Artist Health

Celebrities Behaving Badly: Charles Novia v. Seyi Shay and the Little Black Dress at the Channel O Music Video Awards

Seyi Shay LBD2The Issue:
Charles Novia a filmmaker and critic decided to take on British-Nigerian musician Seyi Shay. At issue was her dress style to the 2014 Channel O Music Video Awards. Seyi Shay has a song titled ‘Murda’ that has been a hit single across the continent. Novia, not pleased with what he saw, attacked her via twitter, unlike his usual write ups where his thoughts are more composed. He calls it satire. Many didn’t feel that way and he apparently also realized he was a bit out of line, at least according to his apologies.

Public Relations/Branding Message for both Seyi Shay and Charles Novia.

One of things I have always advised in  representing and consulting with clients both on the public relations and law end is that you always have to be tuned into your brand message. Especially as a talent, you are always  communicating your brand message i.e. who you really are to your audience and the public. Therefore, it matters that you communicate your message in a consistent fashion. Why? Well if you don’t, someone else will take control of your narrative and when they do, it is usually not in the way you would like them to.

Seyi Shay, in general, and to me, has not been consistent with her style image.  Nevertheless, in recent times, she is presenting a more polished consistent image. Seyi Shay LBD

I saw the dress she wore to the Channel O Music Video Awards. For the Nigerian market, it may be inappropriate. For the South African market, probably not.

What she needs to answer for herself are the following questions:

1. What is my brand message?

2. Who are  my core audience?

3. Who are my dressing for? Africa? Nigeria? South Africa (SA)? UK? USA?

Africa, as Africans like to say, is not a country. There are diverse countries and what works in Nigeria will probably and definitely not work in Uganda or vice versa.

For the US, UK, and SA audience, in my view, Seyi Shay pulled off that little black dress. In Nigeria where these images are communicated and where most of her fan base are based, she didn’t .

By the way, let’s be clear. Seyi Shay has a long way to go in still building her fan base. on Facebook, she has a little over 4,000 fans. On twitter, she has 52,000 +. So there is room to really build a strong fan base.

Why does all the above matter? For you the AML artists, it matters because when you control your brand image, it puts you in total control of your own narrative. It’s your story, it’s your life, it’s your brand. Tell your story from head to toe and when you open your mouth in your own words. Don’t let anyone tell that story for you. When you fail to do so, you allow others take control of your narrative.  You guide bloggers,  journalists, and the public on how you want your story said. That’s the core truth of branding yourselves and your messages.

Alright, this leads to Charles Novia the critic and what he had to say about Seyi Shay’s outfit to the Channel O Music Video Awards. Charles, truthfully, the same holds for you. What’s your narrative? Who are you? You can’t just be good at telling other people’s stories through film making or critiquing work. What’s your own story? So far, you sold us the surface story of filmmaking and critic. However, careful because you are losing your personal narrative and as a result you give power to everyone else to depict who you are; and control your narrative.

Getting on social media to tweet thoughts on an important point about Seyi Shay’s brand message was a bad idea. The so called satire got lost in translation and what you succeeded in doing is having people doubt your credibility and begin to lose respect for you. And while we all have bad days, when people see you as taking personal swipes at them rather than focusing on the issue, it is sort of hard to gain their trust again.

There are lessons in this for both sides. In the meantime, AML people review the tweets and let me know if you think Charles Novia was out of line. What about Seyi Shay’s outfit? Is it appropriate for the Nigerian market where her core audience still largely reside/are based?



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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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