Before Emmanuel Kalu-Anaga went into the Big Brother Titan house, became Kanaga Jnr and got famous, he had been grinding on social media for a while as a content creator, influencing gigs here and there, modelling, acting, fashion designing, styling, photography, the whole package that defines the ethos of the internet age.
Kanaga Jnr had grown up across Nigeria, spending time in Akwa-Ibom, Lagos and six long, painful years at an Airforce boarding school in Oyo state for his secondary education, where he still has scars and injuries from his time there. His father, who served in the military, instilled discipline at home. Neither he nor his siblings were permitted any time for fun in his strict household.
But his life has changed drastically in the last few months since he climbed up the stage and entered the Big Brother Titan house in South Africa. His namesake fashion brand has become a hit for the nose ring, black nail polish and XXL cargo pant set. He had signed his autograph on people’s bibles recently when he went to church and amassed 329k followers on Instagram. The days of struggling to get likes on Instagram are over, with comments in every post well into the thousands.
“The struggle was a lot. You put out content and you’re out here looking at how many likes you get today. Before the house, it was a bit of a struggle but right now, you already know,” Kanaga Jnr told Technext in a recent interview.
Kanaga Jnr’s journey in the Big Brother House
He didn’t get into the house with connections. He wasn’t even sure he would get into the house. When he had auditioned, he was also spending long hours on the set of the MTV Base IT series Shuga where he plays Kachi in the new season.
“I did that with faith,” he said. After he submitted and he got his first call back, he didn’t tell anybody not to jinx it. Then he went for more callbacks and finally was jetted to South Africa as a housemate. While in South Africa, he said he still wasn’t sure he would get into the show.
“I was like ‘Okay I’m already in South Africa but I still need to climb that stage because it’s one thing to be in South Africa. It’s another thing to come home,” he said.
Why does he think the showrunners selected him to be a housemate?
“Because I’m a natural, neutral, amazing, outstanding, vain being. So different. I mean, not so different. But I just like to speak my truth. I think that’s what they saw,” he said.
While he was in the house, his love interest, the South African, Tsatsii, had put him up for eviction even as she professed her love to him. In reunion shows and interviews after the house, housemates from all seasons have quarrelled over being nominated by people they thought were their friends. But until then, viewers hadn’t seen housemates nominate their love interests. He said it didn’t bother him much because he had considered it before entering the house.
“I would just be like ‘cool’ but I would move. Do you understand? At the end of the day if you did not nominate me I will nominate you. This is like one of the things that you have to do in the house. What is there to hold on to? I’m not a fan of trying to hold grudges,” he said.
But he has learnt some lessons from the experience, including caring for himself even more.
“I take myself out a lot. I admire myself a lot. Like I could literarily stare at myself and just keep saying good things to myself. (I told you I’m vain and I’m not even joking) It has helped me a lot. It has actually built this confidence in me,” he added.
Regardless, he says he is not excessively looking over his shoulders for bad actors who might have come only for what they can take. He said that fame hasn’t made him erratic by time and time again of people trying to jilt them.
“Before the house, I knew who was who. I knew the people who stood by me. When someone is just trying to move in a certain way I just smile because I’ve seen it from afar. I’m not paranoid or suspicious,” he said.
Since he got out of the house, he is reunited with the people he grew up with, including some of the guys who gave him the scars he still carries from secondary school. He says he remembers, but he doesn’t bring it up with them.
“I’ve met most of them and we are cool. And I have some of them who are like ‘Ooh my God, I’m so proud of you. You went into the house…blah blah blah.’ And I’m like ‘You?’ But at the end of the day, it is what it is.” he said.
His conversation with the showrunners of Shuga has also changed. He said it wasn’t bad when he cleared his entire November to be on set and didn’t even know what the show was.
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“They are like ‘Ooh Kanaga. Ooh, how are you doing?’ You know. But before the show, the showrunners treated every one of us as though we were family. The conversation is going to be different. The price is going to be up. I’m just so grateful.” he said.
He is currently working on establishing his footprint in the industries he plans to enter. The Fearless collection from his clothing line has been making sales. He is working on making more pieces for fans to play with.
In the future, he wants to do both ready-to-wear and bespoke fashion. His website is almost off the ground. Soon, he would be bombarding his followers, the Kanaga Force, as they are called, with vlogs of his day.
While doing all this, he is also flipping through scripts for the ones that give him range and going through the details of endorsement deals on the side. He wouldn’t say which ones are on the table but is willing to work with beauty, beer, tech, and sports brands.
“It’s my time. I got Shuga. I got Big Brother. And I’m just saying ‘God continue your work. Use me. Anything you want to do just use me, Lord. This is Kanaga’s time and season,” he said.
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