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The Big Fat Nigerian Wedding




An opulent Nigerian wedding – opulent with a capital ‘O’ – is on at Blenheim Palace, in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill in England.

Guests pour in at the venue in a fleet of luxury cars wearing the official dress code – black tie and evening gown. The venue, immaculately decorated with a million white roses, is an impressive masterpiece of Baroque architecture providing awe-inspiring views for the 400 guests lucky enough to be handpicked for the event

The union between Folarin Alakija, son of Nigeria’s richest woman Folorunso Alakija with an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion according to FORBES, and Nazanin Jafarian Ghaissarifar, has been the talk of town ever since their traditional wedding at the Oriental Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos, a couple of months earlier.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and a host of high-net worth guests slowly trickle into the Marlborough Room, with its beautiful double-vaulted ceiling and two stunning chandeliers.

The floral arrangements, designed by celebrity florist Jeff Leatham, who frequently designs flowers for the stars, including Oprah Winfrey, left his trademark touch turning the hall into the scene of a beautiful fairy tale.

Blenheim Palace (Photo supplied)

Guests were treated to a lavish five-course menu and as the night drew to an end, the fireworks display provided the perfect backdrop for American pop star, Robin Thicke, who wowed the crowds to a private performance of his hits before the 12-foot cake was cut.

“Weddings in Nigeria are a big deal and the bigger your name, the harder you have to go to make sure no stone is left unturned. This is your reputation. People will come only to see how lavish or basic your wedding is and the blogs will do a very good job of publicizing every single detail for the rest of the world to see. It has become a reputation maker or killer,” says Bunmi Ajao, founder of Elite Events in Lagos.

The wedding industry has seen a significant rise in Africa’s most populous economy.

According to a recent report by TNS Global, of some $17 million spent on parties in Lagos over a five-month period in 2014, at least one-fifth was attributed to weddings. However, Nigeria has had its fair share of challenges in recent years. Reuters estimates that the economy shrank by 1.5% in 2016 for its first annual contraction in 25 years due to lower revenues from oil and a shortage of hard currency.

But when it comes to spending on that special day, it seems the show must still go on.

“We can’t stop getting married just because there is a recession in the country. It is a lie! It cannot happen. Nigerians love life and weddings are the best ways for us to celebrate the love we have for one another. It is about the entire family coming together to share in the joy of their loved ones. The budgets range from as little as $5,000 to $1 million sometimes and it just depends on what you want,” says Ajao.

After five years in the wedding planning business, the 35 year old, knows just how important it is to get the little details right.

“It is all about planning. I work with so many color-coded excel sheets that track everything from catering, to logistics, to designers and even floral arrangements. But at the end of the day, no matter how well you plan, you cannot avert the last minute drama that comes with the job,” she says.

This is something she learned last year when an ice sculpture ordered by a client began melting before the wedding ceremony began.

“We had to think on our feet. The sculpture was flown in from Dubai that morning and due to African timing, we were running about two hours late and the power supply that was keeping the ice went off suddenly!”

The disaster was averted when she secured a secondary freezer to keep the ice sculpture intact until the nuptials. According to Ajao, Nigeria has at least two weddings every weekend. Depending on the tribe and religion, typical modern day weddings in Nigeria comprise of the introduction, traditional rites, court rites and religious rites.

The lavish scale and style of a Nigerian wedding (Photo by Leon Sadiki/City Press via Gallo Images)

The magic of every union has to be captured on film, and this trend has given rise to a mini-industry of wedding photographers and filmmakers.

“Weddings are my main bread and butter. You should never underestimate how important the big day is for clients and it is my job to capture every moment of the special occasion which stays with the couple for the rest of their lives,” says Adesina Adegbola, a wedding photographer. He charges anywhere from $500 to $5,000.

Post-production memories cannot look staged and as a result most families spend thousands of dollars to book photographers who can take candid pictures.

“Most couples are looking for videographers who can produce documentary-style films that are a perfect blend of emotion and laughter and something they can keep in their archives forever. That is where I come in,” says Paul Yusuf, the founder of Epro films.

“My job is to capture moments on video that last forever for the couple and it is something I take very seriously.”

Trust and discretion are at the core of his success. These traits are all the more crucial when couples choose people who can capture their special day for eternity.

“It is something you cannot get wrong. After we shoot the video footage, we need to now spend hours in post-production to ensure we provide the best memories from the wedding. It is our job to capture moments the couple may not be able to see because they are too busy during the occasion,” says Yusuf.

Nigerian weddings are also breaking geographical boundaries and it is quite common for couples to tie the knot in Italy, United States, France and even Spain. This has also presented an opportunity for ancillary services in the country.

“We offer great travel packages for those looking to take their wedding outside Nigeria to that special location. Every week we see several couples enquiring about their honeymoon destinations. Dubai is becoming quite a favorite for most Nigerians as well as the Seychelles,” says Frank Bonsu, owner of BCD Travel and Tours.

“Destination weddings are the new thing in Nigeria. Last year we had a client fly out his family to Lake Como for a beautiful wedding and we also had another wedding in Las Vegas. People want memorable experiences and if they can afford it, they usually get what they want for that special day,” says Ajao.

Then comes the styling.

“Our wedding range is probably our most sought-after collection for both men and women,” says Nigeria’s leading fashion designer Mai Atafo. The Mai Atafo Inspired brand has been providing lavish wedding gowns for Nigerians for almost a decade and even in recessionary times, it seems business is still booming.


Money seen on the floor at a Nigerian wedding (Photo by Leon Sadiki/City Press via Gallo Images)

His pieces cost anything from $1,000 to $10,000 depending on your budget.

“We all want a fairy tale wedding and to get that, you need to dress the part… For that one special day, everything needs to be perfect and it is my job to make sure every single client is 100 percent satisfied when they leave our shop,” he says.

From lavish destinations to private performances from the world’s biggest celebrities, weddings in Nigeria continue to be a sign of social status, which shows no sign of slowing down even in an extremely challenging economic climate. As more and more weekends get booked by couples looking to tie the knot, a lifeline is also being provided to thousands of small and medium enterprises who are increasingly dependent on the business of weddings for their survival.

Current Affairs

South Africa’s Tamaryn Green is first runner-up at Miss Universe pageant




 Catriona Gray from the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe on Monday, the fourth time the Southeast Asian country has won the international beauty pageant.

Gray, a 24-year-old Filipino-Australian model, won the title in the Thai capital Bangkok where the pageant included for the first time a transgender contestant.

“My heart is filled with so much gratitude. There were moments of doubt where I felt overwhelmed and I felt the pressure,” said Gray, who wore a red and orange dress that was inspired by Mount Mayon, a volcano that erupted this year.

Miss South Africa, Tamaryn Green, 24 was the first runner-up, followed by Miss Venezuela, Sthefany Gutiérrez, 19.

Gray was asked during the contest about her views on legalizing marijuana and replied that she supported it for medical uses.

After she was crowned, Gray told reporters the question was “definitely relevant” and “an active topic”, in an apparent reference to the war on drugs in the Philippines that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.

Gray said during the pageant that working in a Manila slum had taught her to find beauty in difficult situations.

“If I could teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face,” she said.

Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, 27, made history as the first transgender contestant in the 66-year-old pageant.

Gray is the fourth Filipina to win Miss Universe and the second in three years. The pageant was shown live on the country’s biggest television network and dominated social media.

Salvador Panelo, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said her win would put the country on the world map for its “beauty and elegance.”

“In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work,” he said.

The Philippines previously won Miss Universe titles in 2015, 1973 and 1969. – Reuters

  • Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Neil Jerome Morales 

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IN PICTURES | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives Nelson Mandela public lecture



“When it comes to history and memory … it’s easy to remember Nelson Mandela, because he is Nelson Mandela. Who determines whose story we value above others?”

This was a question asked by Cathy Mohlahlana, the facilitator of a panel discussion at the Nelson Mandela Tribute to mark the fifth anniversary of his passing.  

Celebrated author and notable feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the keynote speaker at the event hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation at the UNISA Ormonde campus in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 12, 2018.

Before Adichie’s address, the audience was regaled by the sounds of the Soweto Gospel Choir who sang songs such as Thina Sizwe, Lizalise Idinga Lakho, and Brenda Fassie’s Vul’indlela. 

In paying homage to other anti-apartheid activists, the choir concluded their performance with the Peter Gabriel song Biko. The song is named after Bantu Stephen Biko who died in police detention in 1977, and was at the forefront of the anti-apartheid campaign the Black Consciousness Movement.

Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive Sello Hatang also acknowledged Pan Africanist liberation hero Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, who he says was a “towering figure in our history and a man who the apartheid regime tried to erase from memory”.

In recognizing the role played by women in the struggle for South Africa’s liberation Hatang said, “we should also remember that this year is about mme (mother) Albertina Sisulu, and those women whose stories and contributions were distorted an minimized by the structures of patriarchy … We should also remember that this is the year we lost mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela.”

Activist and wife of late former President Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, was also in attendance and listened attentively as Adichie spoke about the power of memory and public imagination. “When I first came to South African ten years after the fall of apartheid, it felt to me as though the past was not yet passed, but that there was a concerted collective resolve to turn away from this truth. South Africans of all races spoke to me of the rainbow nation, and I did not entirely trust this optimism. Well-choreographed as it was.”   

“It felt to me a little too easy … It cannot be so unbearably, terribly tidy this process of peace-making,” Adichie said.

 Sebabatso Moneli and Neo Muyanga were part of the panel discussion facilitated by Mohlahlana.

“We are entitled to rage. We are entitled to anger – to the grief of a painful history. But, we are also invited by history to a breath of stories that expand beyond the stereotypes of slavery and colonialism.

“African history is vast and I believe that part of the freedom that we are looking for, that our true liberation will not be found in the absence of tension, but in embracing the tension of history,” Moneli said.

While interrogating the idea of telling the facts and the truth, Muyanga added, “the responsibility is all of ours … The process of colonization which is premised on the idea of erasing the original memory and replacing it with the colonists’ memory. So history begins with the arrival of the colony as opposed to the stories we tell of ourselves before.”

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From Beyonce To Shonda Rhimes, The Most Powerful Women In Entertainment 2018





Shonda Rhimes may have defined Thursday night television, but she’s now dictating the medium’s future. When the Grey’s Anatomy creator signed a nine figure, four-year deal with Netflix last year, she cemented her place at the forefront of entertainment’s digital future-and pioneered Netflix’s handsome producer paydays.

Rhimes, who created and executive produced ABC hits including Scandaland How To Get Away with Murder, is now developing eight shows for the streaming service through her production outfit ShondaLand.

“We are powerful women and when we say we have power, what we are really saying is that we deserve to have power. We deserve whatever good thing it is that we are getting,” said Rhimes at Elle magazine’s 25th annual Women in Hollywood celebration.

Demanding what you deserve can feel like a radical act.

Worth an estimated $135 million, Rhimes is the wealthiest female showrunner–the person who oversees writing and production of each TV episode-in Hollywood. She has said that her deal, which reportedly includes a base salary of $150 million with incentives that could bump it much higher, is bigger than the $300 million secured by Ryan Murphy.

Rhimes is just one of the world’s most powerful women in media and entertainment effecting change and impacting her industry with groundbreaking deals and inclusive storytelling. Take Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who has helped pioneer Star Wars‘ most inclusive casting yet. Under Kennedy’s stewardship, Kelly Marie Tran became the first woman of color to have a lead role in the multi-billion dollar franchise, playing Rose Tico in 2017’s The Last Jedi.

Across the lot, Dana Walden has seen her power grow in the studio landscape. Following Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the majority of 21st Century Fox, the former chair and CEO of Fox Television Group will also head up 20th Century Fox TV, ABC Studios, the Freeform network, ABC-owned TV stations, ABC Entertainment and several other divisions.

Walden believes more women need to be in decision-making roles at every level. “There must be women in the highest ranks of every organization, and meaningful female representation on every corporate board,” Walden told Forbes last year.

Our recruiting and our training has to be oriented to ensure that we’re identifying and nurturing future generations of female leaders.

Entertainment’s most powerful span Hollywood, music and publishing. As each segment continues to deal with the fallout of the #MeToo movement, women have taken action. Anna Wintour, who continues to control Vogue, suspended photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino amid sexual misconduct charges and set a code of conduct for models and photographers.

Wintour teamed up with music power woman Beyoncé for the September issue of Vogue; she was given creative control over her cover photo and leveraged that power to hire the first African American photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s  126-year history. Another first for Beyoncé: In 2018, she became the first black woman to headline Coachella.

Here’s the full list of Media and Entertainment power women:

1. Oprah Winfrey, Media mogul

2. Shari Redstone, Vice Chair, CBS & Viacom

3. Bonnie Hammer, Chair, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment

4. Donna Langley,  Chair, Universal Pictures

5. Anna Wintour, Artistic Director, Conde Nast

6. Beyoncé, Singer

7. Dana Walden, Chairman, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment

8. Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian

9. Taylor Swift, Singer

10. Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist

11. Kathleen Kennedy, President, Lucasfilm

12. Shonda Rhimes, Showrunner

13. Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

14. Serena Williams, Tennis player

15. Shobhana Bhartia, Chair, HT Media

16. Priyanka Chopra, Actress

– Natalie Robehmed: I’m an associate editor at Forbes covering media and entertainment, with a focus on the movie business. For the magazine, I’ve written cover stories on 


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