By Eniafe Momodu
While there is no shortage of institutions and bodies dedicated to honouring artistic excellence, every film industry has that one event of exceptionally high repute that people both in the industry and outside of it look forward to. In America, it’s the Oscars. In Britain, the BAFTAs. And in Nigeria, it’s the AMVCAs (the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards), which has grown since its inception in 2013 to become the most anticipated event in the Nollywood calendar.
Taking place for the first-time post-pandemic and just two weeks after The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Met Gala was held in New York City, personalities from across the Nigerian entertainment scene were well-prepared to show off their most venturous and most versatile vêtements.
However, the AMVCAs, unlike the Met Gala, does not have a distinct theme intended to guide the attire of its attendees beyond the general ‘black tie’ dress code. On the one hand, this can be seen as a good thing, removing all limitations caused by periodic dress codes like ‘Gilded Glamour’ or locational themes such as ‘China: Through the Looking Glass. However, leaving room for such unbridled creativity also grants guests the opportunity to run completely wild, for better or for worse (and often, for worse).
Of course, this year’s AMVCA carpet was a corset cornucopia, with stylists employing eclectic mixes of diamonds, pearls, ruffles, feathers, laces, silks and velvets to bring an element of surprise to each look. I, myself, wore a custom black and gold kaftan by JZO, inspired by André Leon Talley’s 1999 Met Gala look and several of his signature silhouettes.
‘Royalty’ was perhaps the unofficial theme of the night, with James Brown discarding subtlety altogether in a golden Elizabethan gown, marking her prestige with an exaggerated collar, lacy ruffles and a makeshift baroque crown. Meanwhile, Denrele illuminated the carpet in a fully-functioning chandelier frock, likely inspired by Katy Perry’s 2019 Met Gala dress.
Celebrity stylist Toyin Lawani, who was also the creative force behind James Brown’s Elizabethan look, shocked viewers when she appeared on stage in a diaphanous, inky gown and sultry corset, covering her midriff with her very own pièce de résistance – a sculpted bullhead with hyperbolised horns.
All in all, the AMVCAs saw a wide array of attention-grabbing ensembles, but as you know, it takes a lot more than shock value to land on my best-dressed list. So, without further ado, here are my top picks for the best, and worst, of the 2022 AMVCAs:
Hardly a stranger to body-con, ‘Best Actress (Drama)’ winner Osas Ighodaro wowed the audience in classic Veekee James attire, complete with diamond earrings and layers of tulle for added effect. Held together by a nude corset and bodysuit, the impeccable, glittery details create an illusion reminiscent of Beyoncé’s 2015 Met Gala dress by Givenchy, but with the tight and form-fitting shape that has come to dominate the Lagos red carpets.
Top model Aduke Shitta-Bey shone bright in a custom Idiol Nupo mermaid dress – a spotless mesh of beads, crystals and tulle which draws inspiration from vintage dress styles worn by Latin divas like Selena Quintallina and Sophia Vergara. Finishing off her tangerine look with a flawless face beat and sleeky, braided ponytail, Aduke’s sensually cut gown is undoubtedly one for the AMVCA archives.
On Lagos red carpets, figure hugging-looks often sacrifice drama for shape. Not today. Idia Aisien is having her cake and eating it too. Long-established as one of the Queens of the Carpet, this big-bowed, amethyst-infused extravaganza by Anjy Luminée stole the show in the best way possible, styled to perfection with minimalist accessories and a simple updo.
Turning heads in a royal purple, crystal-embellished suit jacket by Sevon Dejana, ‘Best Actor’ nominee Timini’s message for the night was ‘royalty’, and we heard him loud and clear. Completing his look with Balmain shoes and layered undergarments which tread lightly into Jaden Smith/Harry Styles territory, Timini’s lavish look proved that he is unafraid to step outside the confines of traditional masculine silhouettes, and into the league of Nigeria’s best-dressed men.
In what can only be described as a pure Cinderella moment, Alex Unusual brought a heavenly touch to the AMVCAs in an illusory baby blue dress by Idiol Nupo. The designer, who had set out to create a unique shade of blue that had never before been seen on the Lagos red carpets, achieved this by seamlessly joining three different shades of tulle fabric, with impeccable results.
With her dress, makeup and hair all sublimely coordinated, Erica Nlewedim’s AMVCA look was a sight for sore eyes. Putting the ocean to shame in a turquoise gown by Polish atelier, Slubne (a match made in heaven), Erica radiated pure light for the entire evening, reminding fans of exactly why they fell in love with her, and why she deserves her status as the nation’s sweetheart.
While her red-carpet look may be reminiscent of aristocratic ballroom attire, make no mistake, Nonye Udeogu is no debutante. Only a select few faces in the Lagos fashion scene have the ability to consistently churn out 5-star looks and Nonye is one of them. Blooming on this occasion in a fuschia Mofari dress straight off the AMVCA runway, Nonye makes light work out of dressing up on any given occasion. J’adore.
For her fourth look of the night, AMVCA co-host Bonang Matheba stepped out in a bespoke, crystal-embellished, snow white suit by Sevon Dejana, showing off some skin in a matching corset, and elevating the overall look with a welcome selection of pleated ruffles. Most often pictured in bright and buoyant dresses, this particular look is a welcome departure from her usual silhouette, and a reminder of the South African media maven’s unmatched versatility.
Bolanle Austen-Peters looked like a living, breathing statuette in a custom Turfah gown, created using a lustrous, metallic fabric known as lamé. Completed with a classic bouffant giving high-key Aretha Franklin 1960s hair nostalgia, this gold-plated look was an apt foreshadowing, as the acclaimed director and producer later took home the golden statuette for, ‘Best Movie (West Africa)’ for her original feature, Collision Course.
When it comes to styling men’s suits, it can be difficult to find that sweet spot between monotony and over-the-top. Not for Denola Grey. He’s a resident there. Taking home, the Viewer’s Choice Award for ‘Best Dressed Male’, Denola wore a custom suit by Atafo, which reportedly required 8 days of hand-beading to bring to fruition – a true labour of love. If you ask me, it was well worth the time.
Radio’s it-girl, Simi Drey, here offered her own take on Kim Kardashian’s 2021 Met Gala look by Balenciaga. However, as much as we love a good reference, this particular outfit sticks too closely to its source material, thus coming off as uninspired. Simi’s stunning face is completely hidden away, while the supplementary skirt/train situation fails to elevate the look in the slightest, with the sporadic glittery details only adding to the overall tack.
Certainly, one of the night’s more chaotic ensembles, none of its elements are working for its hostess, neither individually nor as a unit. The dress itself is only a semi-eyesore, but paired with the lingerie, boots and fiery hair, one can only be left wondering… what was the reason, and where do we go from here?
Despite an admirable attempt to break away from the red carpet’s more predictable male silhouettes, this sheeny ensemble proves that a purple and gold combination just isn’t enough to make an outfit look regal. The indigo and white, feather-laced turban can only be interpreted as a nod to Aladdin, and altogether makes the look appear more costume, less couture.
Clearly determined to be among the night’s most talked about attendants, Ifu Ennada hit the carpet in an eerie, skull-filled “transformer” dress. Controversy aside, the ghastly, albeit intriguing, apparel was a strange choice for the AMVCAs, as well as a jarring one. To make matters worse, the former Big Brother Naija-star hit back at her detractors via social media with an unwarranted round of broke-shaming – a childish, and churlish, cliché.
Juju Stories actress and ‘Best Writer’ nominee Belinda Yanga-Agedah had the right idea when she stepped out in a floral, white suit and palazzo pants. However, the styling, which included dark blue lingerie, a scantily-bedazzled midriff and a triple-stacked beaded necklace , turned what could have been a chic red carpet look into an overbearing, and frankly uncoordinated, mishmash.