By Bolu Akindele
2022 has been Eni’s year.
His videos continue to go viral everywhere, cementing his place as an influencer and content creator of value. He has been profiled in local and international magazines—from PAPER to GQ Magazine, Kenga Magazine to Guardian Life. He has been signed by a long list of brands, local and global. He has been featured in multiple local and international campaigns, including the much-talked-about Fenty Beauty Africa launch. His acting debut, a role on Accelerate TV’s web series, Clinically Speaking, recently premiered. And there’s the mother of them all—the unveiling as Crocs’ first Nigerian Brand Ambassador.
And although he has always dreamed of this life, one where he was successful beyond his wildest imagination, he never thought that things would happen for him this perfectly and this quickly too. Not even after he had tweeted at the beginning of the year, “2022 is a year of plenty”.
22-year-old Enioluwa Adeoluwa Prince, popularly known as Eni, shot into fame barely two years ago, in the middle of the 2020 global pandemic that changed the lives of millions of people around the world. Like many other creators during that period, his strategy was to take advantage of the worldwide increase in screen time and social media presence aided by the worldwide lockdowns to create, curate, and carve out his own space and dedicated following on the internet with relatable content. His unique approach was to create punchline skits and hilarious commentary on everyday life while applying his signature lipgloss. In one of his past videos, he’s complaining about the unnecessary small talk that usually precedes romantic endeavours. In another video, he advises his followers on living according to people’s expectations.
None of this, however—not even the amount of hours spent scripting, recording, and editing, or the cost of cameras, make-up and ring lights—guaranteed that he would experience the kind of fame he wanted. “I know I wanted to be famous; I always wanted to work in the media,” Eni says. “But when it comes to fame, one can only hope. You don’t know what will make you go viral, what will make you famous, what will give you your big break,” Eni says. And he’s right. It’s difficult to ascribe Eni’s fame to just one of his videos. He remembers sitting at his desk every morning to shoot his skits, hoping it all adds up. The odds, however, were in his favour; it didn’t take long for the world to catch on.
All of his successes only feel possible because of his dad and mom. His parents—a professor dad and a lecturer mum—had, with their lives, taught him drive, ambition, and hard work. He admits that their thoughtful parenting and constant affirmation created a safe space for him to evolve into what he is now. “When you have so much support at home, it inspires you to be great and successful,” he says.
He has had to put in the hours and make necessary sacrifices to get to where he is now, a trait he ascribes to the singer and songwriter Beyoncé. After graduating with a first class in Media and Theatre Arts at 19, he joined the FinTech company Bamboo as a growth analyst. About a year later, he got in for a one-year Master’s degree in Marketing at Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos. This coincided with the beginning of his online career. In between catering to a growing audience with increasing demand for new content, he had a thesis, assignments, and several classes (virtually, at first, but physically towards the end) that he was committed to. Still, Eni made all of it work.
The day Eni received the email that changed his life was as normal as any other day. Nothing about the day — not the way the sun rose, not the song he woke up to, not the side of the bed he woke up in, not the quiet prayer he made that morning — suggested that his life was about to take a radical turn. And even when he received the email, when his manager had told him about an email from the European Union, he refused to take it seriously until his manager verified and insisted that it was legit. “I just thought it was a scam email at first,” he says. He had assumed it was business as usual — a temporary influencing gig.
It wasn’t until this week, in reading one of the documents sent to him, that he saw the words ‘Africa EU Ambassador’. That was when it became apparent that his life was about to change. “I was mind-blown,’ he says. ‘There were tears in my eyes.” He has been full of joy ever since it was confirmed. There have been moments of spontaneous worship sessions in his room; He’s organised dinner with his colleagues and has tweeted multiple times about a certain good thing that happened to him. “I don’t have two heads; I’m just favoured that this happened to me,” he says.
His path has been unconventional, and this role at the EU confirms his conviction about his destiny. It’s harder, he admits, to chart his course in the industry because there’s no existing template for how to fit the multiplicity of characters he possesses and that his audience connects with. However, he sees it as a crucial responsibility to do his best in blazing that trail. “When you’re the first in these kinds of roles, you do it well so you can show others a prototype and leave the door open for other people to walk in,” he confesses.
This has been the primary drive behind his success all along. He says that there are people who have helped him carve his current trajectory, who have done the work to open certain doors that gave him the authority to take up space. He is talking about public fashion personalities like Denrele Edun and Denola Grey, who, like Eni, constantly challenge traditional ideas of masculinity in fashion and otherwise. As a result, Eni believes that it is now his responsibility to pay it forward by kicking down those doors to ensure that no other young boy like him feels that there is any limitation in their life.
It is why, just a few weeks ago, he invited ten young men for an evening of brunch, fun, and community, which he had aptly tagged ‘Eni’s Brunch With the Boys. His basis for selection was simple: 10 young men within his circle who, like him, are constantly on the fringes of their communities because they’re not deemed masculine enough. “It’s good for people to see a community and people like them in close-hand relationships, and I’m so glad I was able to do it,” Eni shared on Instagram after the event. Chinonso Nzeh, a 20-year-old writer and law student at the University of Lagos, one of the young men Eni invited, agrees that Eni’s goal was achieved. “I felt so seen,” he says. “There was a tightly knit intimacy and bareness in the air. A certain shell of ambitiousness wrapped itself around me when Eni spoke at the event.” He has also benefitted from witnessing the successes and vulnerabilities that Eni doesn’t shy away from sharing publicly. “Eni is like a mirror, and I [see] much of myself in him. Eni is a dogged person, he’s resilient, strong-willed and hardworking, and if Eni has done [all of these], I can do it too.” Hearing from someone as young as he is who is successful in academia and entertainment helped him understand what many successful people he’s tried to emulate have tried to demystify for years about being successful. “Eni is creating a flourishing network of people, and the security in the community and the idea of knowing that I’m safe and I don’t have to pretend is reassuring”, he adds.
Amidst all these successes though, Eni is still frightened by the immense burden that a public profile of this nature will come with and the critical lens through which every single action (or inaction) will be examined, judged, and analysed. He is anxious about expectations—presence at corporate events, corporate speeches, a prim and proper personality, and fitting into the stereotype of public figures who occupy these kinds of positions, the very thing he has dedicated much of his time as a public figure to advocate against. “If I do something now, people will be like ‘Ah! Ah! A whole ambassador!'” He recalls an event from his last dinner with friends where a friend had jokingly teased him about his new role in the middle of something unrelated, and while he admits that they did it in good faith, he knows there’ll be more of those in his future.
Eni’s journey, however, has been a preparation for this moment. As an influencer, he has been immune from one of the pressures many influencers of his kind eventually fall into; apathy from sensitive political conversations. In 2020, after the Nigerian END SARS anti-police brutality protests that gained recognition globally, many public figures who publicly identified with the cause were listed in a lawsuit, where they were charged with encouraging unrest that led to the loss of lives and properties. Some others could not travel temporarily because their passports were seized, and many others had their bank accounts frozen by the Central Bank, which claimed that they might be linked to “terrorist activities”. None of these has stopped Eni; his voice continues to get stronger and sharper. He has been loud in his condemnation of the ongoing ASUU strike, police brutality, and discrimination of any kind (even those aided by social conservatism). As the country also approaches another election season, he has been actively involved in voter information by galvanising his followers towards obtaining their PVC and making informed political decisions. In his toolkit for dealing with this moment is courage. “Bravery and courage are important to everyone’s existence. I know that these causes I speak against are important, and someone has to do it. Otherwise, everything would remain the same”
He still can’t believe that this is his life. Part of his new routine includes communicating with international partners on the WhatsApp group dedicated to onboarding him into the new role. “Sometimes, I’m speaking to some of the representatives in Belgium, and they’re speaking to me like it’s normal that I got [the role], but it doesn’t feel so to me,” he says. At the beginning of his career, he worried he wouldn’t be taken seriously. “My biggest fear when I started was that no corporate brand would work with me,” Eni says. But with campaigns for Crocs, Fenty Beauty, Cadbury, Mac Cosmetics, Haansbro, Prime Video, Wakanow, and Samsung, among others, in his bag, he says reassuringly as a reminder to everyone who cares to pay attention, “Look at me now. So tomorrow, I’ll be on Instagram with lipgloss on, and I’ll also be the European Union ambassador!”
The work ahead of him is plenty, and he knows that. “I’ve cried all the tears of joy I can possibly cry. I now have a new job; it’s time to get to work,” he says. He is excited about the opportunity to finally have the capacity and necessary resources to influence all the causes he’s passionate about. His focus areas are Education and Economic Growth. He will also commit to marshalling resources into causes that are dear to his heart—foundations focused on women’s causes and diversity and difference.
Eni Adeoluwa believes he’s still, at his core, an influencer—albeit of a different kind—and that not much has changed. “This is even what true influence is — to reach such a height where you can influence important things, and even your other influencers” He now has the opportunity to influence people, ideas, and systems on a global scale. He reassuringly says that nothing else about would change in a bid to fit in. “Nothing is going to change. I’m still going to be myself. That’s important to me—not losing myself—because that’s what brought me here,” he adds.
And he hasn’t stopped dreaming. His conviction that nothing is impossible for him keeps getting renewed with every achievement. With focused eyes and a determined heart, he is trying to outdo everything he has done. He is still working on his lipgloss brand and will resume his PhD programme in a few months. “I know there are still many things in my future,” he says. “I have not made a video with Bretman Rock, and I have not met Beyonce. Beyonce!” he squeals. “I don’t know what is bigger yet,” he says, “but the possibilities are now endless.
I look forward to doing all the work that matters. I know more things will excite me”. “I’m focused on doing the work, and I know it will bring more things my way,” he adds.
For Eni Adeoluwa Prince, it’s a new dispensation. And that’s on periodt!