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Before they became stars: The pains and struggles of Praiz, Ayoola, KCee and Olawale

Posted by News Express | 1 February 2019 | 2,422 times

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•Music and reality show star Praiz


Praiz was based in Kaduna, he was more or less a “studio rat”. He was into music but not really a singer. He used to record live drums for people who came to the studio and wanted to do live recording.

He never thought of becoming a singer until, out of curiosity, he recorded his first demo and played it to all his friends. They told him that it was nice and urged him to record more songs.  His friends also advised him to try out reality television shows, so he went for virtually every reality television show that aired in the country after 2006.

He went to all of them but made no progress until 2008. Reluctantly, Praiz had travelled from Kaduna to Abuja for the auditions for MTN Project Fame, the 2008 edition. He got to the regional auditions in Lagos and made it to the finals as the second runner up. 

Based in Kaduna, it dawned on him that he had a lot to do, especially as he did not emerge as the winner. He had to relocate to Lagos to be at the entertainment hub of Nigeria, where he had to squat with some friends and also begged show promoters to let him perform even for free, but a lot of them refused.

Things started to look good for Praiz after a song he did with MI titled “Epic”. The song became a big hit. But the turning point in his life was when he recorded the song, “Rich and Famous”. That was the song that turned Praiz to the popular R ‘n’ B singer he is today.


Between 2008 and 2012 when Ayoola Ayolola joined the MTN Project Fame, he had gone for about 12 music talent show competitions, but all he met were disappointments.

He attended the audition for Naija Sings twice, he went for Nigerian Idol twice. However, he was picked the second time for Nigerian Idol in January 2012, but he was the first person that was evicted. 

Between all these, he was going for acting auditions and he had some shows,  for example,  he was on Tinsel for about two months. Ayoola had actually been auditioning as an actor since 2009.

He pressed on, he went back to the fifth edition of Project Fame, and he won. Being one of the final three people, Ayoola was entitled to some prize money and a car. He went for the competition on “okada” (commercial motorcycle), but he left in a brand new car.

However, no sooner had he won the show than the reality hit him that the victory would not automatically launch him into success and fame. Even after Project Fame victory, Ayoola at a time became so broke that he could barely afford to eat or buy table water. Due to his poor financial status at the time, he almost became depressed. His breakthrough came when he decided to explore his other talent – acting – to make ends meet. 


Kingsley Okonkwo, popularly known as Kcee, lived in Ajegunle, a surburb of Lagos State, with his parents and siblings. He used to roam the streets in search of someone to support his musical ambition but no one believed in him, no one believed in his talent. His parents did not have enough money to support him. 

After a point, Kcee’s parents could not afford to pay their house rent of 70,000 naira a year and the landlord threw the family out in the cold. The family scattered, members of the family went their different ways. Kcee went to the streets. By then, Kcee and his musical partner, Presh, had already won the 2002 edition of the TV reality show Star Quest.

Kcee and Presh had a Benz190 but being homeless, the twosome would park in Surulere part of Lagos and sleep in the car till daybreak. One day, the car was stolen along with all their belongings inside the car. KCee and Presh, who were performing under the stage name KCPresh, began to move from hotel to hotel and would owe the hotels lots of money, promising to pay when they got a show, but getting a show then was quite difficult for them.

Amidst the struggles, KCee and Presh got a contract from the then governor of Cross River State, Donald  Duke, to be part of the Calabar Carnival. The governor also put the duo in charge of the one -week event of the formal opening of the Marina Resort in Calabar. That was when KCee and Presh started to make some good money which was behind the power dressing both were known for in those days.

But in spite of this good fortune, KCee did not become one of Nigeria’s most sought-after artistes till he sang “Limpopo” as a solo artiste in 2013 – 11 years after he won the Star Quest  Talent Hunt.


Olawale dropped out of school before he won the Project Fame competition in 2013. His case is different from the other TV reality show winners.

Olawale today is a taxi driver and he is proud of it. To him, winning the reality show provided him the opportunity to return to the university and complete his degree programme and go through the National Youth Service Corps programme in 2017.

Olawale says he resorted to driving cabs because a white collar job would not give him time to face his music career. Taxi driving gives him time for his studio sessions and what he loves doing without being restricted because of unemployment.

According to him, since music is not putting food on his table right now, he has to find another source of income so that he can eat, as being a Project Fame winner does not stop him from being hungry or in need of the basic things of life, like every other person.

Olawale never felt embarrassed about being a taxi driver. He plays his new songs for his passengers, just for them to know that he’s keeping his dream alive.

Source: News Express

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