Why Big Brother and Reality Show Runner-Ups Tend to Have Bigger Careers than Actual Winners

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By Ojonugwa Ugboja

ABUJA (Sundiata Post) It is now almost cast in stone that contestants who come second or worse in reality shows like Big Brother and talent competitions tend to rise to unprecedented heights above actual winners of the competition. Be it in post-show popularity, endorsement deals or product sales, many ‘losers’ have sailed on a fairy tale wave to surpassing those who not-so-long ago beat them to the prize.

The third edition of Big Brother Naija, Nigeria’s version of the Dutch television game show, has just concluded with Miracle Ikechukwu emerging winner, many years after the inaugural edition whose winner, Katung Aduwak has remained largely anonymous. It is his fellow contestant, a chap called Ebuka Obi-Uchendu who has leveraged on the platform to attain relevance and celebrity status. Today, Ebuka comperes the biggest weddings and events in the country, including a highly coveted job of hosting the same show that broke his heart 12 years ago after finishing 7th place behind Katung. While Katung secured himself a decent job in management, it is Ebuka who is the most notable of them celebrity wise.

Miracle, Winner of Big Brother 3 with his car.

The previous edition crowned Ejeba ‘Efe’ Michael who choose music as his priority but has invested so much in the past one year seeking a seemingly elusive hit song to justify his musical aspirations, unlike his runner-up, Bisola Aiyeola who hasn’t only landed a music recording deal with Temple Music Company but has featured in numerous promotional videos, Nollywood movies and even co-hosted the finale of just concluded Big Brother Naija Season 3.

Efe, winner of Big Brother Naija 2 with Runner-up Bisola.

This trope is also common in other talent shows and awards events, where the winners vanish almost as soon as they win, and then be completely overshadowed by at least one of the competitors they beat in a given category.

In the inaugural West African Idol, 2007, also one of the most exciting episodes of the musical show, Timi Dakolo finished top, ahead of Omawumi who will go on to have a more illustrious musical career in the following years, while Timi got embroiled in a contract controversy, affecting his music career at that time. For a while, no one heard of Timi Dakolo. But in that time, Omawumi had won awards, bagged telecom endorsements and solidified her place as a top female artist on the African continent.

Timi Dakolo, winner of the inaugural MTN West African Idol.

In a similar manner, the Next Rated Award Category of one of Nigeria’s top music awards, The Headies, was won in 2013 by Sean Tizzle, in the same category that had a certain Burna Boy, who by every means is the most recognizable name of the two in the Nigeria music industry today.

Burna Boy

What does this say about the game and talent shows in general? According to Obi Mike, an Abuja based media analyst, for the talent based shows, the reason can be described easily. When you win, you become the rave, and producers of the show want to capitalise on that. This leads to getting pushed too fast and too hard. With singers, it might involve churning out sub-par album. People can become easily uninterested in such disappointing effort. But for the contestants who finish lower in the ranks, they still have all the recognition, but they can work at their own pace, with less pressure and far more creative control that can help them produce something more substantial.

Another reason according to Mike is that the runner-ups may have simply decided that they weren’t good enough in that field, but have in the course of the competition discovered they had talent in something else. If they invest their time in that new passion, chances are that they will excel.

The winner’s complex can also set in. winners always feel like winners. For some, winning can bring the feeling of absolute contentment, which kills the hunger to work harder. For the losers, they have nothing to lose anymore by trying their hands on as many ventures as possible. The losers want to sustain their fame by working hard for it, and they also don’t want to look like losers all their lives, hence, the passion for hard work, which always pay off eventually.

It is same thing with those born with some privilege. They can rely on inherited fortunes, but those born without one have to labour for it, and if they encounter enough luck, they can even become more successful.

In some cases too, the factors that decide a winner in such competitions do not reflect who is actually most deserving of the crown. In votes and opinion polls, sentiments often override other factors. The contestants who appeal the most to those sentiments can win over those who may be more talented but do not know how to sway sentiments for himself. Eventually, the less talented can win, but might not be able to outshine the runner-ups when it is time to build a talent based career.

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