Adenrele Olufemi Edun is one celebrity with a wild personality and a video jokey who has earned a reputation for being really good at what he does. His behaviour, most times, does not conform with society’s expectations and norms, but the son of a Nigerian father and Indian mother cares less. To him, that is what stands him out amongst the pack. He explains to Oge Ezeliora that if he had changed, people would have said he had been fake all this while. He also talks about his style, the gay allegations and controversies, his relationship with the late Goldie among other issues
• At Times, I Open My Chest and Threaten to Open My Trousers to Convince People I am a Man
Denrele is now fair in complexion. Why did you decide to bleach your skin?
It is powder and photoshop. Of course, I am a little lighter than I used to be. I started appreciating myself and taking good care of myself. Again, my mother is not a Nigerian, she is not African. She is Indian. When I was in secondary school, I used to be very light, gradually, I became dark. My mom used to complain all the time that I am too dark. All in all, I just started taking care of myself with the right ‘products’. Besides, I am working hard now so there is need for me to take good care of myself.
What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done on the red carpet?
I remember way back that there was a particular lady that I asked if she had underwear on and she said no. I asked her if I could see and she said yes. So I opened her blouse and peeped through, it was really funny. Another presenter also tried the prank and he got slapped. So then I realised I could probably get away with anything. Also there was a moment on red carpet when I threatened Senator Remi Tinubu that if she didn’t grant an interview, I would put my leg out and she would fall flat on her face. I could have gotten slapped or worse because it was risky to have said that, but she saw the humour in it.
Talking about your personality. Who is Denrele in and out of the house?
I don’t think there is a clear distinction between the two. I’m the same person both indoors and out there and the way I relate with my audience is the same way I relate with my family. The only side of me I might say people don’t know is that I’m very sentimental when it comes to my family and I’m very strict with my siblings. So I’m just the same person: fun loving, unpredictable, wild and as some would say, humble. I don’t have a personal assistant, a manager or a PR person. I do most of the things myself.
Let’s talk about your family background. Who do you look like and how was growing up?
I look like my mum. She is partly Indian and partly Mauritian while my dad is from Abeokuta in Ogun State. My Indian name is Rajeev Raja. I was born in Hamburg, Germany, and I have two younger sisters that are really so dear to me. I was not born with a silver spoon, but I’ve worked very hard to create one. Although I grew up under a privileged family and at a point life was rosy, then my father lost his job and everything became a reversal of fortune.
I had to leave private school I was attending and we had to move out of her duplex. I remember at a time, we were living in an uncompleted building. Everything was just crazy. At a time I had to live with an uncle; where I was more like a house boy. Eventually I was kicked out of the house in the middle of the night and it was during this time that I felt the need to strive for self independence. And this process of self actualisation started when I was about 11; when I started presenting on Kiddies’ Vision 101 on NTA and Sound City.
I decided to evolve into somebody else. Although I was still a bit shy and I couldn’t put my hair out. I would tie a scarf and afterwards use a hairnet so that my hair would be suppressed. Also, I would wear baggy jeans and shirts because I was little worried about how skinny I was. I felt I look unhealthy and I had a little insecurity about how I looked. But when I gained admission into the University of Lagos, I wasn’t sure and by then I used to wear face caps, but then I got into modeling.
The first person I ever modeled for was Kesse Jabari and that encouraged me that my skinniness was worth something. So I would cut the two shirts and jeans I had then into different designs and make my hair into different styles. Everyone in UNLAG thought I had gone mad. My lecturers were outraged and even my close friends refused to work with me. At that point, I got a lot of negative criticisms. But my parents were very supportive; they knew I don’t drink, smoke or womanise. So they just let me be. But I also had the negative attitudes from some of my family members. All I wanted to do was express my individuality.
Your younger sister, Ronke Edun, also behaves and dresses like a man. What do you have to say?
There are plenty misconceptions anyway. I have two younger sisters. My immediate younger sister has a lot of tattoos. I don’t have tattoos or piercing but this one has plenty of tattoos. You know we are all together; we are a family. Once in a while I can take her shirt, she can take my jeans and because we wear a lot of each other’s clothes everybody just assumes she is trying to be a man. My other one is normal. You know Nigerians: they will forever talk. Leave them to talk their talk. But my sister Ronke is Ronke, Jumoke is Jumoke while Denrele is Denrele. So we are different character wise.
You often give the impression that you would have loved to come as a lady?
This is a good question nobody has ever asked me before. I look a lot like my mother. I know I look towards the feminine side; there is no denying it. People have even labeled my mannerism and gesticulation to my sexual preference but I always tell people, whom you go to bed with is different from who you go to bed as. If I was trying to be a lady, I am deceiving my conscience and living a lie. I am just comfortable with the person I am. I am comfortable with my identity I have built over the years. I am comfortable with the brand that is selling my market. We are in Nigeria; we are conservative people. They frown at what I do but they secretly admire the guts I have and they secretly wish they have such gut too.
But a lot of people believe you are gay and to prove them right, a picture of you and Charley Boy went viral on the internet recently…
Many people have labeled me as a homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual, I have been called all sorts of names. When people see that you are successful in the entertainment industry, they try to peddle some negative stories about you. Maybe they call me names because of the way I dress. When I started out and people began calling me such names, I found it very disturbing, annoying, and demeaning but I laugh about it now. The thing is people tend to look for loopholes when they see you doing well. And since people feel I’m feminine in nature, then they think I’m gay.
But the truth is I don’t really care about what people say because I’m not fashioned according to what the society expects. And also I think for my personality, if I were gay, the news would have grown from speculations and would have been in people’s face. On the part of Charley Boy and me, I was not expecting the paparazzi that came with the picture. I really don’t want to go into details, but it could have been a controversial agenda; it could have a been a publicity stunt; it could have been the real deal and it could have been photo shopped but whatever it was, people should just go ahead and make their conclusions. I just leave people to believe what they want to believe while I keep being successful. When I am asked about my sexuality, I just tell them that I am a sexual outlaw. I don’t think my sexuality should be an issue because I am doing my work very well.
So who is your ideal woman and why are you still single?
Getting married is not an easy decision. I’ll get married definitely but there’s no one in the picture now. I’m searching and ready to mingle. I will prefer someone who would not try to change me and who would understand the complexity that I am. I want someone simple and absolutely free and not intimidated by what I represent
Have you found your Miss Right?
It is a yes or no. I am still trying to understand what is going on. I have been into relationships that the person wanted to change me. Someone even fought me because of my friendship with Goldie. I just wanted her to understand me and where I was coming from. She is a Nigerian but I go with the flow and anything can happen.
On your weird attitude, do you think most women will find you attractive and will you change when you get married?
It will continue. I am not putting up an act. This is who I am. I am happy about it. If I stop, people will think I have been living a lie for a long time and it will be a complete waste of time. It will be better for me to run to a country that is not on the world map. I don’t think I am weird, I am a regular guy and I am really grateful to God for that. I rather retrieve my bride price and send her to her father’s house. She will just spoil my market because Denrele fetches me money.
Do you drink or smoke like most celebrities?
I have never smoked in my life. Drinking? At times I take white wine or I can hold a glass of champagne for four hours and just be talking and laughing and act as if I want to drink it. Before you know it, I would just look for where to throw it away. But I have never smoked in my life.
How about drug? You are energetic and hyperactive. Do you do drug?
(Laughs) Me ke? I no get that kind liver for body at all. The only thing I sometimes take is white wine, which wouldn’t even exceed one glass. My late friend, Goldie, introduced me to it sometimes ago. But lately I have not been drinking. She loved white wine and I started drinking it because of her. There was never a time that I was involved in drug. I guess people just misunderstood what they saw in me. I know a lot of artists and entertainers not only in Nigeria but around the world take a lot of stimulants before they get on stage; to enhance and boost their stage performances, but I don’t because I am naturally a hyper-energetic person. And I thought about it, if I take this thing ‘e go melo me down o’. If I took all the hard drugs I would just be very slow and be looking at everybody. Maybe I think that is what that sort of thing will do to someone like me.
You are very close to the late hip-hop singer Goldie. Can you share some of your memories of her?
(Screams) Hummmmm. Madam Reporter you don come again o. Anyway, we shared a lot of memories together that was so much fun. Since Goldie had been in the industry, there was none of her videos that I wasn’t a part of. We were so close that we practically knew everything about each other. We had the same body proportion, despite her womanly curves. We could both fit perfectly into each other’s outfit especially when I wanted to get something for or her or vice versa. We used the same shoe size. We loved the same taste of perfume and music and we were just so really close.
When were your last moments with her?
I was with her when she came back from the Grammy Awards and I wouldn’t say I watched her die. Rather, I saw her die. I was at the hospital and I saw as she was taken to the morgue and that is all I can remember.
News had it that you were with Goldie when she died how true was this story?
Yeah, we were together. When she came back, she just started complaining of headache that came from nowhere. She started crying and gasping for breath. So we rushed her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. I couldn’t easily comprehend what happened because she had never been sick and the only thing that ever worried her was flu and cough. It was a crazy period for me and I also went through a lot after her death.
Did her family members accuse you of her death?
Well, I believe when you are friends with someone and something like this happens, the family would want to know what actually happened and the only person to give the answers would be the closest friend. Fortunately for me, the day Goldie came back, her younger brother was at my house. He had been around two days before then. Goldie never told me she was coming back that day as she wanted to surprise me. So I’m grateful her brother was around. But as Yoruba, such scenario is not far fetched and more so, the family needed answers and felt there were mysteries involved. So I was in the middle of it all and there was nothing I could do than to live through it.
You were supposed to start a reality show together…
Yes and it had even started airing. Actually, I was approached to do a reality show, where I would be followed for a couple of weeks and it would be documented. So I decided to do it with her because it was at the point when she came back from Big Brother Africa and things weren’t going on too well for her. Many Nigerians judged her from what they saw on BBA. So I felt it was a way to break the jinx and it was exciting.
Sometimes you wear high-heels shoes with funny looks. Have you ever missed your step from your high shoes during shows?
Sometimes this happens but I cover up immediately. Like one time I hosted a show in Port-Harcourt. In fact, I kicked off the show with a head-banging-duttie-whining-spree dance. But along the line, I missed my step and stumbled off stage But as an entertainer, I stood up immediately and completed my dance and everywhere was amazed. I did not believe what I did but I knew I was a professional so I didn’t give up. In entertainment, anything can happen but your ability to continue what you are doing keeps going up.
So will you give up on your identity one day?
I was a bit confused about my identity while growing up. Every day people asked me if I was a girl or a boy. Even at the university, most time, I opened my chest and tell them I will open my trouser too if they can open theirs. We will just end up laughing about it. I like who I am, I can’t give up for anything.
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