Social media creating African stars and zapping stereotypes

Tyra Chikocho
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Social media has been a game changer. It’s impact has been so huge that the term “overnight star” has become a reality for many people.

It’s even more prevalent on the African continent, where content creators are able to carve a niche for themselves that will bring a fresh audience looking for something new.

We have seen the overnight success of Elsa Majimb, who went from sharing funny videos on social media, to then boasting a global audience and collaborations with some of the biggest fashion brands and fashion companies in the world.

Which is why the African Social Star category at the E! People’s Choice Awards has become an important showcase of the best of content creation on the continent.

This year’s nominees are some of the best social media stars and content creators on the continent. Lasizwe Dambuza, Boity Thulo, Mihlali Ndamase and TikTok sensation Witney Ramabulana are representing the country in the category, with other nominees being Nigerian rapper and actor Falz; Kenyan TikTok star Azziad Nasenya; Zimbabwean comedian Tyra Chikocho and self-empowerment advocate Sofiyat Ibrahim aka The Odditty from Nigeria.

Previous winners include Elsa Majimbo in 2020 and Bonang Matheba in 2019.

We spoke to some of the nominees about how content creation in Africa has become such a major career and how social media has helped change the away the world sees the continent.

What does the nomination means for you and your brand as a public figure?

The Oddity: It’s all about black girls! What my being visible is doing for them and how it’s shaking the rooms for more normal black girls who want to show up as their fullest self in the media, but are afraid to.

The Oddity. Picture: Supplied

Social media is a great tool. I’m a digital creator so I definitely owe it to social media to the growth that I’ve been able to attain, but also even with my other job, I work as a communications specialist for a non-profit in the US and it’s the one place that I’ve been able to extend my reach.

Do you believe that the internet and social media by extension, have allowed your career to blossom than it would have without?

Boity: Oh absolutely. The internet has helped us reach people and places we couldn’t before, it has completely changed the game.

With changing infrastructure and the easy accessibility to smartphones, we are literally in the palms of almost everybody’s hands.

Boity. Picture: Supplied

To have the work that I do celebrated on a massive platform such as the People’s Choice Awards is amazing.

I feel encouraged that I’m still on the right path.

Tyra: To be honest, I owe my success to social media, the realisation that social media has power to entertain, inform and even to do business, brought better days for me.

With the lockdowns last year and the whole of this year, the use of social media increased.

Tyra “MadamBoss” Chikocho. Picture: Supplied

That’s when I put much of my efforts in creating a lot of content and my team set a target of reaching a million followers by December 2021, and long before December, we did it.

To a large extent I owe my success to social media, it would have been different if there wasn’t social media.

Has social media changed the way that the world perceives Africa and its inhabitants? Or is there still a long way to go?

Azziad: For a long time, the world saw Africa through the lens of global media houses and international films and TV.

We have so many stereotypes: wild animals everywhere, Africa as one country, and so on.

Social media has allowed Africans to define their space and identity.

We have a lot more people sharing about our beautiful and diverse culture, African dances, music, and food.

However, this is a work in progress.

Azziad Nasenya, Picture: Supplied

You cannot undo years of disinformation in a day.

It would be great to see the cost of the internet go down and to have more affordable smartphones in order to get more Africans on the internet.

The Oddity: I believe that while there has been a shift in perception there is still a long way to go.

You’ll find that even people who are African by identification don’t probably showcase Africa in a way that adequately reflects what my home looks like.

But I’ll be honest, 2021 has put a ton of African countries on the map and I know it’s only a matter of time before we become the blueprint we’ve always been and everyone has been too afraid to recognise.

What have been some of the highlights of your career, especially using social media?

Boity: When I had just entered the music scene, I was having fun with it all and pushing myself to see where I could go.

I felt proud of the sound I had created but I had no idea how well it would be received by the public.

Social media really propelled my work, resulting in several industry nods and some cool awards along the way.

Are awards bodies like the PCAs important to gauge just how much of a success you are and whether you are on the right track?

Tyra: Without a doubt. They are very important in proving to artist like us on whether we are really making an impact out there.

It’s not a joke to be among the nominees such as the ones I’m competing with, those are people who have really made a mark in entertaining people across Africa.

Without winning it, just being nominated has already elevated my career and I already feel like a winner so whichever way, I’ve already started celebrating.

The winner for African Social Star of 2021 will be announced next month.

The 2021 People’s Choice Awards will be broadcast on Tuesday December, 7 at 2am on E! (DStv Channel 124)