Shemilore Eniola: Gospel Of A New Breed
The Nigerian entertainment industry has steadily been garnered international recognition in the last few years. Yet, there seems to be a gap as it concerns children.
The 90’s had the likes of Benita Okojie, Joy Kids and child actors who caught the admiration of the Nigerian population. Yet, today, few Nigerians can name five children in the entertainment industry.
It was this dilemma that spurred our search for child stars. Despite having access to a large network of the internet to personal contacts, the search for child stars in Nigeria proved to be an almost impossible task. Luckily, we stumbled on a few children on social media.
Although we thought we had a break, getting across to the children proved a herculean task. But not for Shemiolre Eniola. The gospel musician based in Abuja who we contacted through her manager Matilda Duncan flew in with her to have the interview. She is popularly known as the kid behind the viral cover of Nathaniel Bassey’s Onise Iyanu.
She sang in a way that one would imagine only a Lara George or a Kim Burrell would. So good was her cover that Nathaniel Bassey reposted it on his Instagram page. This video gave Shemilore a massive following on an account which was hacked. Yet, her manager Duncan, a judge on MTN Project Fame for 10 years and a radio personality, decided to rebuild another one.
“I did not think that it would be rebuilt in three days. She had only 65 people following her when we created it. So I put up this (Onise Iyanu) video and by the time we woke up, we saw over 3,100 followers”.
“We started monitoring the page and before we knew it, we had over 7 thousand follows in 24 hours and it went on and blew up to over 11 thousand in three days. How did that even happen?”, she says.
In the beginning
Shy at first, she warms up to talk about her singing in a funny way that attracts the attention of everyone in the room. “My mum was the first person to tell me that I can sing”.
Shemilore says she was born with the talent but was told she could sing for the first time when she was seven. Her mother took a recording of her and showed it to her friends and family.
Duncan says, “Luckily, we worship at the same church in Abuja so her parents met me and said they would want me to train her. Before then, I hadn’t heard of her, to be honest. I only knew her as the little kid in my church that used to say she liked the way I talk and that was pretty much it. It was not until I heard her sing that I said let’s do this. I said you know what, let me nurture you and promote the brand unlike what happened the last time”.
Filling the gap
In a society where kid entertainers are not taken seriously, Shemilore stands as a potent talent that cannot be ignored. Now, she gets invitations to sing at concerts and churches. Her manage is resolute that latent talent she has will open more doors. “There will be places that her voice will take her to that money can’t”, Duncan explains.
Not relying on the success of her first cover, the importance of hard work is exemplified in the life of Eniola. Despite her age, she loves to aim for perfection. Shemilore is not spared the rigorous training that professionals undergo. Her training includes not eating five hours before singing, not drinking cold water, being cautious of what she eats and practising when tired.
This perfection is also applied to other aspects of her brand as a singer. Her manager explains, “If you go through her Instagram, you’d see clean photos. If she doesn’t like a photo, she’d want it taken down. She likes to aim for perfection even in her singing”.
Life on social media
In the stardom life, no one is exempt from getting carried away. Despite Shemilore’s popularity which spans across continents, there is a need to create a balance.
“Children do not understand when you are trying to get to caution them. They think you are being unfair so I try to be firm and bring her through it all. I tell her look, you have a gift but you shouldn’t get carried away with everything that is happening”.
There are times that her manager has said “no” to a few people concerning a sundry of issues. This gives off the impression that she is overprotective. Yet, she notes that having to say no to the rising star is the hardest for her.
The false absence of child stars
Duncan says that the assumption of the lack of child stars is not completely true. She argues that young ones have not mastered the effect of social media and how far it can push their market fuels the assumption.
Not everyone has the opportunity to be managed by a professional. She thus, advises young talents to get a parent or a trusted friend to manage them and expose their talent on the right platforms. The right people will spread the gospel with the simple magic, a repost.
12-year old Shemilore is not spared the venom of cyber bullies. There are times she gets insulted for her singing or has crude remarks on posted on her page. Duncan controls this by deleting hate comments.
The future for a child star
Until recently, creatives were not appreciated for their works. Rather, the creative industry was seen as a short-lived industry that was not to be taken seriously. As a result, the 90s saw children who had dominated the entertainment industry abandon their established careers for stereotyped professions.
Is there fear for Shemilore’s budding career?
At the moment, school comes first. Yet, she utilises every opportunity [such as her holiday break] she has to be better. “She is transitioning from JSS 3 and going to senior secondary school now. Once school starts, everything will halt. We need a certificate. She is a gospel artiste so it might not be as hard to happen. We are pretty safe”.
Although Shemilore aspires to be a lawyer, she will not abandon singing. Her manager says that there are plans for collaborations in the future with the likes of Cobhams.
But for now, Shemilore will only release “her songs at the right time”.
Creative direction: Chidera Muoka
Photography: Jerrie Rotimi
Styling: Henry Uduku
Hair styling: Tony Aigbogun
Shoot assistant: Njideka Agbo