Sórósoke Downtown: Charles Born
I remember Bible study classes as a kid when we were taught the parable of a master entrusting talents to his three servants before he went on a journey. It was a tale of making do with what you have via investments. Of course, the first servant invested his five talents and got ten back. The second servant also doubled his talents, whilst the last dug his in a hole and it failed to yield anything. I remember growing up thinking that “talent” in that context was a gift from God, only to find out it was a real-life Greek currency all along.
Now, Imagine if someone was given that much talent in the gift/artistic sense of the word. For this week’s Soro Soke Downtown, I sat with Charles Born, a man of many talents who has invested and doubled them over time.
The TV Show Host, Radio Program Anchor, Event MC, Model, Actor, Scriptwriter, Influencer, and Entrepreneur talks about life as a creative extraordinaire.
You’re a man of many talents. You said off the record that there’s nothing you can’t do. Let’s hear them.
I always wanted to be a lawyer whilst in secondary school because everyone thought I was a talker. I found broadcasting in school-Madonna University. I didn’t study Mass Communication, I studied Information Science and Technology instead. I started broadcasting officially during my service year in Enugu. I was interning/volunteering at three radio stations at some point, in addition to my Place of Primary Assignment where I was a teacher.. So, I’d go to teach in the morning, then rush off to do radio at 11am, then do radio somewhere else in the evening and then somewhere else at night. Because I knew that I needed the experience and that was the best way to get it, I dedicated my NYSC days to it. I then moved to Lagos to pursue my dreams when my service was done. My first job would be at Agatha’s Rave TV where I was one of the contestants for a show host; I didn’t win, I was the second runner-up. I worked with Rave TV for three years.
I act and model when the money is right. I love to MC; that’s one thing that you don’t need to pay me anything for, I just do it because I really enjoy it. Content creation started seriously during the lockdown because I had enough time and took Tiktok seriously. Tiktok honestly gave me leverage because that was when people saw that I could act. If you ever see me in any movie or series, it’s because of Tiktok, I didn’t do auditions. I also buy and sell; I like perfumes a lot and the bigger picture for me is to have my own perfume line. I manage a few businesses, I’m paid to supervise them. I do voiceover too; I went for a professional course at the voiceover academy here in Nigeria. So I’m a certified voiceover artist as well.
Seeing that you grew up wanting to be a lawyer, only to switch to a totally different industry in Information Science and Technology. Was being on TV ever part of the plot or was it something you just stumbled into?
I had the epiphany in SS3. I used to hate the news, but I had parents who would always watch the news. So on a particular Sunday, I decided to watch the news. The caster came on air, started reading and I was drawn for whatever reason. I just stayed there throughout because I was really enjoying what he was doing. I remember asking my mum if that was an occupation and she said “yes, they are called broadcasters or journalists.” So I started looking it up. I would watch more news and I got familiar with Amanpour, Oprah Winfrey, and the likes. I spoke to my English teacher at the time and she told me to join the Press Club and in less than a week I started reading news scripts on the assembly ground. I didn’t have the conviction to want to practice it at the time but I wanted to study it.
What’s it like being the industry’s Jack of all trades?
It’s a very hard industry. It’s frustrating sometimes; especially for people like me who tend to have a lot to offer because you also get the “What is your niche?” and “Why don’t you do this and concentrate on this?” questions. However, doing that makes me feel stifled. The creative industry is tough but fun, I really enjoy it. I like the fluidity that I have; the fact that I can wake up tomorrow and be like “I want to create content.” I also like the fact that I could decide to not create anything for a while and maybe concentrate on acting and no one will question me. I know nobody owes you anything in the industry but at the same time, there should be support and real love; we don’t have that.
If you were to pick one career today and forget about the rest, what would it be?
It would be television presenting. I enjoy myself in front of the camera when I’m talking (not acting). There’s an exciting feeling that comes with it. I could be at my worst but as soon as you tell me to come on a show, I come alive.
Let’s talk about your time at Rave TV.
I was hosting the evening show titled Youth Alive. It was a one-hour live show that talks about everything that concerns young people. My time at Rave TV was good; good energy, they’re really fun people. I had a great relationship with the MD/CEO. She really loves me and it made my work easier. She supported all of my ideas. My creativity ran wild.
How did you get into modeling?
I never thought I’d get into modeling even though I’ve always been stylish thanks to my mum.
I was at my friend’s place when she asked me to attend her modeling audition with her. I had no idea what that was like but I went as a supportive friend. When we got there, she asked me to write down my name so I would be allowed inside with her. It was a Mirinda audition and I heard my name called. I tried to explain that I was only there to support my friend but the facilitators were bent on getting me to audition. I told them all I had was an Instagram account which they asked to see. They then asked me if I had any professional pictures; which I showed them. It was a birthday shoot I had around the time. When they asked what agency I was signed to, my friend whispered the name of a modeling agency to me to tell them and I did. They promised to get back to me; I laughed. They did and I got that job. When the alert came, I was so shocked because it was good money *laughs*. I told my friend about it and I decided to take more professional pictures; she even taught me how to pose. That was how I got into modeling. Since then, I’ve worked with DStv, Pears, a hospital, a furniture company amongst others.
What inspired you to get on Tiktok and create content? How did that open doors for influencing gigs?
During the lockdown, I was on my phone. Everyone was dropping Tiktok content on Instagram and I thought to check it out. Just to kill time, I started making Tiktok videos; but then I was ridiculously consistent. I could make ten videos in a day. I enjoyed it so I was at it for a while, posting on my WhatsApp status and Instagram account. As for influence, a betting company reached out to me to make content around their brand. It was my first time doing something of that nature so I didn’t even know how to charge. When they made the payment, I was shocked. Just like with modeling, it was good money as well. Beyond that, however, I just wanted to curate in different ways.
Speaking of movies, how many have you been in?
I’ve been in a few. One Last Time was a movie I really enjoyed being a part of. I was also on an online series titled 360 with Ade. I’m very picky with the movies I’m in.
What would you say your style is?
Different, daring, very eccentric. I don’t like to look regular. I feel like Nigeria, even Africa, kind of puts men in a box when it comes to fashion. You can only wear a shirt and trousers; nothing else. I don’t want that. I’m only just trying colours now, I’ve always been a monochrome guy.
Is there anything interesting coming up; a new project maybe?
I have left TV for a while, it’s going to be a year in October. However, I am making a comeback. I am working on a project and I am excited about it, it’s called Blue Tick. I think it is so original and refreshingly me. We’re currently done shooting and it starts to air this month on local TV stations and YouTube.
Also, I had a collaborative production with my friends and we made a short movie titled Tainted. It is special because we shot the whole movie with an iPhone. We decided to come together to launch our production company which is going to focus on filming mainly with a mobile phone – iPhonography. That plan has been halted anyway as one of us (JayPaul) is on Big Brother Naija currently. We plan to pick it back when he gets back.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
To be honest, when I don’t feel inspired, I don’t do anything special. I think deeply and if it comes it comes. I don’t have a specific source of inspiration.
Is Born really your last name?
I get this question all the time, yes, it is *laughs*. Yes, I am Nigerian too. I hail from Imo state, so I am very Igbo. People think it’s my stage name but it is also my real name.
What’s an average day like in the life of Charles Born?
I wake up at 5:30am and say my prayers. Now, I have to go home that early because I work on the radio overnight. I get home around 6 to 6:30am, have my bath, get ready and rush out again because I have a job I do in the morning. I run a supervisory role at production companies. I am there from 9am and it’s a typical 9-5 job. By 6pm, I start heading back to the radio station. I have to script, look through my show prep, speak to my producer, and do everything I have to do before 9pm when I’m on air again and I’m at that till 1am. At that time, it’s not so easy finding sleep but I try to squeeze it in until 5:30am again. So that is my typical week. I only get to rest during the weekends; that’s on weekends when there are no events to host.
It feels like singing is the only thing you’ve not done. Are we expecting a single from you at least?
Never *laughs*. To be fair, I sing in church; I’m in the choir. I’m never going to go to the studio and record though.
The pressure is more now on young creatives with the rise of social media. As a man who has done a lot, what advice will you give young creatives?
Personally, I don’t like to put pressure on myself because we live in a society that already puts pressure on us. So to young creatives, I’ll say take it easy, take it a day at a time because Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t know what the people you are looking at have gone through. You don’t know how difficult and tedious it was for them to also build what they have. I was with Broda Shaggy and he shared his journey with me. People don’t hear it. I mean it’s okay to aspire but nobody knows the kind of work you put into ensuring that it happens. People only see the end product and don’t know that it was gradual. Just be consistent. Consistency especially in these times can be hard, I am not going to lie. However, if you can be consistent, have a clear-cut vision of what you want to do because planning is key too. Also, don’t limit yourself. Be open to other things as well. It will eventually pay off one day.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as that media personality who, beyond the work, gave people a chance. Anyone could be an artist, media personnel, a creator, whatever. I want to be in people’s memoirs. I want to be remembered for giving people opportunities because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t given an opportunity. That for me is a legacy.