me a fortune, but when I saw I couldn't take my eyes off it. However, I am not too extravagant. When I heard the amount I shouted but they gave me a discount. But even with the discount I did not eat for three days, but merely thinking of the shoes alone is satisfying. When I was coming back to Nigeria I was very excited and then the day I wore the shoes everyone was screaming my name. I am very comfortable in them. I dance with them, I climb mountains, I wear them everyday so anybody who wants to take those shoes will have to cut my legs with it.
So what is that thing that has kept you going in the industry till now?
I don't like to blow my trumpet but I know I am nice to a fault. It is terrible but God has blessed me with that gift, I don't see myself as a celebrity but people think I am trying to be modest. I don't think because I am on TV, I should be an acclaimed star. I just see myself as a regular star who loves doing what he loves to do and who likes to be part of people's success story. There are so many people that I have helped in the industry. I won't mention names but I am happy when I see them and I say to myself that I am happy that am part of this person's success story, so even if the person is receiving an award or doing anything the person will always remember me.
Most celebrities will say they are nice. So if you say you are nice it doesn't prove anything.
Like I said I don't want to compliment myself but I know that I am very nice. I just don't want to blow my trumpet, so that whoever is reading this would not be saying that I am so full of myself. I can give an arm out just to please the next person. But the thing is I am learning because in this industry you have to be a little hard to survive but I just feel life is easy and too short. A lot of people have stepped on my toes and I just overlooked it. My phone rings 24 hours a day whether it is convenient for you or not, people don't care. But I try to answer everybody because the fact that you are calling me means I am worthy of your attention at that point in time. If you ask people who are close to me or working with me they will tell you how nice I am because I can't explain for you to understand.
How are your parents coping with your lifestyle?
They are coping; they don't have a choice. Though my mom is not around, my dad understands to all degrees. He doesn't complain about anything because I don't drink or smoke. Even my grandma has accepted her fate. So they are encouraged especially when money is reaching their hand. I can't believe I just said that.
Tell us your saddest moment?
I am always happy when I wake up everyday so it is very rare for you to see me looking sad. I am always very excited, even if there is something bothering me I take it off my mind immediately. But when people look at my face they can read some expressions, like my sister knows when I want to start getting crazy, once she sees my face, she knows. The thing that pisses me off is when I am looking for something. Though I am not organised, I expect to find my things wherever I keep them. But I am disorganised in an organised way. My room is always so scattered with clothes everywhere, but I expect to find my things there if not I could be asking my grandma for my boxers. But my best moment is knowing that I am alive and that I have a lovely family and people around me and whenever I do my job well, because I love challenges. My saddest moments are when things are not going on well with me but if it is going to weigh me down I will just snap out of it immediately. I always like to look for the good in the bad. Except maybe something tragic happens to me but I am not praying for that.
Tell us some of the embarrassments you have encountered on this job?
Like when we started Soundcity, we started with red carpet and when you want to interview people they just snob you but now they beg for you to interview them. For me, there are no embarrassments on the job. But I can never forget May 27, 1999, I was already on TV Guide, so I was like a youth icon it was Children's Day so we were doing a special recording of 'Kidivision 101' at TBS because I was to give a speech and I was pressed I didn't know what I ate but I really needed to use the toilet but there was no toilet in TBS and there was no bush when I was complaining they all thought I was playing pranks and before I knew it I messed up my trousers with watery faeces. If I moved my leg, faeces would fall out of my trousers I was so ashamed of myself so I had to walk from TBS to NTA because I couldn't sit in a bus and then there were no motorcycles. By the time I got there, I had to wash my trousers then I went home with wet trousers. Everybody was laughing at me, I was really embarrassed. I just pray it never happens again.
What are the challenges you encounter on the job?
The job is very challenging but people think it is all about what they see on TV. But it is more than that. I am one of the most fully booked people. There is never a free moment for me. That is why I prefer coming to my office at Ogba because there is always time to relax here. What I do mostly here is to give instructions. I don't like going to my office at Lekki but I have to be there six times a week and I am at the Ogba office once a week. The job is crazy and I am not just involved in Soundcity on TV, I am also involved in Soundcity radio and magazine. I am also involved in admin, and I also do P.R. It is mostly the youthful people that know about Soundcity so I try to convince the high class to be part of our viewers. I am also the head of the presenters in my office, so if there is any problem they come to me, maybe you don't like your salary or you have a problem. So when people see me on TV they think that is where it ends but it goes beyond that. I also do a lot of travelling I am always ready because the job keeps you on the run. So I am always prepared in my car; I have my clothes and my shoes anywhere you send me I am going there right away.
So how do you have time for yourself?
The only time I have is when am reading between 1am and 3am. I love reading and I also love to write, I hope to write a book one day. I am not a professional writer but when you see some of the things I have written you will know that I can control the pen.
Are you planning to get married soon?
No. I am not thinking of it right now. I think I am more concerned about what I can make out of myself because no woman wants to move into a man's house when he cannot take care of her. I am still a hustler and I plan to adopt kids because I love kids. Once in awhile I go SOS village. Marriage is about commitment and tolerance. I may consider marriage probably when I am 32. I need someone that we share things in common, someone that we can go to the salon together and not tell me that her friends would start complaining. Most girls I have met tried to change me but I need someone who will take me for who I am. Most of them are just in love with the Denrele they see on TV but when they see me they can't handle me.
So what do you intend to achieve in the industry?
It is being part of people's success story. I might not be the richest man in the world but then when I get the respect that I deserve from the people I help it is encouraging.
How true is the rumour that you are gay?
I like controversies so let them say whatever pleases them. But for me good publicity is good publicity, bad publicity is good publicity but no publicity is bad publicity.
If you had the opportunity to turn back the hand of time what would you want to correct?
I wish I could get younger so that I can do more than I did in my time.
What advice do you have for upcoming artistes?
They can be better than me because the industry is not for only one person.