Nigeria’s very own Star Girl, Teni captured the hearts of Nigerians everywhere with her infectious smile and great personality. Her selling point seems to be her level of relatability and the fact that she never seems to be trying too hard. From her style to her voice to her fame, things seem to come so easily to the insanely talented singer. She is unapologetically herself and this is most obviously reflected in her physical appearance. Teniola is not your typical long-haired, beat-faced vixen. She opts for a laid back, low-maintenance style, complete with her signature durag and baggy shorts. While there have been some naysayers, including music critic Osagie Alonge, Teniola seems to be above the noise.
From the early 2000s with the emergence of the legendary Weird MC, there have been androgynous female artists on Nigeria’s music scene. From MCs like Splash to singers like Wavy the Creator and Teni and even DJ’s like DJ Lambo, the industry has given certain women in the industry space to express and present themselves in the ways they feel most comfortable. If anything, ultra-feminine artists like Tiwa Savage face more scrutiny and policing of their physical appearance than anyone else. While there can be a mild amount of backlash, overall public reception is usually positive or, at worst, apathetic. Artists like Teniola are praised as “real” and “refreshing” while effeminate men within the entertainment industry face constant and consistent criticism on both moral and cultural grounds. Are we simply more accustomed to popular music from a masculine persona? Could that be why masculinity within the industry is seemingly fluid while perceptions of femininity are rigid and heavily policed?
For whatever reason, a society as judgmental and conservative as Nigeria has given androgynous women the space to be themselves and be comfortable while doing what they love. This is a trend that I would definitely love to see replicated in other facets of our society. In a time of so much negativity and fault-finding; a dominant culture of love, acceptance and authenticity is necessary for the progress of the industry.