By Tony Ogaga and Christian Agadibe
For Agharese Emopkae aka A’rese, winner of the maiden edition of talent show, Airtel The Voice, the myriad of lessons she learnt during the short period the competition held in South Africa, has turned her into an ‘adult’.
According to the 28-year-old graduate of Theatre Arts and first child from a family of four, while the show lasted, she learnt a lot from not only her co-contestants but also from vocal powerhouse, Waje, one of the judges of the contest.
The actor-turned singer talked about other issues.
How do you feel about your victory?
I feel overwhelmed and amazed! I am grateful and excited that I won. I just want to say a big thank you to the sponsors and organisers of the show. I also want to say thank you to everybody involved including the audience. I have learned a lot and I have also grown.
Did you exhaust all the tactics you had to win?
Well, I am not sure I tried really hard to show all sides of myself on the show. Just like I sang Nigerian songs, I also sang Western songs.
Was this competition your first attempt?
No, I have gone to many auditions although, The Voice was the first music talent hunt that I have ever auditioned for. Thank God I got this far.
When you were announced winner, how did you feel?
I was like ‘what?’ I was looking the other way and saying to myself, ‘what?’ ‘How?’ ‘Why?’ Seriously, that was what was going through my mind.
How tough was the journey?
Of course, it was tough and we went through so much. We all fought to stay on the show. Every contestant worked really hard and yes, people only see what they see on TV, but a lot of hard work went into this; it was quite tough.
Would you have cried if you had not won?
Why should I shed tears because I didn’t win? I think somebody who gets upset over losing will miss out on the bigger picture. You should ask yourself, ‘why didn’t I make the audition?’ ‘Why didn’t I win the prize?’ ‘There must be something I can do to win next time’. I auditioned 14 times for the first company I ever worked for and I was rejected over and over again, but each time I tried not to feel any hurt and learnt a lot. I was just growing until finally I came around and they saw that I had improved through a lot of hard work. So, everything is about learning and improving yourself.
How was your growing up?
Well, I wasn’t always an entertainer like a lot of people say they grew up dancing and singing for anybody who would listen, but that wasn’t always me. And so, when I decided that I wanted to do it, generally it was all for my family because I have always had their emotional support. They were behind me all the way and that helped build my confidence. If somebody is standing behind you saying ‘go for it, you can do this thing, just keep working hard’, that really makes the huge difference and that is my story.
What next after this competition?
I am going to keep working hard in music and on stage; I’m just going to keep working hard. Nigerians should expect something big from me because I am going straight into the studio to start recording.
Did you see any of your contestants as a threat during the competition?
Maybe, but I didn’t really see anybody in particular. I didn’t really think of other contestants as a threat, because I tried to see them as colleagues that I respect and I can learn from. And with that mindset nobody was a threat. We were just good friends.
Which of the judges did you learn most from?
That was Waje. There are so many things I learnt from Waje but the biggest one is self-confidence and being a strong woman. She made me real stronger (laughter). She has come out stronger than a lot of people thought.
Do you have plans for a collabo with Waje?
Ah, I hope to. Waje is a huge deal; she is a leading vocalist, so I would love do one with her, but I think that would be in the future. Let us see what the future will bring.
Did any member of your family ever discourage you?
My family is a very creative family. My parents have always supported us especially in the arts. And I am grateful that I have parents that would give you emotional support as far as doing something as difficult as entertainment is concerned.
Your last performance was so passionate, what really inspired that song?
I was just so grateful to God for taking me that far. Each week my prayer was just that I should have the grace and confidence to carry out whatever destiny has planned for me. And at that moment, I made it through to the final top 4, I was able to sing that song and just say thank you. It meant a lot to me; I think that the sincerity is what made it ring so deeply.
What advice do you have for youngsters who would want to take after you?
Always be yourself and stick to what you believe in. Don’t be afraid of being different or just being true to yourself.