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ViacomCBS: Influencing Youth Expression Through The Culture Squad

By Oreoritse Tariemi
07 November 2021   |   5:30 am
“If you live in Nigeria, you can survive anywhere,” and it’s not by chance. The average Nigerian youth understands the impact of this single mantra-like statement and the nationwide movement that stems from it. The Soro Soke generation has shifted the narrative, creating an online and offline movement that seeks to effect change, a change…

“If you live in Nigeria, you can survive anywhere,” and it’s not by chance. The average Nigerian youth understands the impact of this single mantra-like statement and the nationwide movement that stems from it.

The Soro Soke generation has shifted the narrative, creating an online and offline movement that seeks to effect change, a change that cuts across national boundaries. 

Amid these calls for change, the voices of a select few are heard the loudest; these are the pacemakers; The Culture Squad echoing the demands of the people for all who need to hear it.  These select few are the VJs who sit at the front row seats, not just in determining what sounds go viral, but highlighting societal issues that spark change and revolution in the hearts of many youths. This is The Culture Squad! 

ViacomCBS Network Africa is a pacesetter brand that has given the youths a positive channel to tell their stories, to speak their truth, and set the pace for others to follow. Through The Culture Squad, ViacomCBS provides a safe space, a platform for each squad member to maximise their platforms by bringing to reality the future they aspire towards. 

Folu Storms

Folu Storms. Photo: @mrarilabadi

Commanding attention on-screen, Folu Storms is no stranger to social activism. A trained lawyer and experienced broadcaster, Folu Storms has focused on sharing the global relevance of Africans on TV, radio, new media, and film. 

The “Bold” voice of advocacy in the Culture Squad, she has over time lent her voice and platform to issues of a greater good. Speaking of her acting debut on MTV Shuga, Folu Storms says, “I’m really proud of MTV Shuga as a series. For the past decade, they have successfully been discussing topics that are deemed improper in traditional African societies.”

“But these are real issues that a lot of people are facing. MTV Shuga has found such a clever way of creating content out of that.” She notes that they do not do this as a form of lecture but by creating real-life experiences, allowing anyone who sees it to absorb the message being passed. 

ViacomCBS through its networks MTVBase, BET remains particular about using natural assimilation to pass messages of social change. A great example is a study by positive lab, which revealed that 34% percent of youths who viewed MTV Shuga reported knowing that a second test was necessary to confirm HIV positive status.

“Honestly, nobody wants to be lectured; nobody wants to be preached to. So give it to me as entertainment but let my entertainment be smart,” Folu Storms explains. 

Taking her time to decide what she posts on her platform, she also takes extra time to determine how she discusses things. Explaining what she means, Folu Storms says, “Personally, on my platform, I am very particular about reminding us of how powerful we are. Reminding us of how thoughtful we need to be. Reminding young Africans that we need to stay optimistic regardless of some of the issues we are going through in Nigeria. Whether it is fighting against police brutality or talking about the difficulties of just thriving as a young Nigerian. Recognising that ageism is a real issue in our continent and country. I use my platform to speak on those issues.”

A proud member of the Soro Soke movement, Folu Storms, says a big NO! to buying into the narrative that young people need to be a lot older before they can speak up. 

Young Africans are culture shifters, changing the world’s narrative about the continent, and she is one of these pacesetters. This is why she makes sure to include these narratives in her conversations on her platforms. 

“When I say we are culture shifters, it’s not word of mouth; it’s the reality. When you look at what people consider as cool, it came from us, and it continues to come from us.”

Recognising the role of ViacomCBS and BET in promoting her individualism, she says, “ViacomCBS, especially BET, gave me a fantastic platform to do that. To continue to tell the kind of stories I want to tell in a way that is positive, in a way that is uplifting and enriching for young Africans. Check my social media; you’ll see them.”

If she had to inspire a specific dream in youths, Folu says it’ll be for them to believe in the power of imagination fully and not give up on their talent. This is why she makes sure to encourage youths to be true to themselves and always imagine the highest possible future “because in truth, imagination is more important than knowledge.” As such, she encourages young people to talk about their dreams and discusses their passions with them in meaningful ways. 

Nenny B 

Nenny B. Photo: Idris Dawodu For Guardian Life

For Nenny B, success didn’t come by chance, and that’s why she symbolises the “Hustle” of the squad. In an industry dominated by men, Nenny B is shattering tables and using the parts in building her platform as a VJ to advocate for women empowerment.

Gender inequality, gender discrimination, and the lack of women’s independence are only a few of the issues she feels so strongly about. Empowering women every step of the way, Nenny B understands that the typical African society places a woman in the kitchen where she can be seen, not heard. 

This is why she considers her biggest career inspiration to be “every woman out there.” She explains, “I used to be surrounded by my peers, and we would have conversations about how things were being unfair to us, how there was a double standard, How certain things were okay for men to do, but when it was a woman, it became a very serious issue.” She knew this, and she was ready to take on the challenge. 

The road to success is very lonely, and Nenny B was unfazed; she understood she would lose a lot, but the goal was clear as day. She wanted to create a platform where every woman could speak their truth and tell their stories without being silenced. 

A proud Nigerian, Nenny describes the Nigerian youth as “spiritual,” and recognises that Nigerians are born with bravery. She notes that her journey would be incomplete without the platform ViacomCBS gave to her. “I would forever be grateful to platforms like ViacomCBS,” she says, “where we have certain individuals that have dedicated their life purpose to supporting African youths, and you can see that through the different types of campaigns we have run from gender based violence to us diving into mental awareness.” 

Rather than give the usual personality traits, Nenny B highlights individualism as a unique trait for anyone to be a VJ. ViacomCBS would provide you a platform, but she points out that to use this platform, “You would need to be bold, strong enough to know what you really want to do with the platform, only then can you get to your full potential.”

Using her platform to encourage other women to do better dates back to her days in the university where she started the “Women of Power.” Now, she takes out time from her busy schedule to run private mentorship programs for other women free of charge. 

As she talked about her work in women’s empowerment, she was all smiles, reiterating that she found herself with ViacomCBS and The Culture Squad.

Culture is not lost as MTV Base, and ViacomCBS have created platforms to encourage African culture and remind youths that they’re not alone. 

“They would always be a part of my success story because, at the end of the day, I could never have done this without them.”

That’s not all for Nenny B, as she hints at a memoir and therapy show, all of which would include The Culture Squad as a significant part of her life story.  

Ilo 

Ilowitdflo. Photo: Idris Dawodu For Guardian Life

Slowly carving a niche for himself, discipline, hard work, and consistency propels Ilo to be better every day. This is why he is excited to be coming onboard ViacomCBS, a brand that understands the value of consistency and has committed itself over time to showcasing the value of people. 

VJs remain at the forefront of Afrobeats’ increasing popularity, and, speaking on his craft, Ilo recognises that this popularity has “been a long time coming.” As a VJ himself, he notes that this popularity would be incomplete without MTVBase. “Shoutout to MTVBase because they’ve been around for a minute, and they’ve been one of the forces behind the rise of Afrobeats globally.” 

Ilo takes pride in being a member of the new generation Culture Squad and the global movement that has stemmed from it. However, this reach does not end with music but goes on to include societal issues, particularly those affecting the youth. “These conversations would live long as long as the culture remains.” he reminds us. “VJs being part of that Culture Squad, being able to hold down certain moments that are very important to people,” Ilo says, “positioning the culture squad to be at the forefront of these conversations is something that holds value to everyone.” 

Ilo is living his dream, a dream that dates back to age 9 when he watched MTVBase and basked in the awesomeness that the channel brought to TV screens. From watching others and now being in that position, the brand’s values have not changed; they have become better; he says. 

The feeling is surreal, for Ilo, coming on board the Culture Squad that is effecting societal change has him giddy with excitement. 

As a new member of ViacomCBS Network Africa’s Pan-African Culture Squad, Ilo plans to use this platform to champion positive social narratives like the Soro Soke movement, mental health and gender-related issues. His social activism does not end with calling for change, but also going the extra mile to act on these demands. 

To Ilo, change does not end with the Gen Z generation. His platform, he says, would also be used to influence the millennial and boomer generation. “To sensitise even the generation that came before us, to make them realise that certain things are not okay. You might have been put in a situation where you were made to feel like it was okay, but it’s not okay. And it’s never too late to unlearn and relearn certain things.”

Promising to make the most of his platform as a member of The Culture Squad, Ilo says, “I’m really happy to be here. It’s a surreal moment, and I will use everything within my power to make Africa proud, to make Nigeria proud, to make ViacomCBS proud, and to make my family proud.” 

For Folu Storms, Nenny B, and Ilo, the Culture Squad signifies the dawn of a new beginning in creating social and behavioural change through individual platforms. ViacomCBS channel brands which also include MTV, MTV Base, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central seek to amplify this change by repositioning African culture and narratives, giving the youths a safe space to be themselves.