Meet Korty EO, the YouTuber capturing contemporary Nigerian culture through confessional-style videos

Photo credit: korty eo/YouTube

Eniola Olanrenwaju, better known as Korty EO, is one of Nigeria’s fastest-rising YouTube stars with over 200,000 subscribers and about 8 million views. The 24-year-old, who resides in Lagos, is a young filmmaker well-known for her viral, quirky, and candid interview-style videos where she discusses and brings to light various sensitive topics frankly. Since she started her YouTube channel two years ago, Korty has demonstrated creativity, competence, and consistency in capturing modern Nigerian culture through not only her own experiences but the lived experience of others.

Despite her considerable fame and recognition as a filmmaker, Korty insists that she hasn’t produced any films. “As much as I call myself a filmmaker, I have actually not made any film. What I make is a documentation of my experiences,” she tells Passionfruit. 

Each documentary’s content is peculiar and typically developed out of need. “My ideas are very spontaneous and born out of necessity,” Korty says. 

Before Korty started the two main shows on her channel, “Flow with Korty” and “Love or Lies,” her videos took on a more experimental format. She used to do videos where she took on different creative projects relating to her personal life. One such video, which went viral last year, is where she had conversations with 15 people in their 20s about why they have so much sex. The video has amassed approximately 540,000 views and positive commendations from the public. Even iconic Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa applauded the project when she appeared on an episode of “Flow with Korty,” where she spoke further about heartbreak, religion, growing up, and other personal topics. Asa agreed these conversations should be more frequent, as people are prone to misunderstand the topics.

Through these videos, you can get a glimpse of Korty’s adventurous and fascinating life. A more recent video under this playlist that went viral is one of her attempts to schedule an interview with the Afropop star Wizkid over three days in Lagos this year. On the third day, when she got close enough to speak to him, she was denied access by his bouncer despite previously meeting with his manager to arrange an appointment. Such an experience solidifies her resolve. Regardless of the challenges, with Korty, there’s always a way. 

“If there was no YouTube, I’d be using Instagram. If there were no social media, I’ll be selling CDs in Alaba. And if there was no camera, I’ll be drawing on the sand and telling stories,” Korty says of her determination.

After two years of hard work, her channel took definitive shape. “Love or Lies,” the pilot of which aired on Jan. 29 of this year, is now five episodes in with over 1.3 million views. The show chronicles the real-life drama and comedy that follows setting up two strangers on a date in Lagos. While filming her subjects, she aims for deep dives into rarely-explored topics within Nigeria’s conservative society, such as “body counts” and sex. Korty provides them with a secure environment to relax and talk. 

“The most important part of production is making sure the acts are comfortable,” she explains.

When it comes to choosing subjects for the show, Korty explains that it is a nuanced process.

“I’m constantly on the internet scouting for people passively or actively,” she said. “The hardest part is finding the right people, being that they have to go on dates. And one person may not like the other.”

One commenter praised Korty under one of these videos, saying, “The fact that your channel is such a safe space for our generation is so inspiring.” 

The lesbian episode of “Love or Lies,” in particular, has garnered a lot of supportive and appreciative comments. This video, which came about as a suggestion by a subscriber who identifies as LGBTQ+, is one of many ways Korty listens and engages with her audience. 

Her other main show “Flow with Korty,” which includes 15 episodes with approximately 3.3 million views, is an inquisitive, interview-style production centered around the lives of celebrities and trailblazers in Lagos and the wider West African cultural scene. On this show, Nigerian celebrities like Asa, Don Jazzy, Ayra Starr, Victony, Blaqbones, and Rema and as well as more international celebrities like Black Sheriff from Ghana and Netty from Israel have been featured.

According to Korty, the time between ideation to execution is far from fixed. It depends on factors like available funds and finding the right location. 

“When I scout for locations, I try not to make it seem like work,” she said. “I go out to places, maybe stay there for a day. If it’s a restaurant, I eat there. Feel the vibe to see if I want to come back there.”

For an independent filmmaker like Korty, handling all the laborious tasks and financial burdens that come with such productions can be challenging. Regardless of the obstacles, Korty continually proves unfazed. 

“I try to do a lot of things I can within my capacity,” she explains. “I made sure I bought a handy camera and a lens that was good enough for the quality I need. The cost of production can be ridiculous but sometimes I’m able to get sponsorship for my videos.”

According to Korty, some celebrities struggle to let their guard down at first. 

“Some are scared of being vulnerable in public because people will judge [them], which is something they have to guard against,” Korty points out. “And some of them, it’s hard to get comfortable at the start, but the more time we spend together, [the more] they loosen up.”

Although her two main YouTube shows are primarily anchored around the Nigerian and immediate African entertainment scenes, Korty did mention some big industry names she hopes to have on her show. These include; Kanye West, Sia, LeBron James, and other musicians and celebrities in different industries. With the scope of expansion Korty has in mind for her project, YouTube is only a starting point for her. 

“I don’t plan to keep everything on YouTube,” she says. “I will constantly improve. People are already reaching out to me to put [my shows] in certain places but I’m not ready to compromise.” 

Despite the inspirational undertones of her movies and persona, Korty is not particularly interested in provoking an awakening in her viewers. Instead, she sees her function as more of a storyteller. 

“I don’t plan for my content to shake tables. It just happens that I want to talk about this thing and just talk about it,” she explains.

Korty grew up as a reserved child, so much it made her mom worried. 

“I was my friend. I didn’t interact with people,” Korty says—but she didn’t let this hinder her from chasing her dreams. “When I knew I had to start making money, I had to desegregate myself and learn to interact with people. If I’m in a situation where I need to be an extrovert, I’ll be practicing for like a whole day.”

But with chasing her dreams and doing what she loves comes navigating body image issues and discomfort on-screen. 

“I didn’t feel beautiful when I started because I was underweight. I was skinny and I was very tall,” Korty shares. This, however, has changed as she found her passion and learned to be confident in herself. “It was hard to blend in, but once I found the one thing I loved to do I did my best to get my word across,” she continues.

She says another challenge she has had to overcome is the treatment from certain guests, some of whom regard her as unimportant. Regardless, she doesn’t let it get in the way of her work. 

“When I’m working, I’m shameless,” she said. “When I want to get something done, I don’t hold back. I try my best to treat people with kindness because everyone is going through something.”

Regardless of these obstacles, Korty is optimistic about the journey that lies ahead of her: “I feel like my work this year has been difficult, but I prepared for it. My growth is happening gradually which I’m grateful for. I need to constantly train my mind that things are gonna get better and worse. When it gets better, I’ll focus on that with all my heart and when it gets worse, I’ll remember how I dealt with the ones before.”

Above all, Korty is most appreciative of her large audience and the love they show her. The most thrilling part of her journey, she says, is seeing how people are rooting for her, loving her work, and willing to stretch to get her to places she couldn’t have gotten to herself. She recently worked on a video campaign for Rihanna’s cosmetic brand, Fenty Beauty, and this is just one of the ways the filmmaker is reaching new heights. 

“A lot of exciting things are about to happen and I’m excited,” she adds. 

After two years of consistently pushing herself and putting out her work, the rising star is looking forward to more people, within Nigeria and beyond, stepping forward to make the kind of videos she does. To them, she advises: “At any point, you are in your life, be honest with yourself as honest work sells the most in any aspect.”

A previous version of this post misspelled Korty EO’s last name. We have corrected the spelling and regret the error.