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The sweet, the calm and the very direct judges of Icons expect nothing but the best!



As the build-up to the upcoming reality TV show, ‘Icons: Divas Edition’ intensifies, more is being revealed about the host and judges for the show.  A recent interaction with the three judges somewhat gave me a fair idea about the kind of judges each of them would very likely be when the show commences.

Those who personally know Nana Nyarko ‘Quantos’Ackah-Yensu, the only male judge on the show, would know that he is a cool, calm and collected gentleman and that is exactly what he would bring  to the show. The man of few words comments, “I am going to be frank so I can bring out the best in the girls”.  Singer, Stephanie Benson looks like she’s going to be the sweetheart of the pack and with her delightful smile that always reveals a calming dimple, she would fit the ‘Paula Abdul Role’ effortlessly. “People keep thinking I’m going to be the bad one, I have children so I have to be tactful” she comments with a smile of course.  Meanwhile, Gena West who is also nice and sweet looks like the one that would stir things up a bit with her forwardness.  She says, “I will be an honest judge – absolutely direct, absolutely honest!”

All three judges are excited about the show and can’t wait to meet the girls that made it through the auditions so far, in boot camp. Although the judges weren’t the ones that selected the girls for boot camp, they remain confident in the choices made by the various guest judges in the various audition venues.  Stephanie comments on not knowing what to expect from the girls, “It’s all going to be a surprise and the surprise is great. I think it would be fantastic to see the girls. I’m looking forward to meeting them and I’m sure the other judges picked good girls this far”.

The judges with their wealth of experience in the music industry in Ghana and overseas certainly will be keeping an eye on the contestants and guiding them to bring out their best potentials all the time.  Stephanie comments, “Being a performer isn’t just about standing there, singing and leaving; it has so many elements to it. You have to understand the music; you have to understand what you are singing, and you have to understand how to project that to the people.  So it’s important to understand music before your become a performer”.

Quantos also adds, “The show is going to give the contestants the opportunity to really get to know about music, writing songs, and learning how to sing in parts”. While the delightful Gena also added, “What the contestants will be getting from us as judges is mentorship and if the girls are clever, they will suck us dry. They will try to get as much as they can from us because we have been around, we been around not just here but globally”.

Although none of the judges have technically been in a group before, Gena and Stepanie have performed with backing singers or groups and so are fully aware of the conflicts and dynamics of working as a group or band. They believe that group members should learn to work together and support each other; drawing on each other’s strengths and building on individual weakness to improve without giving any excuse. The judges don’t want to hear excuses. Stephanie cited an instance when she was performing with her girls in a ‘Diana Ross and the Supremes’ theatre show, and her jacket tore apart. She said that the other girls cleverly came up with an act to cover her split jacket.

“I like the fact that we are taking individual girls and grouping them so they would learn to work together as a group.  It would be interesting to see that. It’s a girl group so it means the girls would always have to get a lead singer, and the girls would choose who would be their leader. That could be interesting as well. There’s nothing wrong with being the best that you can be – which is my definition of a diva. Diva doesn’t mean that you are arrogant; diva doesn’t mean that you think you are better than everybody else”.

The producers of the reality show are looking to find the first Ghanaian super girl group that can be successfully marketed internationally, and the judges say ‘why not?’, ‘it’s about time’ and ‘yes we can!’  Stephanie comments, “There’s a lot of talent out there but they need to be guided and people need to give girls in this country a break.  My advice to the girls is that they shouldn’t try too hard to copy other people, and I would love to see more of originality”

After meeting and working with the girls at boot camp, the judges will chose the 21 finalists for the show and group them into 7 groups of 3. The first episode of Icons: Divas Edition which shows highlights from the audition process will air on TV Sunday, February 13. The subsequent two episodes would be dedicated to boot camp, and the first live performance show will air on Sunday, March 6. Icons: Divas Edition will air on major TV stations in Ghana and on pan-African cable networks. TV3 has the prime spot telecast at 8.00pm with Net 2, Multi TV, Crystal TV, ETV and GTV and Metro TV (yet to be confirmed) joining in at 8.30 each Sunday evening.