Is Linda Ikeji A Good Role Model?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you’re not Nigerian, you’ve probably heard about Linda Ikeji’s mansion. In the event that you fall under any of the aforementioned categories, I’ll bring you up to speed: Linda Ikeji, a Nigerian self-proclaimed gossip blogger, recently bought a mansion reportedly worth ₦600 million. Her mansion is located in Lagos’ exclusive Banana Island, where her neighbors include Forbes listed billionaires like Mike Adenuga and Sayyu Dantata. When pictures of the mansion were released, ‘Nigerian Twitter’ was ablaze with comments declaring Linda Ikeji an inspiration for Nigerian women and youth. But is Linda Ikeji really a good role model?
In many ways, Linda Ikeji’s story is motivational. She worked various part time jobs such as modeling while studying English at the University of Lagos . In 2006, she started blogging and continued to do so for several years without turning a profit. Now, her website averages tens of thousands of visitors a day and is desirable to a wide range of advertisers.
In a culture where attaining ‘Mrs.’ status is often viewed as a woman’s ultimate success, Linda Ikeji, who is unmarried, is expanding the definition of what it means for a Nigerian woman to be successful. Moreover, for the countless Nigerian women who face immense pressure to trade their bodies for academic grades, career advancement or basic financial survival- Linda Ikeji gives hope of an alternative.
Now, a Nigerian child that is told that the only suitable career paths for financial freedom are law, medicine and engineering, can say: “But Dad, have you seen Linda Ikeji’s mansion?” For the millions of youth faced with Nigeria’s high unemployment rate, Linda Ikeji’s ability to create an opportunity for herself in Nigeria, and to patiently grow that opportunity over time is exemplary. Moreover, on the global stage where ‘Nigerian’ is often synonymous with ‘Internet scammer’- it’s a plus to have a Nigerian in the online space providing a counter-narrative.
Linda Ikeji’s content, however, regularly leaves much to be desired. By publishing stories that often leave the subjects humiliated and at the mercy of her notoriously vicious commenters, Linda Ikeji’s blog has contributed to a culture of peddling shame for profit. Her stories and pictures are posted in many instances without consent, context or compassion. For example, a friend of mine mentioned that she had decided to never again visit Linda Ikeji’s blog, due to a post published earlier in April about a Nigerian-Ghanaian woman who had been kidnapped and allegedly raped. Writing about the woman’s kidnap was not wrong. In fact, with Ikeji’s huge platform, it was probably beneficial. However, rape is an extremely traumatic experience for any woman. In countries like Nigeria, rape carries the additional baggage of extreme stigma. To present this unsubstantiated story to an additional audience, with the woman’s picture and full name, and without her consent, was in poor taste.
Linda Ikeji must necessarily have good lawyers on speed dial, as her journalism practices are also frequently questionable. First, there is the matter of intellectual property violations: several photographers and writers have accused the blogger of using their work without their consent or a reference. For instance, you can read this open letter from a lawyer and photographer, ‘Kayode Adegbola, here. Linda Ikeji is also no stranger to claims of defamation. Case in point: Nollywood actress Funke Akindele (best known as ‘Jenifa’), threatened to sue the blogger earlier this year for posting a story that was damaging to her brand. You can read about it here.
Increased success must come with increased responsibility. Linda Ikeji could take a pointer from two of the most famous bloggers in the world: Necole Kane and Perez Hilton. Necole Kane, best known by the name of her former blog- Necole Bitchie- ran the most successful ‘urban’ celebrity gossip site in America with over 1.2 million unique users per day. A series of events- including getting sued by Beyoncé for a million dollars after the unauthorized use of her photograph- triggered a low point for Necole. She also began to consider what she wanted her legacy to be. In the November edition of Ebony Magazine, Necole noted that she asked herself time and again: “When all is said and done, what will people say about you? How are you elevating your audience? What are you doing to contribute to your culture in a positive way? ...How are you touching people and changing their lives?” Recently, Necole shut down her existing site, and launched XO Necole: a platform to inspire millennial women through career, travel, lifestyle, fashion and features. Linda Ikeji need not take such drastic measures, however. Enter Perez Hilton: a blogger who became famous for ridiculing celebrities on his gossip site. In an interview with Oprah, he noted that he had a wake up call in 2010 when he was accused of hypocrisy after speaking against teen bullying. The incident caused him to undergo what he describes as a deep spiritual awakening. Perez states that he realized that by putting out toxic stories, he was polluting the world and bringing negative energy into his life. He decided to start talking about celebrities in a less destructive manner. Likewise, Linda Ikeji has the potential to use her platform for positivity and empowerment. A recent blog post by Linda Ikeji doing both of these things gives me hope. Read it here.
As a woman, I celebrate Linda Ikeji’s success. As a blogger, I am sure there are many things I could learn from her. But as we know better, we must all do better.