The entertainment industry is a lot like a gladiator melee: movement at light speed, shouting, blood, gore and backstabbing….and that’s just behind the scenes. The gloss we see on screen is the result of many sleepless nights, coercion and egos bruised and bent to until they fall in line with management’s personal vision. And then there are the happier organizations where everyone sings kumbaya and gets along like the inhabitants of a Smurf village. Either way, the work gets done and if the stakeholders are lucky, ratings will go through the roof, ad revenue will come pouring in and a star or three will be born amidst the carnage.
I don’t know which of these scenarios best describes what it’s like to work at TV3, but I do know its brightest star walked away from the station this week…and did so with such class and grace that it has left many people disoriented. I’m talking about Nana Aba Anamoah’s voluntary exit, announced this morning.
For the MOM Squad who are unfamiliar with Ms. Anamoah and the recent firestorm she was embroiled in, she is a celebrated (and reviled) news anchor, presenter and football fanatic when she’s off duty. She has worked for TV3 for 12 years and was so captivating as an anchor and host that many say she was the only reason they tuned into the station. About a month ago, she posted pictures online she’d received from a friend, suggesting she was at a match in England. The intent was to prank to her followers. The original owner of the image contacted her employer, crying foul. There was a conference to explain intent. There were mutually apologies from Nana Aba and the “offended” party. Her employer decided to suspend her days later, citing a breach of integrity.
“We expect guardians of our brand, particularly employees who we entrust to deliver content on air to our viewers, to ascribe to the company’s values wherever they are.” – TV3
Some who defended that station’s move attempted to draw parallel’s Nana Aba’s faux pas and American journalist Brian Williams’ suspension over his exaggerated retelling of his coverage of an incident in the Iraq war. He was later forced to recant his claim to have been aboard a helicopter that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003. It’s false equivalence, as Nana Aba was not tweeting in her capacity as a journalist during the prank and as far as anyone can tell, never uses her personal handle to tweet about anything other than football. Still, people drowning in their own ignorance will always grasp at straws to save their argument. In any event, she has walked away from the station, and I couldn’t be more proud of her for this move!
There are a number of valuable takeaways from the cyclone that surrounded Nana Aba, particularly for women work in a field as unsparing the entertainment industry. These are the five I’ve identified:
Never assume your employer has your back
In the early days of Nana Aba’s photo faux pas, a number of pundits (and a strange mix of miffed politicians whom she seems to have bested in the past) suggested that her suspension was divine retribution for her previous sins. What exactly were those sins?
“Her arrogance!” they screamed, eyes blood shot and brows bathed in sweat.
Now as I understand it, Nana Aba has said some pretty funky things about the competition – including calling one a “kontomre station”, yet curiously, I don’t recall TV3 ever getting their integrity knickers in a bunch about in those incidences. Their star anchor’s verbosity about how saccharinely wonderful they were was a feather in their cap, and they enjoyed the show.
Part of Nana Aba’s charm (and repel) is her abrasiveness and propensity to dish, which TV3 used to their advantage…until it did not appear to serve them any longer. The result was the proverbial smashing of a horsefly with a sledgehammer. Which leads to the next point:
Always have something else in the pipeline
Because we live in a capitalist world that forces you to subconsciously hold your employer in suspicion, it is to your detriment to make them the sole provider of your sustenance. When I got my first real job making an actual salary, I worked very and made a show of it. I was the first to open the office and the last to lock up. One day, a co-worker who was ten years my senior (and who later became a good friend) stopped into my office as I was furiously replying customer emails.
“You need to quit working so hard. You’re killing yourself.”
“Naw, girl! I can manage it!”
She leaned in and spoke under her breath. “Look. You know what’s gonna happen if you croak over in that chair one day? This company is going to kick your corpse out find another body to put in it.” Then she stepped away and walked back up the hall without another word.
Sure enough, 8 months later, heads began to roll and I was given a choice: move to Colorado or lose my job. The company dealt in virtual communication, so I didn’t understand WHY I couldn’t work virtually…but that was the point. They needed the vacuum my eliminated salary would create to help put their ledger back in black. They didn’t need me. Oh, but I needed them!
I was out of work for 3 months and depressed. I should have had something in the pipeline to fall back on and so should you, no matter what industry you’re in. Which leads to the next point:
Diversify your skill set and income streams
A pipeline is only as strong as the alloy that forms it. It is imperative to possess and develop a mix of skill sets that will serve the needs of those targeted opportunities you’ve stored in your pipeline. They don’t all have to be related, even though they can touch.
The person I think who has most exemplified this characteristic (as far as Ghana’s entertainment industry is concerned) is Delay. She is a money-making mastermind.
Remember when Walov was a guest on her show and lifted his skirt in order to graciously share a view of his brown twig and berries? (Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like.) The moment earned her a suspension from television as well. As young as Delay was, she had enough sense to have developed a number of revenue streams based on her brand. She has her own mackerel. She has a radio show. I think I heard she owns a retail shop. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) And so although the TV station was her largest platform, it wasn’t – and still isn’t – the only one that feeds her.
If you’re a web developer that can simultaneously manage projects, or the baker who can drive his own delivery truck if needed, you create more value and increase your potential for revenue in the long term, as long as you understand what you’re good at. Which leads to the next point:
Understand your stock
Delay and women who look like her are never going to be on Ghana’s “Most Beautiful” list. Our anti-Blackness won’t let them. We live in a world that sums people up – and women in particular – by their looks. An elderly man can be forgiven, even admired, for appearing on camera with grey hair and a few wrinkles. Women cannot. Women on camera can never be anything but slim, clear skinned, perfectly coifed, young and sexable. Oh, and although sexable, you can’t be pregnant.
The examples of this abound. Nana Ama Agyemang Asante was recently trolled by someone’s lost boy-child for the way her hair looked. A Kenyan TV host was savaged on Twirra for being pregnant as she did her job.
One user tweeted “No one wants to see her ugly, pregnant body on TV!” It got dozens of re-tweets.
Ghana’s golden girl, Anita Erskine, was also very open during an interview on the KSM show about how she got to the lowest point in her career and nearly lost it all because she had started a family and was no longer fit and tight. She spoke candidly about how the calls to host and present were nearly non-existent in those days.
As a woman in the entertainment industry, you have to be twice as conscious about your stock. In some cases, that stock is solely based on appearance. In others, it’s a particular skill. If you have not been hired for your looks, then you HAVE to keep your craft sharp. Delay was hired because she’s a bull dog who can get answers. The moment she becomes meek, we’ll lose interest. Nana Ama Asante’s is her levelheaded doggedness, her understanding of socio-political issues and the eloquence with which she presents arguments. The day she stops analyzing trends and fails to present them in a relatable will be the end of her career. She can’t bounce around on YouTube like Deborah Vanessa – who is a delight to watch – and get paid. Know your stock!
Never be afraid to walk away
This morning, several news outlets announced that Nana Aba was walking away from TV3 in the wake of her suspension and she is handling it masterfully. In the interim another Ghanaian star is awkwardly parting was with his management team and it’s quickly becoming a FUBAR. I’m looking at you, Shatta.
Nana Aba has been effusive in her appreciation for the opportunity the company gave her. She’s gone full Whitney in her decree that she will always love TV3. BUT, she is walking away from a company that did her dirty…head held high and heels on, fresh from a jaunt in England with pictures of her attendance at a Man U match in attired in full slayage. It was a triumphant exit.
She knows TV3 was wrong. TV3 knows they were out of order. All of us know that this 12 year relationship did not have to end this way. There was NO way she could stay. But like any divorce, its best to handle it amicably if you can. You know, for the kids! Besides, you never know when you’ll have to cross that bridge again. Even Ahmed the Clock Kid walked away from the Land of Opportunity, because keeping his dignity intact is far more important than any enticements America could offer. Like Ahmed, this is not the last we will see of Nana Aba, who has already risen like a phoenix!
Therein lies the final lesson.
Have you ever been unfairly dismissed or suspended from your job or school? How did you handle it? Have you ever had to apply any of these lessons in other areas of your life? Discuss!