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On Burna Boy, Fashion, and Celebrity Role Modelling

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By Bernard Dayo

Recently, reggae dance hall sensation Burna Boy posted pictures of himself on social media smoking weed. It was one of those yawn-inducing antics by celebrities that I don’t usually pay attention to, bearing in mind that this isn’t the first time Burna would post such. This time, though, I was drawn to the way he bragged about his exquisite fashion tastes which he believes his second to none. He also said he is the “freshest” artiste.

For me, Burna Boy made a noticeable splash in the choppy waters of the music industry with his near-alternative sound on Like To Party, a single off his debut album L.I.F.E. You may not have noticed it but as he evolved musically, so did his fashion style. In music videos that I have seen him in, either his record or a feature, he repeatedly borrows references from the pastiche of 90’s fashion. I usually think of Will Smith’s character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when I see Burna Boy, say, in dungarees or vintage circle sunglasses. His hairstyle, grown into dreads, unapologetically embodies a rasterfarianism burnished with a funky modernity. There’s a depth to Burna Boy’s style that sets him apart from his peers, but he shouldn’t go acting like he created anything spectacularly new. In his weed-smoking photos he posted on social media, he indicated that most artistes copy his fashion looks. This is coming from Burna whose style isn’t completely original.

I’m still not clear what Burna means by “freshest” artiste and by what metric. If it is in terms of how prolific he has been and staying on top of his game, his video for Hallelujah was released a little over a week ago and it was a fairly good effort. If it is by physical appearance, then this is obviously debatable.

Yesterday, Burna came out to say on Instagram that he is not anyone’s role model. And rightfully so. Celebrity culture in Nigeria usually comes with the expectation for celebrities to be upright in every way, forgetting that they, too, are humans, with their own flaws and imperfections. The society even expects more from female celebrities, putting the “role model” role as beautiful garlands on their necks even when they don’t want it.

The music terrain in Nigerian comes with a lot of competitiveness, and perhaps Burna is only marking his territory. Whatever the case, he should stay focused on the music and keep his eyes on the prize.

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