When the brains behind Di Asa, the hugely popular dancing competition for plus size market women on Atinka TV decided to roll out the programme, they anticipated that it would generate some buzz; after all, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing big women doing their own thing.
But they did not expect the magnitude of the public response to be this big. In fact, that show has threatened to usurp the popularity of Adom TV’s Kumkum Bhagya as more and more people tune in to watch the entertaining show.
“The reactions have been overwhelming, much more than we had assumed. Everywhere people see the Di Asa bus, they hail us and it has drawn a lot of eyeballs to our station which is good, “Brenda Antwi-Donkor, Project Head for Di Asa told Showbiz in an interview on Monday.
So how did such an innovative idea come about? “It actually came from our Executive Chairman. He attended the funeral of a market woman and when a particular song was played, he saw one of the market women dance energetically and he thought to himself, ‘so these big market women can dance like that?’,” Mrs Antwi-Donkor said.
“So the idea formed in his mind and when he came into work on Monday, he called us into a meeting to discuss the possibility of putting such a show together and now here we are,” she added.
The team went across the country to scout for the talented plus size dancers and visited about 16 markets.
In the beginning it was a bit challenging. They started from the Tamale Central Market where because of religious and cultural issues, the women were reluctant to participate and according to Mrs Antwi-Donkor, they had to use local radio stations to do a lot of community sensitisation before some of them agreed.
“We were amazed to get about 20 contestants even though they were not very plus sized. Subsequently we had to do a lot of work including the sensitisation, health screenings among others to get the women’s attention. After about two or three markets, the word had spread so it got easier.”
Di Asa’s format is simple. During the 13-week auditions, there was no limited number of contestants who went through about two rounds to select the best dancers which was done by a panel of judges.
62 contestants were brought together in the Di Asa house and over the last four weeks, 42 of them have been sent home. Now 22 remain but only 10 will go on to the final which will come off on December 13.
While in the house, the women have daily tasks they perform. Then there is freestyle Wednesday where the contestants are expected to bring their creativity to bear. They also have a side benefit of being taken through some exercise regimes to keep them healthy.
For Mrs Antwi-Donkor, health was one of the main issues the show wanted to tackle. “Our Chairman is in the health sector so even though he wanted them to have fun, he also wanted them to be more health conscious and I can say it has paid off,” she said.
Marylistic aka ML is one of the biggest contestants in the competition and she told Showbiz, she definitely feels lighter. “When I came in I was so heavy and I couldn’t move around easily but now I am very active. I’ve lost some weight and I feel even more beautiful.
I realise I need to change my habits so I’m hitting the gym once the programme ends.” Mission accomplished it seems.
According to her before she took part in the show in Kumasi, she was often the butt of people’s cruel jokes and she felt disrespected.
“I wanted to prove that we big women also have value and we are not something to be discarded. Now I have grown in confidence.
Mama Gee is one of if not the most popular contestant on the show; she gets the loudest cheers anywhere they go and she says she is proud of herself for how far she’s come.
A teacher with three kids, their support has made her stronger. “I love to dance so this opportunity was timely. I am also happy that my tummy has gone down, it used to be big.”
She believes her creativity and her willingness to try different things is what has set her apart and she hopes to win the ultimate prize.
Even as we talk about the success, Brenda Antwi-Donkor raised a key challenge that many local content producers face, getting sponsorship.
According to her, they pitched the proposal to many prospective sponsors but they refused to come on board.
“What helped was that we are a Group made up of different businesses. Our executive chairman finally funded it from his own coffers before later other sponsors came on board. This can be very discouraging,” she said.
Challenges notwithstanding, they hope to make this an annual event and make it even bigger. General Manager of the Atinka Media Village, Margaret Tobbin Osei, said they are happy at the change in attitude towards the market women.
“People are taking them seriously now. That encourages us to go on. We hope to bring even more programmes that will have national impact,” she said.
The first prize for Di Asa is a brand new saloon car, the second prize is a minivan while the third prize is a tricycle popularly known as Aboboyaa.
Source: Daily Graphic