Like or loathe him, controversial socialite and entertainer, Mike Nwogu, popularly known as Pretty Mike, does not seem to get tired of throwing up stunts that would either put him in the good or bad books of the people. He has done it all and in this session, he speaks about himself and his many controversies.
Many people still don’t understand who Pretty Mike is. Some would say he’s the king of nightlife business in Lagos, others will say he’s a fetish and goes about doing weird things. You seem to be enjoying all the positive and negative attractions you are getting. How does it feel to mean different things to many people?
Funny enough, I actually enjoy the fact that I am a mystery to many people because at the end of the day, I feel fulfilled knowing that people are yet to figure me out. When I pull one stunt and people ask me Mike again? I tell them I had not even started. A lot of people try to box me into the category of certain people but I just laugh.
So you are really enjoying this?
Yes, I am loving it. I have aggressively studied social media to know that it can be controlled whether positively or negatively. I came into the industry having lived in the United States for almost half of my life. When I came into Nigeria, my elder brother and I started a night club business.
Did you leave United States to start a nightclub business in Nigeria?
People keeping asking me why would I leave United States for Nigeria where things are hard but I can tell you that most people who live in the US, no matter how rich or poor they are, want to come to Nigeria. In fact, they have this urge to want to come home but they get scared because they have heard a lot of negative stories and unsuccessful ones too. Even those who had made the attempt to come back, you discover that they usually run back because they could not find their footing. So, for me, I took the bull by the horn. It was not as if it was safe to come or I was sure it would work out fine, but coming from my family’s background, I just had to push it from there and I drove it very hard.
So you came to Nigeria with all those concepts?
From where I came from, it is not as if I had a base here in Nigeria. I needed to drag people to me to keep asking questions about who I am. At the end of the day, because people could not figure out who I am, it was helping my brand to sell, my nightclub was booming and my products were selling. My joy at the end of the day, irrespective of what anybody says about, when I look my account balance, it remains very fat.
Now, let’s talk about Pretty and Mike. Why did you add Pretty to your name?
I didn’t add Pretty to my name. I have been answering that name for a long time. The name has never had anything to do with my facial expression. Growing up among many sisters, the name became a part of me because people addressed my sisters as pretty. So, over time, people would say this boy too is pretty. So, the name clicked. I never liked the name at first because it sounded feminine. Living in the US as a Nigerian-American, people would look at me and say you are doing well. I started driving when I was 14 years old. So, the confidence built and even the self esteem. So, it was not a name I chose by myself, it happened because of where I grew up and the kind of life I lived while growing up.
At what point did you decide to start pushing out those weird concepts and what exactly are you trying to achieve with it?
A lot of people keep asking me how I came up with these concepts. But the truth is that I have over a million concepts in my head that I can deploy any time. So, it is just part of me. The first thing people noticed was the umbrella thing, and that was borne out of necessity. I was a best man for a friend of mine and we were taking pictures but the camera man was taking forever. For some reasons, I had an umbrella in my car, which was supposed to be used for the rain. I pulled out the umbrella because I didn’t want the sun to hit me. The camera took my picture while I was holding the umbrella and it looked nice. When it was time for the groom and bride to dance into the auditorium, and It was getting to my turn, I started thinking of what I could do and how to dance. So, I remembered my umbrella and I asked someone to bring my umbrella. So, I opened the umbrella and everybody’s camera was on me. It was so much that all the attention shifted to me. I think I got more pictures than the bride and groom. I became the cynosure of all eyes. So, it became part of my brand that accompanied to all events I attend.
You have not been using the umbrella, are you not tired of it?
I am not tired of it but I had to stop it because when people see me, they know what to expect. It had become a norm and I didn’t like that. So, I just gave it a break. Some of the acts I pull, I don’t like to pull it once or twice. I don’t like people to predict me.
There was this particular one that placed you in the bad side of the people, which was the leashing of girls and taking them to every party. What necessitated the act?
I have never really shared that story fully. I am writing a book now actually and I am going to elaborate more on that story. That point in my life was a time when all the ladies were my friends and I was managing a lot of girls. I was not their lecturer and I was not a pastor, but these girls keep coming to me for pieces of advice from time to time. I started an NGO at that time because of these ladies trying to showcase the abuse we had on our ladies in our society. You know that sometimes, you may come up with a concept but it ends up in the wrong way. But I figured that if I am catching people’s attention with what I was doing, I have to use what I have to push it.
While the controversy was on, you were said to have been invited by the former Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode. What did you tell the governor about your concept?
At that point, the governor had launched a campaign against violence on women and there was this hotline that the ladies were advised to call to lodge their complaints. But a lot of girls I know could not access the hotline. So, I thought the best thing to do at that time was to create my image and use it to create awareness for some of the girls that were talking to me. I was already solving a lot of their issues and they were all students. So, I came up with the leashing concept, which I actually saw at a show in Paris, France. So, I did it the first time, it caught the buzz on social media. The first time I did it, I did it with an English suit. The second time I did it, I wore agbada and I was supposed to come out with a statement on what I was trying to do, but I couldn’t go far with it. After the second one, it was all over the world, everyone was talking about it in a negative way. A lot of people said I was using a dog chain, but I was actually using a leash but most people didn’t know the difference. Nobody cared to ask if the girls were cooperating with me. Nobody bothered to ask if they did it under duress. What everybody was talking about was the fact that they saw some girls being tossed around with leash around their necks. Nobody cared to know if this thing had been done somewhere else before.
But you were said to have been arrested by the police because of that act, is this true?
No, I wasn’t arrested because of the issue but I was invited. I am not someone that anybody was looking for. They came to my club and they said they were from the governor’s office. So I went to their office and we waited hours for the governor. I had an elaborate meeting with the governor and almost his entire cabinet. It was a big gathering. I told them these girls were not under duress. This was an act that we pulled. The petition that was written was that I forced them, enslaved them, chained them and paraded them in public and sell them off against their will. We were all having fun but the social media people don’t care about that because they wanted to hear what they wanted to hear.
How did you handle that moment when almost everyone was calling for your head because they assumed you were enslaving girls with your money?
I have grown a tough skin to break away from this human part and the emotions. Once you call something business, you must toughen up and make sure your emotions don’t ruin your business. Sometimes, mine doesn’t ever come out. Sometimes, I look at it like a business that must be done, no matter the emotions and sentiments. Some people were feeling bad. I received calls from every part of the world and I told everyone including my mum who was worried that I was doing fine.
Did you ever feel like you were doing something wrong?
No, that never happened because I knew that deep down within me, I was doing nothing wrong. I never felt bad. The public outcry was heavy but everything was publicity for me and I enjoyed it.
You also pulled the bathrobe concept at a wedding, what informed that decision?
It is simple. I see how everybody goes to weddings wearing their natives, but if somebody decided to come out with his bathrobe, people would definitely want to take pictures. That was juts it.
This act you keep pulling, was it actually about money or popularity?
I think the two go hand in hand. The popularity will drive the crowd and contents to your business. One thing with nightclub business is that a lot of people who come to the club and the first thing they would ask is where is Mike? If you say he’s coming, they would sit down because they want to meet Pretty Mike. So, the concept sells the business because I am popular and everybody wants to see the guy that does that crazy stuff at parties. So, the more you are in the news, the higher the traffic.
How did you handle that moment?
As a young entrepreneur, I was trained to be ready for anything. You can’t allow the pressure get to you. If at the end of the day, you can’t handle it, you will call on your God to help you. You will ask God for extra strength.
Talking about God, you pulled a stunt when you went to a wedding with what looked like a sacrifice. Don’t you think that was overdone? Can you ever stop being controversial?
I can’t stop being controversial. Controversy is part of my life. Think whatever you want to think, I don’t care. My life, style is a movie every day. So, people should not expect anything less and everybody watching is the audience. When I arrived at my friend’s wedding with the big calabash and smoke was coming out, everybody started saying I was fetish. I was only laughing because it showed how ignorant our people are. I mean who does ritual in public? I have never heard of it. Let’s even agree that I am fetish, do you think I would take it to the wedding? It shows the level of ignorance in our society but I like it. We might as well do more sacrifices. That’s not my lifestyle. When I went with dwarfs to a party, people said the dwarfs live in my house that they are for sacrifices. That is social media for you.
Do you prefer your sex doll to a woman?
Yes, I prefer my sex doll to a woman. We have heard people say a lot about women but I don’t want too much stress. Some of our ladies are just too stressful.
Did you at any point study the concept of Charlyboy because it seems you have certain things in common?
Charlyboy, to me, is a unique individual. I have never for once settled down to study him. I think growing up as a young Nigerian; Charlyboy was very controversial; he is probably the only most controversial guy in our time. He pulled all his stunts those days and was very successful at it despite the absence of social media. I am not trying to be like him, we are two different personalities.
What kind of dream did you have about yourself when growing up?
I believe one day, I would become a pastor. It might still happen. It depends on when the Lord calls me. I like to speak to people. I like how motivational speakers talk to people. I grew up from a very heavy Christian background. But if you ask me if I am thinking of stopping my stunts anytime soon, the answer is no.
You said you might eventually end up being a pastor. What kind of relationship do you have with Him now?
We have an awesome relationship. I am a fan of Christ and I have a cordial relationship with Him but I am not the type that posts Bible quotes on their instagram page neither am I the one you would see in church on Sunday. But if you ask me if I have a relationship with Him, I would say yes. Does he understand me? Yes. Do I understand Him? Yes. In everything I do, from my waking up to going to bed, I am in constant relationship with God. I think I have a good Christian life.