Akuapem Poloo, Giovani’s memefication, and modern rules of celebrity

The dynamics of celebrity in the time of Instagram have changed. This province of “viral sensation” — previously the privilege of a select few — now appears obtainable to...
Akuapem Poloo and Giovani are exemplars of contrasting traditions of Ghanaian celebrity

The dynamics of celebrity in the time of Instagram have changed. This province of “viral sensation” — previously the privilege of a select few — now appears obtainable to anyone even slightly open to the sort of eccentricities that, at first, expose one to public ridicule. And no, you needn’t already have a job to qualify.

For Rosemond “Akuapem Poloo” Brown, the ascendance has entailed the usual, nothing fancy — just public beefs, choreographed “wardrobe malfunctions” and full-on salacious fashion options, regular viral videos targeting verbal abuse at other celebrities, and recently, a hard-to-watch twerking performance before American rapper, Cardi B. That last action both ended in Poloo’s wig falling off, and Cardi B adopting her as her “twin.” (Unsurprisingly, the scenario has advanced Poloo’s notoriety, and that adjective is now part of her profile).

However it comes, celebrity is the essential currency in 2019. So, seek ye first the kingdom of celebrity, and all other things shall be added unto you — the badge of “social media influencer,” an acting career, endorsement deals, an entrepreneurship epiphany, etc.

And so, during a recent episode of Showbiz 360, among a string of on-air programmes broadcaster Giovani hosts, he throws guest Akuapem Poloo, an unapologetic beneficiary of the accidental stardom that social media affords, the following question: “what would you like to be noted for, in terms of talent?”

Legitimate question. Expected, even — considering the socialite’s shenanigans since first securing public attention years ago (she has constantly been the recipient of devoted online trolling for “clout chasing by any means necessary,” often being mocked for poor grammar, and accused of lacking any measurable sense of social decency and discretion).

The terrain comes with its own set of rules, cardinal among which is this: aim for the shock factor (see Ghana 2Pac, Mr Eventuary, Honourable Aponkye, Shatta Bandle et al). Poloo has harnessed this effectively over the period that she has been referred to as celebrity. It’s how she got her honey business off the ground, landed acting and brand ambassadorial gigs, and today, become the subject of my writing. Instead of advertising her honey brand, or cosmetic line, she opts for the response that will sustain her place as social media fodder. Casually, she pauses from sipping her cocktail, responds “I’m a drama queen,” and resumes sipping — as though her answer had neither invited raised eyebrows nor possessed the potential to.

Giovani subdues his astonishment at Poloo’s brazenness, but holds a composed face, simply repeating her answer. “Drama queen!” We can’t see her face, but we can tell Poloo is nodding. His follow-up question is a chance for her to clarify. What if she goes to an embassy? Is that what she’ll list as her occupation? “That’s what I’ll tell them,” Poloo shoots back. “They know…that I’m a drama queen.” Like the rest of us, the embassies should be abundantly aware by now, she’s confident, that attention-seeking is her shtick.

Giovani proceeds to inquire of her future plans, to which she chuckles “Jesus. Yes. Because Cardi B is giving me an invite. She’s planning to feature me in one of her songs. She wants me to model for her, so Ghana should watch out.” Obviously untrue — at least, at the time of Poloo’s utterance — the statement was engineered by its author to capture the tabloids, and, if you buy into the incurable Ghanaian spirituality, a pronouncement with which tangibility is wrought from wishful thinking.

The host, who has, all this while, squirmed almost noiselessly at the extraordinary details, pulls his glasses further down his nose, his face conjuring up the exact incredulity viewers collectively throw at their screens. Laughter is heard in the studio, from an unseen face (not Giovani’s). Giovani’s reaction is clearly intended for humour. Meme–worthy.

Rightfully, that frame was promptly frozen by a good Samaritan, and floated online together with a clip of that moment in the interview. The meme has since gone viral, proving its utility across various scenarios. Giovani is usually a disciple of Orthodox stardom. His fame has resulted from many years of hard work, discipline, faith, and humility. As a broadcaster, the humour that has accompanied his craft has been deployed mainly via his voice.

Until now.

The meme has courted for him a unique new identity. For many years, the country has admitted to his competence as a humour merchant. So impactful has his style proven that it secured him an endorsement from the great Steve Harvey himself. The American comedy veteran, broadcaster, and entrepreneur, after witnessing Giovani’s ethic firsthand, praised him as a “bad boy” blessed with “content,” and possessing the potential to “make millions.”Anita Erskine, herself a veteran media practitioner who used to co-host a radio show with him has also touted Giovani’s approach. “You have the most unique interview style,” she tweeted a month ago, “A fine and powerful balance of genuine humor, insightful banter and mature composure.” The meme, however, exposes an additional attribute about his comedy: his face, by itself, is just as potent for drawing the belly laugh.

However she arrived at it, Akuapem Poloo is famous now, and judging by her recent actions, demands the perks that attend it, even if her colleagues who reached that point via “legitimate” methods are seemingly bent on keeping her out of their circle of privilege. She alleges that her recent meeting with Cardi B — for which reason her celebrity is witnessing active renewal — would not have happened had she not made the determined journey to the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel in Accra last Saturday, where the American had been scheduled to network with a selection of local celebrities before her Ghana concert. Singer Becca, who reportedly sent out the invitations, admitted that Poloo attended the meet-and-greet uninvited. To Poloo’s mind, it was a calculated attempt to keep her outside their hubris circle, because the likes of her are perceived as an assault on the title of “celeb.” Still, she would not be shaken off like some unwanted insect, insisting that she’s the biggest winner from the Cardi B situation, for she was the one who earned the rapper’s notice and by extension, an international platform.

There’s some validity to that last statement — and Poloo’s style. The indices of stardom, especially internet stardom now differ from what they were even a decade ago, and whether one agrees with the modern routes or not, the era of the Poloos is upon us, and their growing power demonstrates that they have created space at the table, bringing their own seats with them.

In the meantime, though, opinions will continue to be divided over which tradition of fame is worthwhile, and one final question will continue to linger in the minds of many who have viewed the video: What was Giovani’s trick to keeping a straight face that long in the hilarious exchange that is the now-famous interview?

Editor, enewsgh.com

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