By this time next month, it would be exactly a year since she won the debut edition of Koko Mansion, the all-female 8-week reality show aimed at finding the ideal Nigerian lady.

Bolanle Okhiria came in as a replacement in the house before she went on to win the contest. Now 22 ,Bolanle popularly called Kokolet 1, takes us through her experience as D’banj’s official one-year date and life in and outside the Koko Mansion.

While many ladies wouldn’t mind auditioning naked just to spend some time with sex symbol and pop singer, D’banj, Bolanle’s reason for taking part in Koko Mansion was totally different.

Today she’s living with HiTv’s disappointment as the competition has failed to deliver her utmost desire. Ms B is fun, unassuming and open in this interview with Lolade Sowoolu. Enjoy the excerpts.

My name is Bolanle Okhiria.
I’m from Edo state. I’m the second born and second girl in a family of five children. I’m a student of Lagos State University, studying Marketing. I’m also a student of the Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON).

A bit about growing up.

Childhood was great. I grew up in Lagos, where I still live with my Family. It was really fun because I have three older sisters so I learnt a lot about what it means to be a girl. I have been very close to my mum since childhood. She is the kind of mum that gives you breathing space. She gives you room to be very open with her.

How did you get to know about the Koko Mansion Reality Show?

I saw it on Tv the first time. I chilled until I saw it for the second time to be sure of what exactly they were looking for. The second time I did, I saw that they were looking for an ideal lady and that her talents were going to be harnessed for a year.

That part really got me because I have always wanted to be a presenter. Presenting has always been my passion so I felt since I have got all the qualities of an ideal lady, going on this show will help me get my talents harnessed for a year. That was cool for me so I went to pick the form.

So the fact that the winner would have her talents groomed was the attraction for you…

Yes, so I filled in the form on-line and sent my pictures. I got called after a week or two, and later I got a message asking me to come for auditions. I went and showcased my talents.

What was the auditioning environment like?

It was crazy. I saw a lot of girls wearing really skimpy things. You would have thought someone was shooting a video. I was lost for what exactly was going on there.

Immediately I saw the ladies (other hopeful participants) at the audition I thought to myself that these (the ladies) people thought they were going to see D’banj here. They almost made me feel I wasn’t appropriately dressed.

How were you dressed?

I was wearing a regular jeans and a top but I made sure I was looking good. I’m a kind of person who likes to keep it simple yet get the compliments.

What did the auditions entail?

I was to showcase a talent at the first audition so I did a rap of Jay-Z’s Uncore. Most of the other girls cat-walked or sang. At the second stage, we (the short-listed ones) needed to convince them that we were the candidates for the ‘Ideal Lady” and possesses the quality of the ideal lady.

The two stages took place on the same day. After the whole thing, we were told they were going to get back to us and that is the part I really don’t like about auditions.

I do casting for modelling jobs and at most auditions I’ve been to, when they’ve seen everybody and they think they don’t want you, they will just tell you “We’ll get back to you”. In a couple of cases, I have been lucky though.

At Koko Mansion, we were 24 that made it to the second stage in the Lagos auditions. We thought they were going to pick 12 of us as advertised on T.V., unknown to us there were auditions in other zones, so we would go down to six or thereabout from Lagos. Immediately they said they would get back to us, almost everybody felt bad.

I just took my mind off it (the competition). I decided not to think about it but school was on strike for a long time. So after a while, I started calling up some friends I made at the auditions. They said they heard the contestants had been picked and they were already in the house. I felt a little bad but then tried to go on to the next thing.

Were you expecting to see D’banj at the auditions?

For some reasons, no. I’m a kind of person who likes to think outside the box. I thought to myself that if he is likely to be the host of this show, then he’s not likely to be at the auditions. I just prayed in my mind that the judges won’t be too stern-looking.

Were there any familiar faces among the judges?

No, not even from Tv.

Tell me about the call.

That night it was very late and I was about going to bed when I got a call from someone that said he was from Koko Mansion. He asked to confirm my name and said I’d been on the ‘reserve’ list and I’ve finally been picked that I should come the next day by 12. I was dumbfounded.

At first, I thought it was one of my friends that was just joking so I asked him (the caller) to convince me. So he gave me some details that only the organisers knew from the form we filled. Details like code number and others.

I kept screaming but he asked me to calm down and explained that I was replacing someone who was initially selected. I couldn’t sleep throughout that night.

I started packing because I needed to report the next day. Time was so short that I didn’t even know what to pack. I barely packed enough because I was so shocked. I went to the house the next day and quickly did my profiling.

I was a little bit shaky and tensed till the time I was entering the house. Everything was happening at the same time.

What were your expectations going into the house?

I didn’t know what to expect, trust me. I really didn’t know to expect. I just wanted God to be with me and direct me because there were other girls and I kept wondering where the girls were coming from. I only knew myself.

And how did you find the experience in the house…

Sometimes it was fun, some other times it was just there. There were times we didn’t really get along. You’ll just find out that somebody is not talking to you or somebody tells you not to talk to her again and then later same person comes and say; sorry (laughter).

It was fun and challenging at some time because we had tasks and so it meant we were competing against each other. I missed my phone and family.

Was that the first time you had to stay with a number of complete strangers alone?

I went to a boarding school briefly but even without that I was already used to girls’ stuff. We are four girls in the house (her family) and growing up together I learnt that even staying with my sisters, you can’t always smile at each other all the time. I knew there would be little disputes here and there.

Did you make friends in the house?

Yeah! I’m actually still in touch with most of the girls.

Did you see anyone as a threat at any time in the house?

Funny enough, no.

Throughout the eviction stages, were you afraid you might get evicted?
Oh yes, definitely. There were times that someone you are not expecting to leave leaves and then you wonder what your own fate in the house is.

It was like anybody could leave at any time even if you were the one winning the tasks in the house. It was more about the votes from the viewers. I still put in all my best into the tasks anyway, so that even if I ended up getting evicted, it would be said that ‘she put in everything she could’.

Lets talk about Kokolet Rita. What went through your mind meeting her and how easy was it getting along in the house?

I still have a relationship with her, we talk. Maybe because we are from the same state although she’s Benin. At first when I saw her I could not believe it because I came in from the ‘reserve’ list while she made first 12. It made me wonder what they (organisers) were up to and what they wanted.

I didn’t understand. In the house it was hard to understand the way she talked at first. You had to be patient with her. But then we bonded in the house and became good friends.

And when you made the final four…

When we were down to four, I still didn’t know if I was going to win because it was left to voting. I was decided to take whatever happened. When I was finally called as the winner, I couldn’t believe it. I was really excited that all my effort was not in vain. It made me appreciate who I was more.

What booties did you get for winning?

Basically five million naira and a jeep.

What did you learn?

That’s one part I’ll always cherish about Koko Mansion, I learnt a whole lot. From etiquettes to how to compose yourself as a lady outside the mansion and the creative tasks that brought out my creative side. Some ladies came to teach us on our diction and pronunciation.

Sometimes we had surprise guests coming to inspire and motivate us. It was cool . Mummy Bukky Ajayi particularly motivated me. We had musicians, actresses, fashion designers and the pool side was fun to play around.

Were there times you felt like quitting?

Yes, at a point I got tired of seeing the same faces everyday.

How far have you gone with harnessing your presenting talent?

The contract was supposed to be for a year, in which HiTV gets to harness and manage the winner’s talent. I got out of the show and kept hoping this would happen.

I went to their office a couple of times and called a couple of people but there’s been really nothing forthcoming from their end.

What kind of responses did you get each time you went to their office?

They said they had space for me and that was all. My reign ends by next month and that’s when the contract should expire too. It was just recently I told myself ‘hey, get out there and try to secure stuffs for yourself’ and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Could it be that you’ve been talking to the wrong people at the office?

I wouldn’t say I wasn’t talking to the right people. I don’t know all the departments there but there were one or two people I was talking to. No matter who I talked to, there was nothing happening.

And you didn’t complain to any member of the Mo Hits crew?

For Mo Hits, I was supposed to be in the “fall in love” video and I was in the South Africa version shot for the Mnet Face of Africa. I, D’banj and Don Jazzy went together to shoot the video and it was really fun working with them.

We got to Nigeria and shot the official one (video) that featured Genevieve.

Didn’t you feel bad not playing lead role in the Nigerian video?

No, I didn’t feel cheated; I didn’t feel bad. This is because its D’banj’s video and he did it the way he wanted to. He had reasons for doing it the way he did.

How did HiTvs treatment make you feel?

I didn’t even know what to feel. I was confused. I just told myself not to brood but instead go out and see what I can achieve by myself. D’banj and Don Jazzy were not the organisers HiTV was. Up till now I don’t have reasons why they (HiTV) have not called for me.

Before Koko Mansion, did you have experience at presenting?

Yes. I worked with Lola Oduba on Expose, a television program, for a short while. And I have a couple of friends who work in this line, so I learn from them. I have gained experiences here and there.

So since it dawned on you that you are alone in your dream of building your presenting career, what have you done for yourself and how far have you gone?
Not too far because it was just recently I decided to make personal moves.

Right now I’m doing some screen test and I’m trying to secure something with Village Square Tv to become one of their presenters. Village Square is a movie platform with Tajudeen Adepetu that will show on local stations. I’m still talking to a couple of people and hoping something good comes out of it.

How come hanging out with D’banj as a price incentive for the winner wasn’t attractive to you and then aren’t you supposed to be his official date for a year?

We first saw about a week after we arrived at the mansion for the show. Even now, we do not see each other often. We only chat once in a while on bb (blackberry).

Do you hang out at all?

No, it was only when we went to South Africa and during the Nigerian video shoot of ‘Fall in Love’ that we spent time together. I will say the relationship is more official than casual.

Weren’t you looking forward to going almost everywhere with him?

You know that was actually part of it. I was looking forward to going to some events and countries with him but it didn’t happen that way. And there were not too many times to ask him because I don’t get to see him often.

Do you feel bad about your expectations not being met in general?

I am not the kind of person to brood over anything. I just take things the way they come. Brooding over a thing doesn’t change the fact so why bother?

My expectations weren’t met but hopefully I have done some little shows and I’m auditioning for some big ones, so it will work. It may not be working right now but I’m getting there.

So do you feel like the glamour girl…

On a normal day, Bolanle is not the glamour girl. She is more of the simple type but I like to be trendy. The only change with me is probably that I now drive a car.

My name has not changed. Then maybe I get more attention from almost everybody in school, even those I ordinarily wouldn’t get from. I have met some new people at events. I can say I roll with people I didn’t have access to before.

So there’s been a touch of glamour because when you go to events and you can relate with certain class of people, that is glamour. But nothing has changed about my person. In fact I feel more comfortable hanging out with my old friends because they know exactly what to expect from me.

I don’t need to fake reality. But I still learn new things from my new friends.
Now lets talk about spending the five million naira…

The way everything happened was rushed. The first thing that came to my mind was my tithe. I am a Christian and I believe to whom much is given, much is expected. Next is investment. I still live with my parent because I am still very young.

How did your friends react to your winning?

They were very happy. A lot of them watched it and they said they knew I was going to win and that no one else could have. I was happy that they saw reasons to believe in me. Even my colleagues at school were happy.

They said I represented them well. I was happy that I was able to pass across messages to Nigerian girls.

And how did your boyfriend celebrate your winning…

(Laughter) I didn’t have a boyfriend when I was in the house.
But I’m sure that the offers are streaming in from every side now?

Yes, offers every where but have not picked. And I am not exactly screening (more laughter). Maybe I’m still searching (laughs). I have met a lot of guys but I’m not the type that would jump into relationships.

So what is the required qualification for application?
(Laughter)… He has to be God fearing. He must have big dreams like me and even bigger dreams, that is the only way I can be with any one. He should be taller than me because we need to protect our children, we don’t want them short. A good looking Yoruba Christian will be preferable.

Any last words…

I am working hard on my presenting career. I want my fans to keep their fingers crossed and keep praying for me because Bolanle will be on your screen pretty soon. I want to be Nigeria’s Ryan Seacrest, Tyra Banks and the likes.