Did you miss the 2010 Nigeria Entertainment Awards (NEA) held this past weekend in New York City? If so, today is your lucky day! I’ll take you through my experience at the event from the pre-show to the awards and finally the after party. Let’s go!
There was so much hype prior to the show, a nominees party in Lagos, Nigeria and of course confirmation of celebrities I really hoped to see perform at the event: Nneka and Tuface. On September 18th, 2010 as the 2010 NEA red carpet host, I arrived about 4:00pm, my call time, to begin preparations for my role at the event. Arriving at the Tribeca BMCC center, the venue, I was impressed with the beauty of the theater which seats just under 1,000 people. Red velvet theater seats seemed to say, “welcome Uduak!” as I opened the theater door and made my way backstage. En route backstage, I was greeted by Cos Canino one of the event producers and co-founder of NEA and Kevin McQueen, one of my style team members.
I got the 411 from Cos on the logistics, my dressing room and later met up with another NEA team member who gave me an orientation of the red carpet, among other things. It was finally time to head to my dressing room and let my style team “beat my face down” to get me looking gorgeous for the event. While backstage prepping, I got a pleasant visit from Eku (host) of South Africa’s Studio 53 Extra and her team (think the equivalent of E-Entertainment or Extra TV). They stopped by to chat about the event and the look my style team was creating for the evening. At the background, as we chatted, I could feel the excitement building up as Tuface, Jesse Jagz and M.I rehearsed their performances for the night. Ultimately, when rehearsals where done, the DJ filled the large theater with Jay-Z & Alicia Keys hit song “Empire State of Mind.”
The Red Carpet
My hair and makeup completed and now dressed in a floor length cinched waist yellow dress from Liberian-American designer Korto Momolu’s Spring 2011 collection, it was finally time for me to get on the red carpet and perform. Strutting on to the red carpet, I immediately made a mental note on how the organization of the red carpet reminded me of the 2010 BET Awards red carpet. There was a roped off section where the press stood while celebrities walked on the other side of the roped section, on the red carpet, to speak with press and have their pictures taken. On the red carpet, there were three main spots. The middle was for yours truly, the far right was for Studio 53 Extra and the far left Face 2 Face Africa set up shop there.
The actual amount of celebrities on the red carpet was a bit disappointing. Many Nigerian celebrities I expected were absent. For example, Tuface, Jim Iyke, Agbani, Oluchi and most important for me Nneka. On a personal note, if Nneka was the only one who showed up that night, I would have been so happy and delirious, called it a wrap and went home feeling like I met Nelson Mandela or some great person like him! Needless to say, I am a fan. Anyway, I digress.
While the above celebrities were a no show, the equally remarkable ones who showed were a delight and fun to interview. They included Ebbe Bassey who was truly just “Ms. Personality” and simply delightful. Ebbe just inked a role in an upcoming Law & Order series so keep your eyes peeled for the talented actress. Gbenga Akinnagbe (Wire) was also there. The ever cool M.I who I love interviewing for his articulateness and down to earth personality was present and so was Kennis Music CEO Kenny Ogungbe, J1, Omawumi (another delightful personality), Jesse Jagz and Lara George, among the many celebrities who made the red carpet fun for me. I wish had more time to get into the details with the stars but with the show already running late, brevity was the order of the day.
By the time the red carpet segment was completed, it was time for the show. I actually ran into Ladybrille fans prior to the show who wanted some photo opportunities but also complained about the show starting late. Hurrying off to my dressing room for a change of dress, this time in a Hemma Collection, I hoped the show would more than make up for the lateness. Black/African/Nigerian people, we really need to work on starting shows on time. When the show says 4pm, celebs and guests, show up 4pm not 6pm, “Abegi (please).”
In any event, dressed in Hemma, I walked into the theater and I was, frankly, disappointed with the turnout. At the time it seemed like less than 300 people were present although as the night progressed and the late comers, including celebrity late comers like Jim Iyke, Oluchi and Nse Ikpe Ntim arrived, it might have been say about 500 people. With a huge theater like that, it was hard not to notice the many empty seats. By the way, the commotion raised when Jim Iyke arrived was interesting to watch. It felt like I was at New York Fashion Week and J.Lo waltzed in with her bodyguards while the paparazzi struggled to get a shot. Only, Iyke was no J-Lo and the paparazzi was not as intense. Nevertheless, intriguing to watch.
The Performances Made NEA Awesome
Besides the fact that I had to present an award, I didn’t have much time to stay disappointed on the turnout because practically every artist that came on stage made it seem like they had the attention of thousands. Artists on stage brought their A-game.
Let’s start with Omawumi who was the host. Omawumi was to have Comedian I Go Die co-host the event. Unfortunately, I Go Die did not make the event. Nevertheless, this young woman, who at best seemed like 5ft 4in and with heels maybe 5ft 7in, had GREAT stage presence and superior confidence. The stage was her playground. She engaged the audience, showed a playful and very comedic side to her and really handled herself quite well.
Independent of Omawumi, there were wonderful performances from other artists. Jesse Jagz impressed with his song ‘Jargo,’ J1 got the audience excited, Tolumide showed she is definitely a force to be reckoned with on stage, Omawumi who also performed nailed it and M.I showed why he walked away with Best Rap Act; even though the amazing and now deceased artist Da Grin was also nominated in the same category. The two key highlights for the night i.e. artists that “shut it down,” however, was Lara George and TuFace.
Let’s start with Lara George, gospel singer. “Sista girl,” as Nollywood actor Pascal Atuma likes to say, “SHUT IT DOWN!” George’s performance was one of those unanticipated but really, really, really, like really good performances that had me saying, “WOW! What just happened?” She had her audience all standing up, screaming, some crying and totally turned the place into a worship venue. George hit those octaves when she sang ‘there is nobody like you Lord’ and literally kicked it out of the ballpark into heaven. It was a beautiful performance.
TuFace was the last performer for the night. Although I have met TuFace at a prior event, I had never seen him perform. In a league of his own and definitely one of those music stars that history will chronicle as Africa’s music icon, he brought his A-game. It’s hard to describe the magic he creates with his music. Suffice it to say that his magic filled the air climaxing with some songs from his latest album including ‘Be There’ off his Unstoppable International Album.
Before I get to the After Party, I should say the best acceptance speech was that of M.I. Always articulate , as I indicated above, he accepted his award and gave a beautiful nod and respect to the late DA GRIN.
The After Party
The After Party was held at Pachita at Pacha in Midtown Manhattan and apparently opens till 10am in the morning! For Non-New Yorkers, “you don’t say,” right? In any event, I was a happy camper when I first walked into the club. There were so many guys to a girl, it was ridiculous! 🙂 As the night progressed, it was an even blend of men and women. In attendance was Supermodel Oluchi, Millen Magese, Funmi Alayeimola, Ex-Miss World Agbani, TuFace, MI, Iceberg Slim, Kenny Ogungbe, DJ Dee Money, J1 and many more.
DJ Obi was in the mix but I must confess that while he was good, I kept wishing DJ Dee Money who was also present would spin, one of my favorite Nigerian DJs. I was there till almost 4:30am. About 4:00am, DJ Obi invited M.I. Jesse Jagz, among others, to “say something” to the guests. The next thing I know, it turned into a rap battle between M.I and Iceberg Slim. Slim put out a song called, “I’m I better than M.I” a while back. The rap battle that night followed up on Slim’s track. As one who loves battle rap and from the response of the audience, the answer to Slim’s question was an unequivocal, “No. You are not better than M.I.” The night ended with many still dancing, chatting, and drinking away. Studio 53’s Eku slipped in for even more work, interviewing some of the guests.
4:30am hit and a California girl like me thought, “It’s been a long day, night and morning. Sleep awaits me.” With that, I made my exit from Pachita hoping for an even more awesome NEA Awards next year.
~Article by Uduak Oduok
~Photo description: 2010 NEA Red Carpet Host Uduak with 2010 NEA Host Omawumi