interviewBy Azuka Ogujiuba
At just 20, Shei Yusuf (known more as SheiFunmi because of his popular blog site SheiFunmi.net and blunt essays on entertainment and fashion) flaunts a resume that belies his age. He has worked as a presenter for MTV UK and reporter for BBC. Casting off all inhibitions, Yusuf tells Azuka Ogujiuba about his job and his struggles with bipolar II disorder
Tell us about your job with MTV and at BBC?
Basically I work at four different departments in MTV UK: I present for MTV UK; write and present for MTV UK Wrap up; contribute for MTV UK staying alive and MTV Voice. Also, I freelance as a TV reporter for BBC UK. My work for MTVUK/Wrap involves interviews with Hollywood celebrities that visit the UK either for work or leisure. I have interviewed Rihanna, Kelly Rowland, Drake, Trey Songz, Lauryn Hill, Lloyd and also do entertainment news reportage on a freelance basis. MTV Staying Alive has to with my creative contributions for MTV to further HIV awareness in the UK, MTV Voice aims to lend a voice to English youths, which has me going out into the street of London conducting Vox pops on their dreams and how that affects them and the country. As for BBC, I do freelance entertainment reportage such as interviewing celebrities and event coverage.
What projects do you intend to carry out when you finally relocate to Nigeria?
There is so much I want to do when I return home. I'm presently strategizing and developing entertainment-related projects and ideas that would foster my creativity and by so doing also create job opportunities for youths. Pardon my mischief, but you would have to wait to find out for yourself.
You were raised in America and schooled in London and you are always in Nigeria on vacation; how do you deal with the different cultures?
Growing up in the States was pretty normal and yet fun. I lived with family and attended College like everyone else, so it was a regular experience. I think every individual culture is unique in its own sense and since I've experienced them all, it's just a situation of switching and adapting to every other culture. For example, the way one blogs in the States is different from the way one does in Nigeria and vice-versa. It's all in the details.
You are the founder of SheiFunmi.net, tell us about your website and why you started it?
Sheifunmi.net is a gossip and entertainment blog that I started in 2008. Perhaps an idle hand isn't a devil's haven, because my blog started out of boredom. Back in the States I was a loner, I didn't have friends or much to be occupied with besides school, so I would go on the internet and read stuffs and post songs on Youtube. It was during this time that I decided to start blogging just to kill time. And, as they say, it's now history.
You are one of the most popular male blogger in Nigeria and you also write for some blogs in America, how do you manage your time?
I enjoy what I do as a writer and when you find fulfillment in your passion it's not work but fun. Writing is something that comes easy for me, so I find it enjoyable. Time management is never an issue.
Tell us about what you do for MTV and BBC?
I write and present for both establishment. I major as a media student at the University of Greenwich, so it only makes perfect sense for me to compliment my education with the requisite experience even if it's not a requirement for my study. As a pop culture pundit, I provide entertainment content from a Nigerian perspective for both MTV UK and BBC.
What is Pardon My Blog all about?
Pardon My Blog is U.K's pop culture site that provides entertainment content like my blog does. I was contacted to provide my unique style of entertainment and gossip content and I do. So it's one of the major sites that I contribute for.
How has blogging enhanced news and our reading culture?
The world has got to a point where blogging is now a technological feature that is commonplace. It is accessible, relatively free and readily available and this has seriously put print media on the endangered list. Rather than wait for the daily 7.00am newspapers, news is only a click away on blogs in the blogosphere. Anyone with an iota of internet knowledge now has access, which is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, it's cool to catch up with latest news at any instant, on the other hand, most blogs are run by amateurs churning out contents that aren't necessarily editorial or grammatically effective and this, in the long term, is having an adverse effect on our reading culture. Suddenly, every Jack with a smart gadget is a blogger. People read blogs than they do books (that underwent the rigorous scrutiny of an editorial team). But at the end, the impact of blogs in our lives cannot be overlooked.
A lot of people think that blogs allow faceless persons to drop hate comments on people that they can't confront who might have offended them or whose guts they might not just stand. Why do bloggers publish such hate comments?
First, I think people need a good dose of chill pills in their lives. The world is a free place. People are always free to express themselves however they see fit - either mean or nice. How one decides to manage the reader's perception or comment is another business. The world won't always be a nice place, whether one likes it or not. People would always be mean regardless of their apparent motive or intentions. And what is perceived as hate comments, half of the time, are actually constructive criticisms in disguise. You have a bone to pick with someone? Address it like they did or forever hold your peace.
You are said to be a short-term struggler of bipolar II disorder; how have you been able to manage it?
Bipolar II is a mental condition characterized by bouts of mania and depression. I was diagnosed in 2008 and I've worked hard at managing it. It hasn't been an easy experience because it sometimes affects my relationship with loved ones, but I'm learning and continuously working at getting better. I can say I'm better than I was four years earlier.
Has there been a time when people sometimes thought you had a mental challenge?
Of course, Yeah! I get that a lot even way before I went public with my diagnosis. But that perception comes with the disorder. After clarifying most people usually understand and relate to me better.
What are the symptoms of a bipolar disorder?
There are so many: mania, hypomania, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behaviours such as impulsive spending.
How would you describe Shei Yusuf?
Shei is a regular boy with big dreams. Contrary to popular belief, I'm an extremely shy person but that doesn't mean I can't hold my own when need be. As a loner I tend to prefer staying indoors. I love music and movies. Simply put, I'm an introvert-extrovert with a larger than life mindset.
Tell us about your background?
I come from a very big family. I keep finding out about cousins and distant relatives every day. My family tree is a big interminably-branched Iroko tree. Not surprising given It's a polygamous tree. I'm an only child, for my mother that is. I was born in Lagos, had my primary and secondary education in Lagos. Attended Babcock University where I studied English and was the host of a radio show called Red Alert. I left at 200 level and moved to the US, moved back to Nigeria before going to England for my degree in media and journalism.
Do have tattoos? If yes what does yours symbolizes?
Music note on my middle finger, faith on the wrist, promise on the index finger. The music is depiction of my love for music, the former my belief in God for better things to always come and promise is a reminder of my connection with my mother.
What are the fashion accessories you can't live without?
My shoes: creepers and converses. If legal, I could walk in the nude but not without my shoes.
Are you a car freak?
Nah, I'm not into cars. As long as I'm mobile from point A to B in a comfy vehicle, that is just fine.
Where is your favourite hang out spot?
My Bedroom. I know, I'm boring like that.
What songs do you listen to always that has become your personal anthem?
Emeli Sande where I Sleep
What is your current BlackBerry ringtone.
Put Down by Brandy ft Chris Brown
Who is a sexy siren to you?
That has to be Charlize Theron. That woman is more than a siren; more like a fire alarm.
Do what people think about you make you flip or have a sleepless nights?
Been there, heard it, seen it all, done that. At this point in my life I seriously can't be bothered. I didn't get this far by being bothered by 'he said, she said, they said.' I write about people for a living so why should the table getting turned be a ticker? Have something to say about me? Be my guest, I might even help promote it.
What does love mean to you and are you presently in a relationship?
Capturing the essence of love in words is difficult, but in my opinion I think it's an ideal mindset of total commitment and trust to the person one professes it to. And yes I'm gladly in a fully committed relationship, never been this happy in a while.
What are the five things that attract you to a woman?
Intelligence must come first, a woman with good fashion taste is endearing, while poise, eloquence and fear of God are most appealing.