Until you meet him at close quarters, nothing in his face which houses a stubborn-set chin tells you this young man has a lot of depth and guts too. Andre Blaze Henshaw, better known as Andre Blaze is a popular broadcaster and host of the reality show, Nigeria’s Got Talent.
Outside the bling-bling of camera lights and running his company, Parallel Axis Creative, the Linguistics and Communication graduate of the University of Port-Harcourt who is a cousin of popular actress, Kate Henshaw, likes to keep his personal life (including talks about his marital status or the mother of his two daughters) private. However, he shared clips from it with UCHE AKOLISA in Lagos, recently:
Tell us a little about your growing up?
I grew up in Calabar, Cross Rivers State and in Port-Harcourt, River State. I am the son of an Efik man and Ibo woman from Umudioka in Anambra State.
How did you get into broadcasting? How you always known you wanted to do broadcasting?
Yes I did. I started in 2001. I was working as an underwriter for a small magazine…
(Cut in)Was that after your graduation?
No, it was before even got into the university. I was understudying a copywriter on a magazine called Epoch. I graduated from Epoch to working for Rhythm 93.7 Port-Harcourt where I worked for six and half years and I then went to Nigezie in Lagos where I worked for three years and 11 months and then I struck out on my own and created Parallel Axis Creative which is my own company where I warehouse all my creative broadcasting works.
You have done well for yourself within a very short period…
(Cuts in) 14 year is quite a while (laughs)
At what age did you get into broadcasting?
My very first brush with broadcasting was when I was fifteen when I started trying to learn copywriting at Epoch. I was 16 1/2 years when I started working at Rhythm 93.7.
Weren’t you underaged and as such, deemed unfit for employment?
No, I was placed as an intern for two years and eleven months, I think.
How did you get in there?
I auditioned. There was an audition and I went there. There were 16 other people. The station was new in Rivers State and they were auditioning for broadcasters and presenters and I went.
What gave you the confidence that you were going to be successful at the audition?
I didn’t have any confidence that I would pass but I knew I wasn’t going to lose. You either win or you learn. I don’t understand the concept of failing.
Who inspired you to go into broadcasting? You said you also wanted that as a career.
There wasn’t enough inspiration growing up.
I grew up in Rivers State where we had our own rudimentary broadcasting apparatus but it was no where near the 21st century standards. There were not lots of inspiration locally available. I didn’t want to be an electronic journalist in the beginning. I just wanted to be a writer. While writing, people started saying ‘you should actually try saying these things that you are writing.’ There wasn’t enough inspiration for me as I was growing. I wasn’t really looking up to broadcasters until 2005 when I looked up to someone and said, ‘I wanted to be like that guy.’
Who was that?
His name is Loknan Eldee Domain. He was the Head of Department at Rhythm 93.7 where I worked. He is easily one of the phenomenal broadcasters I have ever known. He taught me everything I know. Between him and the late Tope-Brown, I was born pretty much.
You were host of Nigeria’s Got Talent Season 1 and 2. How did you learn to host reality shows?
Hosting is being able to break a crowd into two sections. Section Number 1 is curious people. Curious people will do what they can within reason to find answers to the things they are curious about. The other half of the crowd are the dormant- the participants by conditioning as opposed to interest. If you find a crowd of people gathered in a place willingly, there is always a uniting reason: either they want to know what you are talking about, they came there to see an act on stage.
But every time you see an audience, you need to harp more on what it is they came there to see and de-emphasize yourself, emphasize the significance of the mass consciousness experience. The minute you understand that, you’d know that hosting is the easiest thing in the world.
(Whether you are)hosting reality show, church service or a birthday party, it’s really the same. The crowd might change, the medium might be radio or television but it is really the same thing. You really need to focus on what you are talking about.
How did you get the role in the first reality show you hosted?
I worked on radio at the time. It was a TV reality show called The Hunt; a terrible thing, terribly put together in Rivers State by an independent production by a small media company in Port-Harcourt between 2004/2005. I was a judge. I don’t think it ever aired.
But the show I actually hosted was a TV show for Zain which metamorphosed into Airtel called True Search. Trusearch was a Nigezie/Zain collaboration in 2008 and I was a staff at Nigezie then. Nigezie developed the concept. I got dragged into it as presenter/writer/producer.
How rewarding is hosting reality shows?
It all depends on how well you bid. Creative equity is about visibility, ability to convey the message as well as hold the audience’s attention for a long period of time. Your equity as a creative consultant comes down to your ability to fuse those elements. The better you fuse them, the better your pay packet and the poorer you fuse them, the poorer your pay packet. I am not going to give you the dollar figure(laughs.)
What do you have to say to young people who are not doing anything but want to become rich?
If you are not doing anything, you might have money by illegal means but you will never be rich. Most certainly, you will never be wealthy. A man’s wealth is directly derived from his value to society. Value is king. Everyone has a part of him that the world needs to become better, more efficient. If you add hardwork, patience, persistence to that, you will get wealthy. Illegal money is not money. If you are involved in fraudulent businesses or crime, you are only creating a pathway to your own downfall. None of that stuff ever lasts for long.
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
The best advice I was given by my parent was ‘be patient, work harder and be patient.
When did you relocate to Lagos and why?
That was in 2008. Nigezie was operating exclusively from Lagos. So, I had to move over.
How is living in Lagos different from Port Harcourt?
Same thing. (It is)Pretty much the same weather because, they are both coastal cities.
But Port Harcourt is not as fast-paced as Lagos?
Oh it is! You’ll be very surprised. The thing is that Port-Harcourt is smaller city in terms of population spread. There are fewer people but there is just as much to do. All of the industries in Lagos have representatives in Port-Harcourt as well. It’s a very vibrant place to live. If you are in the outskirts, you don’t understand it until you start to live there and that is where you learn.
How would you describe your style?
I don’t know if I have a personal dressing style. I’m a bit formal, these days. I used to be a snicker kid – I used to wear sneakers and lots of jeans. But I haven’t bought a pair of sneakers in eleven months.
Does that mean that you are growing up?
No, most of my work takes me to interact with people whose dressing culture is representative of their business. I adopted their dressing culture as well. I am more in suits and ties than I am in T-shirts and flip jackets and snickers.
What puts you off in people?
Dishonesty and hypocrisy. I can’t stand dishonesty
Are you married?
Are you planning to?
I am not going to answer that.
How do you unwind?
To unwind I read books, jog, travel and do yoga.