Charly Boy biography
Charly Boy is a Nigerian singer/songwriter, television presenter, publisher, producer and one of Nigeria’s most controversial entertainers, best known for his alternative lifestyle, political views, and media productions, most notably The Charly Boy Show.
Full Name: Charles Chukwuemeka Oputa
Born: 19 June 1951
Birth place: Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Also known as: CB, His Royal Punkness, and Area Fada
Genres: Pop, Afrobeat, highlife
Famous as: Singer-songwriter, journalist, producer, Idol series judge
Years active: 1982–present
Associated acts: Dr. Alban, Diane ‘Lady Di’ Oputa, Duchess Maria
Spouse: Diane Oputa (m. 1979)
Record label: PREMIER RECORDS LTD
Children: Dominique Oputa, Adaeze Oputa, Anwuli Oputa, Charles Alexander Oputa Jr.
Biographical and educational career
The second son of former Supreme Court justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Oguta-native Charly Boy was born into a Catholic household, and is the cousin of Swedish musician Dr. Alban.
As he often refused to reveal his date of birth in interviews, his age remained unknown until 2011 when he celebrated his sixtieth birthday, however, in his usual enigmatic character, he announced his 63rd birthday on 19 June 2013, making his age a contentious one.
Although he has described his parents as liberals who always encouraged their children to speak and say what they had in mind, Charly Boy has also spoken about their conservative nature.
He had set out to become a priest, but left seminary school after a year. In his late teens he moved to America where he attended college, graduating with a degree in Communications.
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Although Charly Boy had released a highlife album in 1982 (he was nearly denied a record deal due to his unconventional appearance until he was introduced to managing director Ton Seysener, with whom he would later on closely work together in realizing the musical beach extravaganza Lekki Sunsplash.)
He attained greater success with the 1985 Polygram Nigeria release of Nwata Miss, which included the title track.
His most popular album was 1990 – the title was a reference to Nigeria’s corrupt military government which was expected to hand over power to civilians in that year, although civilian rule did not start until 1999).
1990 earned Charly Boy mixed reviews due to its political nature and caused national controversy, and a number of radio stations refused to play the title track.
Despite this, 1990 was one of Nigeria’s best-selling albums of 1988, and Charly Boy was credited with using his music to stand up to his government, a lá Fela Kuti.
In recent years, Charly Boy has worked on several collaborations with his cousin Dr. Alban, most notably on the song “Carolina” which sampled an earlier hit of Dr. Alban’s – “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” – and had originally featured singer Michael Rose.
The re-worked version was sung in Nigerian Pidgin and was a hit in Nigeria. The pair also recorded the songs “Work Work Africa” and “Commercial Waste”.
Charly Boy is well known for his change of image which started with androgyny at the start of his music career.
His preference for make-up, relaxed and braided hairstyles, and “women’s clothes” caused controversy among conservative Nigerians.
He would later be nicknamed “Nigeria’s Boy George” by entertainment journalists, but claimed that he had started this persona long before his British counterpart became famous.
Towards the late eighties, Charly Boy, with the help of stylist and fellow singer/songwriter Tyna Onwudiwe who had featured on Nwata Miss, created a new persona for himself which consisted of attire from the punk era including leather jackets and boots, images of himself on powerbikes, a mohawk which he would subsequently dye an array of colours, and a new direction in music, combining African pop and Afrobeat.
A pioneer in Nigeria’s short-lived punk movement, he soon earned the unofficial title His Royal Punkness, and renamed his Lagos residence The Punk Palace.
In the late nineties, Charly Boy began to wear his hair in dreadlocks and adopted a goth image, acquiring piercings and tattoos which were frowned on by society who viewed his modification as Satanic and occultist.
In 2012, he introduced his fans to Linda, his female alter ego. Charly Boy continues to sport the goth look, and in 2014 he shaved off his dreadlocks due to a thinning hairline.
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The Charly Boy Show
Charly Boy’s most popular television series was The Charly Boy Show – a weekly sketch/variety show with political undertones, and featured music, comedy, and celebrity appearances.
Key segments included This Is Not The News (a spoof bulletin which made fun of Nigerian celebrities using thinly-disguised names), Mama and Papa Nothing Spoil (a bickering elderly couple who provided comical answers to viewers questions) and Candid Camera.
It was launched on NTA 2 Channel 5 Lagos, and syndicated to other stations across the country, and among the cast were Charly Boy’s wife Diane Oputa, actress Stella Damasus, Mercy Oyebo, singing duo Tunde and Wunmi Obe, and Patrick Doyle.
Charly Boy’s alter-ego Madam ZiZi (a drag character) and monologues which condemned the country’s dictatorship were also popular features.
Despite its popularity, The Charly Boy Show struggled to receive consistent sponsorship; Charly Boy would later ask celebrity friends to appeal for sponsors on-camera, without much success. The show was cancelled in 2001 after ten years.
The Charly Boy Kiddies Show
The Charly Boy Kiddies Show was a short-lived spin-off of the original series which was aimed at children.
Although the show’s creator was a regular cast member, the main stars were children who auditioned to be part of the show.
It included segments from the original show including Candid Camera, this time performed by younger actors.
Like its predecessor, The Charly Boy Kiddies Show failed to gain sponsors, and was subsequently cancelled.
However, in 2010, Charly Boy established The Charly Boy Kiddies Affair in Abuja, which aimed to boost the potential of Nigerian children.
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Zoom Time was a The Charly Boy Show politics spin-off co-presented by Charly Boy and Tunde Obe (the latter was also a cast member of The Charly Boy Show) which featured prominent politicians and military men.
Among those interviewed were former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida; this interview was among the most memorable in the history of the show.
Occasionally entertainers, like Regina Askia, were interviewed. The show was also famous for its gag which saw politicians pretend to ride an imaginary motorbike while imitating the sound of its exhaust pipe (“Zoom, zoom, zoom!”).
In 2011, Charly Boy replaced Audu Maikori as a judge on Nigerian Idol. Although his stint was a ratings success, viewers disapproved of his antics which included bringing his pet python to the judging table during the audition and a human skull to the live shows.
As of 2013, Charly Boy is no longer involved with Nigerian Idol.
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Advocacy and activism
Charly Boy is known as an advocate of the masses as he has fought for the rights of the average Nigerian.
He has on several occasions been tortured by the Nigerian police and the military for standing up to his country’s government.
However he is also, on occasion, regarded as their friend, depending on the sensibility of those in power.
An inspirational writer, Charly Boy focuses on various subjects in several newspapers including The Daily Post and his own publication Charly Boy Magazine, and has been known to write slogans on rocks in Abuja where he currently resides.
An avid supporter of Okada riders in Nigeria – an organisation that has been frowned on by government as they have been regarded as a menace and unsafe transportation – he has fought for the rights of Okada users – most of whom are poor individuals who earn their living by using the Okada for commercial purposes; he also stated that operators play a prominent role in government as most politicians engage their services during campaigns. His efforts earned him the name Area Fada.
In the mid-nineties Charly Boy fought for the rights of military pensioners during the Abacha-led military dispensation by marching to Defence headquarters in Abuja to demand payment of their pension arrears.
He has also fronted campaigns for Nigerian Widows, and was founder of the Save Nigeria from Nigeria campaign during the last presidential election
During the Fuel Subsidy protest in 2012, he was arrested alongside six other activists for civil disobedience.
He was one of the celebrities who organised fundraisers to support his old friend Tyna Onwudiwe who would later die of lung cancer.
Charly Boy is the founder of New Waves Productions and publisher of The Charly Boy Magazine which he launched in 2010 and wrote for regularly.
In 1991, he wrote the column Nuts and Screws for defunct women’s publication Poise.
In 1996 he starred in the Nollywood movie Backstab in which he played a gangster.
As a music video producer/director, Charly Boy has worked with numerous music artists including Onyeka Onwenu (“Dancing in the Sun”), Alex O (“She’s So Pretty”), Floxy Bee (“Eko”), and Femi Kuti (“No Cause For Alarm?”).
In 1990, Charly Boy was among the Nigerian singers who supported Yvonne Chaka Chaka – then the face of Pepsi in Africa – in a series of concerts and featured in a commercial for the brand with Femi Kuti and Evi-Edna Ogosi.
He was also in a number of Target cigarettes print commercials with his wife Diane.
He has been president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, and in 2011 an Idol Series judge.
Charly Boy’s music has always been a national talking-point. Among the tracks on the album “1990” was “Big Bottom”, a tribute to the female derriere.
In most Nigerian states it was denied airplay on radio due to its somewhat rauncy lyrics. The accompanying video, deemed ahead of its time, features Charly Boy’s wife Diane as a woman with a generous posterior who is a guest at Charly Boy’s wedding; as she bends over during the ceremony, the groom turns around to stare at her rear, to the annoyance of his bride.
Other features of the video were members of the public who are unaware that their buttocks are on camera, and a woman in a bikini-top dancing provocatively.
The “Big Bottom” video was later banned from television, and later denied airplay by the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission on the grounds of obscenity .
As with The Kenny Everett Show which featured dance troupe Hot Gossip, The Charly Boy Show was widely criticised for being overtly sexual – Charly Boy’s dancers (known as “Charly’s Angels”) were often shown clothed in S&M outfits and brandishing whips. His political views on the show also came under fire – he would slate Nigeria’s military rulers who were accused of corrupting the system.
Charly Boy’s most controversial act was in 2010 when he was interviewed by E 24-7 magazine alongside equally maverick Channel O presenter Denrele.
The article, which was captioned “Yes, I Love Denrele” featured photographs which saw the pair in a number of suggestive poses including what appeared to be a passionate kiss.
As homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, the pictures sparked rumours that they were a gay couple, a claim they continue to deny, stating that the pictures were for publicity.
In 2012, Charly Boy threatened to take legal action against two national newspapers (The Saturday Mirror and the Daily Independent) after it was reported that he was gay and a member of The Illuminati; he allegedly disclosed this in an interview with entertainment writer Ed Jatto.
Later, in another interview with the Nigerian Vanguard, he stated “‘I’m not concerned about name calling, but the way and manner in which we apply professionalism in whatever we are doing. If I’m gay, I will fight for the right of homosexuals. I am not gay and I am not part of any organisation called [The Illuminati] in any way, shape or form. I have never had problems with whatever the press writes about me. But these publications have gone beyond the boundaries.”
Family and personal life
Contrary to popular belief Charly Boy is not gay. He has been married to African-American singer and former fashion designer Diane for over thirty years.
The couple have children together, and Charly Boy – who had been married before – has children from past relationships.