By Benjamin Njoku
When he catwalked into the reception hall of a wedding held in Lagos recently, all eyes were fixed on him. Immediately he stepped in, a crowd of curious onlookers milled around him for photo shots and autograph. It actually felt as if a superstar was at the event but the guest was no other person than Okuneye Idris, better known as Bobrisky.
He might not be as popular as Davido, Burna Boy, Wizkid or many other Nigerian superstars but in the world of social media likes, retweets and snaps, Bobrisky is surely a rising star. Since his emergence on the country’s social media space few years back, he has continued to spread his influence unhindered on the internet
No doubt, the internet is smitten with him. With over forty thousand followers on Instagram, Bobrisky is unarguably the most controversial person in Nigeria’s growing cross dressing community. Last week, a lot of women stayed up all night to watch his aborted birthday party on SnapChat.
Also known a ‘Africa’s Male Barbie’, Bobrisky presently makes a lot of money selling skin bleaching creams. According to Google’s Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Anglophone West Africa, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, he was the most searched Nigerian on google in November 2016. A month after the rating, the cross-dresser reportedly made millions of Naira by charging fans in London and United Kingdom £20 for a photo shot with him.
Through his adopted lifestyle, Bobrisky has managed to rise from obscurity into prominence. Notwithstanding his weird lifestyle which is totally at variance with the cultures of the Nigerian society, the Lagos boy appears not to be bothered with the criticisms trailing his activities on social media. Just few months back, he insisted that the proper pronoun to describe him is ‘she’ and ‘her’. This was after he received several misgendered comments on his Instagram page.
Although he claims that he’s not gay, Bobrisky’s boldness to dress like a woman and put on female makeup is currently inspiring many other cross dressers in the country. From his love for excessive makeup to his vibrant and ostentatious sense of fashion, Bobrisky sure knows how to leave jaws hanging. Before his emergence on the scene, the likes of maverick musician, Charly Boy was perceived to be a social deviant for his cross-dressing antics on screen and at events. But unlike, Bobrisky, Charly Boy didn’t go to the extreme. So also was Denrele Edun, the eccentric, eye-catching media personality who had to deal with questions regarding his sexuality for years.
Over the years, Nigerian has not witnessed a cross dresser proudly strutting his feathers on social media and in public like Bobrisky. He appears to have become a threat to the moral fabrics of the Nigerian society. This growing influence recently got the attention of the Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture,NCAC, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, who has threatened to come after him and his likes. Runsewe aptly described him as a disgrace to the nation.
“Bobrisky is a national disgrace. He started by selling and using bleaching creams, now, he has grown boobs, bums and hips. ‘If a Bobrisky is doing well with his immoral lifestyle, how do you convince Nigerian youths to do the right thing? Bobrisky has the right, but not within the Nigerian environment.
“There are others like him, but they live outside the country. If we don’t address Bobrisky as early as possible, he will form a team that will spread like wildfire,” Runsewe fumed.
Apart from NCAC boss, many Nigerians and celebrities have also expressed similar concerns about Bobrisky’s worrisome lifestyle. Popular filmmaker and founder of the Abuja International Film Festival, Fidelis Duker once called for the arrest of Bobrisky. He also lashed out at those film producers featuring him in movies which he described as celebration of our mediocrity.
According to Duker, those who featured Bobrisky in movies are only exploiting his popularity on social media and not because he is a fantastic actor. Wondering why a man would dress as a woman, the filmmaker stated that it is not the kind of things he would want his children to learn. “We should not glamourise such things. We have children who are growing. As a father, these are not the kind of things I want my children to learn. It is alien to our culture. I don’t see any reason why a man would dress like a woman. Some people defend him and say he is only ‘acting’, but as for me, it’s not appropriate.”
Describing him as ‘a national embarrassment’, Duker said the cross-dresser does not reflect good morals for young ones and as such people like Bobrisky should be properly curtailed. “Can you imagine a man who now walks around dressed as a woman with all the features of a woman. I have always insisted that his irresponsible behaviour in the public space should be stopped by the law enforcement agencies. I am always shocked when I see our women folk troll him including married women. I can’ t explain the madness,” Duker said.
Also worried by Bobrisky’s growing influence, the National Council for Women Societies described transgender activities in the country as ‘despicable and offensive’. The group made the comment in a statement signed by its National President NCWS, Gloria Shada.
Shada said that Nigerian women find the promotion of despicable conducts such as nudity and transgender activities as done by Bobrisky very offensive. “It is regrettable and strange for Bobrisky to publicly declare that he has 24 boy-friends in high places. Rise up to stop this evil before it destroys our children and the future of our nation.” she said.
Ironically, while many Nigerians are condemning the lifestyle of the cross-dresser,which they described as alien to Nigerian culture, majority of female celebrities are known to be his best friends. In fact, 95 percent of those that turned up for his aborted birthday party were his female celebrity friends.
Following the disruption of his birthday party by the Lagos State Police Command last Saturday, actress Anita Joseph threatened to block any Instagram follower or fan who makes an unfriendly comment about Bobrisky on his birthday. The actress later posted a picture of herself alongside the cross-dresser in matching traditional attires to wish him happy birthday. This was also the case with star actress Tonto Dikeh, who posed for shots with him.
For veteran actress, Nnenna Okonta, Bobrisky is some people’s guilty pleasure. “They know that everything he stands for is wrong culturally, spiritually and physically. But he has guts, courage and confidence . Above all, he’s smart enough to turn every little opportunity to cash and he’s smiling to the bank. My concern is that he’s over doing it. There are a lot of impressionable young people out there who can easily be influenced by him and that will not be funny at all,” she stated.
Before Bobrisky came out with aplomb and style, we had the likes of Gauri Owolabi and Joshua Agai. He has since inspired other cross-dressers like Bayo Kazim, popularly known as Funkychacha, who has also walked his way to prominence by dressing and acting like a female. Another cross-dresser, Kazim Olaide, widely known as ‘Seun The Diva’, is following in the footsteps of other more established cross-dressers in Nigeria. Olaide once said the likes of Bobrisky have inspired people like him to come out openly about their lifestyle.