Cover Stories, Interviews

MTN Project Fame winner, Jeffery Akor special: ‘How my mom inspired me to win’

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After 8 weeks of gruelling trainings and breath taking performances, Jeffrey Akor has been announced as the winner of the MTN Project Fame Season 8 winner. The grand finale of the event, the closing gala certainly delivered on its promise of excitement.

Jeffrey staved off stiff competition from the five other finalists, Deinde Okubajo, Pearl Awa-Agwu, Adanoritsewo Gold Tosanwumi, Olufunmilayo Comfort Arewa, and Emmanuel Anderson to win the competition. He joins the league of past MTN Project Fame winners including Iyanya, iMike, Olawale; Monica, Chidinma and Geoffrey.

Interestingly, the 18 year old graduate of Sound Engineering from SAE Institute, Cape Town, South Africa, is the youngest winner to emerge from the competition since its inception.

Jeff, as he’s fondly called by fans and other contestants, will be the youngest to emerge the winner of the most popular talent hunt show in West Africa.

As promised, Jeffery Akor whose picture will be displayed on the wall of fame with other alumni of the Academy such as Iyanya, Imike, Ayoola, Chidinma, Monica, Olawale and Geoffrey will also walk away with N5 million, brand new SUV and a multi-million naira recording contract.

In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Rasheed Abubakar, Jeff recounted his experiences at the Academy, how his mom inspired him to win..

JeffHow did you feel when you were announced the winner of Project Fame 8?

It was unexplainable, I could not believe it. I am totally grateful to God, it’s all to God and my family and  fans out there, the ones who supported me and the ones who gave me shout out, it’s all to them and God.

How many times did you try before you were finally admitted to the Academy?

This is my first time and only time.

How did you get to know about Project Fame?

It’s something I have always watched, but then I wasn’t old enough to be able to compete for it, until I turned 18 last year. So when they started doing the advert this year, my mom was like Jeff “I think you go for this”. I wasn’t doing anything at home because I took a break from school and I wasn’t doing anything at home so she was like I should go for this and I came for it and here I am.

At just 18, how do you intend to surmount the pressure that comes with showbiz?

The truth is, it’s going to be very difficult and I know that there are advantages and disadvantages because I’m quite young and people will want to work with me. But then the industry is not for the calm, it’s for hustlers so I really need to go out there and meet people, try and go for shows to be able to mingle with people so I can do stuff for myself.

How would you say the Project Fame Academy has impacted your music career?

It has impacted every aspect of my career, singing wise. Basically what I am today is thanks to the academy because I came in here as a raw talent, I was just a normal singer, there was not much to it, it was just me singing. Then I came in here I became a former by God’s grace I am a singer, I can talk better and relate with people much better because living with different people you do not know for two months is quite a task and by the grace of God I was able to handle it well. So going outside there, I know I can handle people much better now.

What was your game plan when you registered to participate at the audition?

I am going to be very honest with you, I didn’t have a game plan, my mom spoke to me and said, “Jeff, you are going in for this competition, just stay focused and believe in yourself and pray to God.” Right from the day I came in here for some reason my housemates called me the chosen one. From the top 24, when I sang all the guys were like “Guy, there is something about you. You are the chosen one”.

At a particular time I wasn’t comfortable with the name and had to tell them to please, stop calling me this name but then I said, “okay, this is actually a good thing”, I embraced the name. And I said since you’ve called me the chosen one then I am the chosen one and I kept praying about it and here I am today. I believed that I could do it and I prayed about it and yes, I did it.

You are going back richer than you came into the competition, how do you intend to spend your fortune?

First, I am a Christian, I believe in my faith, very strongly. So I am going to pay my tithe. And for my mom and my dad, I should be able to help them with something to just say thank you for helping me prosper and the rest of it I will keep to myself.

During the final, when all the runners-up were called and it remained the final to be announced, what were you expecting at that moment?

Honestly, if you watch that video you will see I was calm, I was holding Arewa’s hand and I was vibrating. So, basically, I was trying to put all my tension on that hand, I was just focused and I said God, I have prayed about this from day one and I said I want to win this competition and I just want you to take charge. I took strength from looking at my mom, right from when they started calling the prizes I just always looked at her and she just smiled, she had a comforting smile and she said I should calm down that everything would be fine. I am grateful to her.

Aside you being the winner, who else in the house would you say was a threat?

Everybody was a threat, everyone sounded unique, everyone sounded different, everyone had their strengths and everyone had their flaws. So, someone else’s strength might have been your flaw and another person’s flaw might have been someone else’s strength. We were all fighters this season, everyone of us. There was no favourite, it would have gone anywhere, we are all winners. I am just grateful that I am favoured and I am grateful to become the winner of this show, it’s all to God and thanks to the organisers.

During the show, was there anybody that was evicted that really touched you?

The day Anderson left, I wept because that day I was on probation. I told my mate in the room that day, if I survive this probation I will win this competition. They were like “guy you don’t have an issue, that people will vote for you.” And at that time, I had a bad leg, so, when they called me out that day to sing Godwin for me to dance with a bad leg, I just said okay, God, I’m giving this to you, I am just going to do my best and leave the rest to you. I went up stage with a bad leg and I sang. Then Uncle Ben was like “West Africa, what is Jeff doing on probation”? Immediately he said that my eyes were soaked and I went backstage.

Project Fame has produced 7 previous winners, what are your plans to rank among the best?

First, I’m going to do my best, I’m just going to work as hard as possible to put my music out there and make good music. I want to make music that will last forever, I don’t want to make music that will last months. I want to do very good music and try to meet people as much as possible, meet the right people and know the right producers to meet and you will be fine and be able to market very well.

Tell us your most challenging moment at the Academy?

My most challenging moment was when I was on probation. It was really tough.

So, who was your crush in the academy?

I didn’t have a crush in this place, everybody was beautiful, everybody was handsome. Their eyes were gauged on the ultimate prize, so everyone was head on and focused on winning this competition.

So, tell us about your girlfriend?

I don’t have a girlfriend.

What has been your status on social media since you won?

I kind of held backwards for a bit because there have been massive followers and so many congratulatory messages. I have just been saying thank you, I have been going on thanking people and retweeting and I am so grateful.

When did music start? And how did it start?

Music started for me at 6. I come from a family of three – my elder brother, my elder sister and I. I am the last child, my elder brother sings and my elder sister also sings. I grew up listening to them sing and I just knew one day that I could sing, that’s how it started.

What kind of music should Nigerians expect from you?

They should expect good music, evergreen music, music that will touch the soul.

Who is the first artiste you’re likely to work with?

I will definitely love to work with Yemi Alade, she is wonderful, she is a free spirit, she is positive, she has good energy. And I will also love to work with Praiz, he comes from the same town with me. There are so many artistes, Don Jazzy, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage. They are so many, if I could have all of them in one track I would love that.

Can you tell me what you think makes West Africa Project Fame?

I think it’s God favour. It was more than my performance, it was more than my singing, it’s just God, that’s all I will say.

Your family background?

I come from a family of five, my dad and my mom, then two siblings. I finished primary school in 2006, at Chanise Town Nursery and Primary School. I had my secondary education at Federal Government College, Abuja. I finished in 2012 then by 2014 I went to SAE Institute, Cape Town, where I studied Sound Engineering. I did a HNC course, I am not a BSc graduate yet, I am a HNC graduate, it’s just a one year course.

Your music influencers are the like of Chris Brown, Kin Burell, Lawrence Flowers. So, are you saying no Nigerian musician influences you?

No o, I am a big fan of Wizkid, Praiz. I love Timi Dakolo, he is someone who does great music. Cobhams is a genius, Don Jazzy and of course 2Face. There are so many people.

You love watching football, what club do you support?

I am a Manchester United fan.

What attracted you to Manchester United?

I just like them, I play a lot of games, so from gaming I just like Manchester United. It’s not like I used to really watch football but then I just fell in love with them.

If you were not declared the winner of this Project Fame, would that have had any negative effect on your music?

On my music, I don’t think so. It might have gotten stuck for a bit, like, you went for a competition and you did not win. When I was 13, I went for Glo Naija sings with my elder brother, it wasn’t funny because I know how well we did, everyone thought we would win and we ended up getting nothing and we went back home. It took a long time before I could get over it.

So, when I was coming to Project Fame West Africa, my sister told me that if I didn’t win, she knew I would stop singing for a while – that is what it might have been. I am very grateful to God I think God just saw my heart and said okay, you deserve this.

How was growing up for you as the last child?

I am very close to my mom, we have a very special connection, we have a strong bond, she has always been there for me. She is the best mom ever. My dad is a wonderful man, he supported me from day 1. My father never said”, okay, Jeff you must do engineering.” He said Jeff I trust and believe you, whatever you want to do I believe you will go far. He has always supported me with prayers, with advice. I am grateful to come from a wonderful home where my father and mother are wonderful people and my siblings are also beautiful. My brother is older than me with six years, my sister is older than me with four years but it’s like we are all age mates because the bond we have together is second to none.

How do you intend coping with the female fans?

I am very young, right now, I am not looking towards ladies. I think I have enough time to handle that right now, I am just focused on music. It is not a priority rather it’s a distraction.

Music is a strong tool, what do you intend to do with music?

I will try to preach good message with my music and try as much as possible to inspire people with my music. I want to put words in my song that actually have a meaning that could uplift people, make people feel that they are wonderful. I am a living witness of everyone’s dream come true.

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