Netflix has released its first original African reality show, Young, Famous & African, a series that follows the lives of some of the biggest celebrities in the continent. Although its stars come from all over Africa, the show is based in Johannesburg.
Peace Hyde, one its co-creators, says the show is an opportunity to show the rest of the world “a different side of Africa.”
“When you see a lot of the Western depictions of Africa, in a positive light, it’s usually tapping into our rich culture, our heritage, our traditions, our clothes, our food,” she tells Quartz. “But I really would love to see a cosmopolitan Africa.”
The show’s young stars navigate lives filled with drama and scandal in Johannesburg. But viewers also get to see their real-life stories, and what they have had to overcome.
- Khanyi Mbau, a South African actress, television host, and recording artist.
- Diamond Platnumz, a Tanzanian recording artist.
- Naked DJ, a South African DJ, radio host, and record producer.
- Zari the Boss Lady, a Ugandan businesswoman.
- Swanky Jerry, Nigerian celebrity fashion stylist.
- Andile Ncube, a South African radio and TV presenter.
- Nadia Nakai, a South African rapper and songwriter.
- Annie Macaulay-Idibia, a Nigerian model, presenter, and actress.
- Kudzai Mushonga, a Zimbabwean businessman.
- Innocent ‘2Baba’ Idibia, a Nigerian musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer.
- Kayleigh Schwark, a South African footballer and fitness enthusiast.
As the US market becomes saturated, global streaming giants are going after other territories, including Africa. Young, Famous & African is an addition to Netflix’s expanding library of African originals. One of the streamer’s competitors, Amazon Prime Video, recently signed its first content deals in Africa with two Nigerian companies—Inkblot Studios and Anthill Studios.
Reality television is popular in Africa. One of the continent’s most-watched TV shows is Big Brother Najia.
“This tells a lot about the tastes of the mainstream Nigerian and African audience,” says Marie Lora-Mungai, the founder of Restless Global, an advisory firm for African creative industries. “Considering the mass appeal of this type of glamorous, scandalous reality TV show on the continent, it was strategically crucial for Netflix to position itself in that genre.”
For Hyde, a show like Young, Famous & African on Netflix lets Africans shape their narratives, and she hopes it sets a precedent for people from the continent to be “owning their truth.”
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Until the lion learns how to write, the story will always glorify the hunter,'” she says. “It’s so important for you to tell your story. And being able to have a platform that gives the best of Africa the opportunity to look beyond what you see on the surface and tell their own stories is of huge significance.”
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