Talk of crazy fashion and style, Aderenle Olufemi Edun, popularly known as Derenle, easily comes to mind. His identity, crazy you may call it, has undisputably taken him to stardom with significant recognition within and outside Nigeria. In this interview with Adunola Fasuyi, Denrele, the anchor of SoundCity, tells us how he creatively carved his own fashion identity, stuck to it despite all odds, the agony behind the success and why he cannot change his style.
What is your definition of fashion and style?
Style is an expression of individualism mixed with attitude and charisma because when you have your individual sense of style, you need the attitude and charisma to back it up and pull it off. If you can’t carry it off, people will run you down and make you feel inferior to yourself.
You need to make people ask themselves if they could dress like you one day. To me, my style is fun; it is not too serious but it is serious enough to get compliments. Fashion is what is in vogue, but style is not following trends. For me, my motto is always: style first, trends later.
No doubt you are a star in the showbiz industry today and you are enthusiastic about your career. Did this happen to you by accident or design?
The truth is that I never knew that I was going to do this kind of job because I started out when I was 11 years old as a professional. I started out in a programme called Kiddies Vision 101. I was in it for almost two years and I had a major role, I really did well and was the highest paid. I remember I was being put on the cover page of the TV Guide then.
When I finished from UNILAG, I continued doing soaps and I did a lot of stage plays. The first stage play I did was directed by Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD). From there, I started acting, I was in “Everyday People,” “Twilight Zone” and gradually, I started modelling. I told myself that “modelling is the industry that I have always desired.”
The first designer that I modelled for was Kessy Jabari, he is in Atlanta now, then I modelled for Dakova, Zizi, Nobel, Monte Gobe and so many others. I was once Face of Fanta for a while and from there, I started to dance. I danced for fun. I danced for 2shortz, Rugged Man, Lexy Doo, Lady D, but I was not getting so much satisfaction from all these things. I will just do it and then I just stopped somewhere. I was just trying to do something that would really interest me more than my expectations until Tajudeen called me to ask if I would be interested to work for a music channel that he wanted to set up.
That was how I went for the audition just like every other person. When I was finally picked, it became clear to me that this was my calling and that it needed my best. I needed to make sure that I am very successful at this; I did not want to grow tired of it. I had to really sit down and get it right.
I have tried out my hands in other fields except singing. So, I wanted to be sure that this was what it was going to be. I really worked hard because I wanted the brand ‘Sound City’ to be synonymous with my name. I wanted it to be like when they mention ‘Sound City,’ it would be Denrele people would remember, though it was very competitive then because we were like eight, before some left.
Wherever you go, people turn to take a second look at you because of your style. What actually inspired this crazy style of yours?
My style is very eccentric; it’s very eclectic, it’s wild, it’s crazy and it’s unpredictable. It was just inspired by the fact that I wanted to stand out; I wanted to be different from the boy next door but I started this identity, this brand in 2001 when I began modelling.
When I was in year two in school, I did not have so many clothes. I had, maybe, only three pairs of jeans and as a model, you have to look good all the time, so I started designing my clothes myself. I do cutting, shredding, so I can wear a pair of jeans and make it look like 20 pairs and you won’t know it is the same jeans.
There was a time I wore a pair of jeans for a whole week and people kept passing compliments. Although people saw the creativity behind what I was doing, I was getting a lot of negative attitude to my appearance initially when I started.
My lecturer once walked me out of class, students teasing everyday, some would park their cars to splash water on me, many abused me. It was not funny at all.
Conductors would not allow me into their buses because once I entered the bus, other passengers would disembark. Some would actually fight me; if I stopped a bike, they wouldn’t stop.
I actually walked from Ikeja to Maryland one day because I could not get a bus that would let me enter; people rained abuses on me, some threw things at me but I kept my head straight. When I got home, I asked myself whether I had stepped on anybody’s toe. I did not wrong anybody, I wondered why people could not let me be and accept me for what I was trying to build.
I was close to giving it up because I had negativity from my family, not my parents. My parents were amazing, they stood by me but from my extended families, my cousins, my grandma, they were all indifferent, they did not understand what I was doing. Actually, it was modelling that started the crazy stunt in me.
People have called me all sorts of names like Den-were, Were-le; they simply called me a mad person! But I didn’t see myself as mad. I think I was just expressing my individuality, not that I was mad. Now, I love it and I’m proud of my craziness because it has brought me stardom.
You started off with just three pairs of jeans? How many do you have now?
They are many but I am not materialistic; I don’t spend all my money on clothes. People think I do, but I don’t because I have a lot of responsibilities that demand money and I am not the kind of person that would spend money foolishly.
It seems you love bracelets, how many do you have?
I have many of them, I cannot count. I have them in different colours.
What about your shoes?
I have a lot of collections. The one I am wearing right now is 10 inches high. I have 20 of these high-heeled boots that I wear. I wear them all the time even when I am not working. The shoes are part of me already; my clothes are a reflection of my person. Like my jeans, I use big safety pins on them. I pin them by myself.
Did you desire crazy dressing right from childhood?
Yes. When I was a lot younger, like 5 years old, I was fascinated with pictures on album (record) covers, particularly Bonny M’s albums. I loved the crazy look, the afro; they (musicians then) wear trousers and they would be shirtless with their boots. I remember when I used to wear my mum’s heeled-shoes because I wanted shoes that were high. I did not just like regular shoes. There was a time I fell down the stirs back then and I never wore them again till I got older. I liked colours and varieties and these are also working right for me too.
Are your shoes made here or abroad, or do you design them yourself?
Definitely, you cannot get my kind of shoes here in Nigeria. The one I am wearing right now, I just got them, but the left leg of the first pair came in December and the right leg in January. They had to send it to me at different times because of the weight. I made the order from Spain , New Rock. They are the most expensive gladiator shoes you can ever find. I wanted 12 inches high but they sent me 10. I have like 12 New Rock shoes. Dolce & Gabana are the designers of my shoes.
They must be pretty expensive?
They are very expensive; I cannot tell the price, I am sorry. Shoes like these are very unusual. They are highly fashioned and customised for me.
Do you wear normal shoes at all?
I get gifts. I did photo shots for a boutique and the owner gave me some very lovely designer snickers –Gucci, Prada and Chanel shoes. So, I have some normal shoes.
So, where do you wear them to?
My sister collects some of them and I wear some of them to the beach but if I am wearing them to the beach, I wear one with the pair of another. What I wear must look crazy. It must not look right, it must look upside down.
What about your bracelets, are they hand-made?
I make them myself. All I do is get the leather, get the studs, lay it out and couple them. It is a lot of work that requires great creativity. It takes me like two weeks to make one.
Do you visit the salon every week because you wear different tints like black, gold, purple, green, red and so on?
I go to Elizabeth Micheals Salon on the Island every two weeks and sometimes, once a week. There are times I do my hair myself if there is no time. I evolve my hairstyle to fit my dressing and I am enjoying what I am doing with my style.
Does your style bring good business for you?
Yes, I get calls for a lot of work. I don’t want to brag but I can say I am high in demand like any artiste. In a week, I travel thrice. Last year, I went to interview Tyla Perry and Ciara in Atlanta.
How did Americans react to your appearance?
Oh! They loved it. When you are natural, you are natural. Stuff like this is very usual in America; it is common. If you carry your appearance well, people would even want to have your courage or even want to reckon with your style.
Do you wear suits and other normal wears?
Yes, I wear native and I have a lot of suits but I like revamping and remixing my suits. I get them plain and I do some crazy designs on them and I still wear them with my large shoes.
Don’t you miss wearing normal clothes?
No, I don’t; not anymore. When I started I was uncomfortable with the pins impaling me on my thighs, but now, I am so comfortable in my own skin, I am comfortable with my individualism, I am comfortable with my sense of style. Oh, thank you fashion for discovering me!
Can you ever be spotted dressing normal?
If someone wants me to wear normal clothes, I will. Some people think that for me to wear a normal outlook to an event, I must charge like N1m and I said “for what?” If I want, I will. I know I will feel funny if I do because of the shoes, my shoes have a lot of weight.
I carry a lot of weight with what I am wearing, the jeans, the belt and I am too skinny. So, the first day that I would probably do without these weight, I will feel very light, minor breeze can carry me off. But for the fun of it I can wear normal clothes.
Most young ladies out there want Denrele. How do you manage the rush?
I have been handling the situation with much maturity. There are too many women for me to handle. In just two weeks I have had over 900 text messages from women. Right now I’m not in any relationship and I’m enjoying the attention.
There are too many girls running after me and even men have started running after me. But I’m very focused; I can count the number of girls I’ve slept with. I can handle that aspect of my life well.
Of course, some situations have got out of hands. There was one girl that printed wedding invitations that she and I were getting married. It was a big issue.
When I’m dating somebody I concentrate fully on that person. I am a one-way traffic person. Don’t also forget that you can’t have it all, the girls you like will not like you and the ones you don’t, will.
Do you get down with them?
No. I know how to handle them in such a way that they won’t feel inferior or rejected. I just lead them on knowing that they will leave me when they are tired. But there are some that will put you in a tight corner. (Laughs!)
People have said so many crazy things about you, including calling you gay. What is your reaction?
I love controversy; people can say whatever they want to say. When I was much younger I used to feel bad but now I don’t care. I am not gay and don’t care what people say. The only aspect I don’t like is the fact that some gays call me, thinking I’m for real. And they are big guys. At a time when I did not have a car, I had about 10 different offers from such men. But I said “No!”
When was the first time you had sex?
I think when I was in SSS 1. It was late, I was very young and not fully mature. It was quick and short and it was in my granny’s house, but she caught me the second time. I like slim women with long legs, sha.