What have you been up to lately?
I have been trying to expand my business in Nigeria. Other than that, I have been making appearances and trying to go into movies.
What line of business are you into?
I am into interior design. Our main branch is in Ethiopia but we have an office in Italy as well.
When did you start business?
I started when I was seven years old. My father is an entrepreneur with multiple companies. I was employed at his mechanic shop at seven. I worked with him for 14 years, then we had a disagreement and I left to start my company.
What was the cause of the disagreement?
We had difference in opinion which lasted for a long time and at the end of the day, I was kicked out of the house. I wanted to pursue my dream of going to school but my father wanted me to concentrate on the business. I went ahead and studied business management.
How was growing up in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is a wonderful country. I was lucky I got to visit a lot of places because my father took me on business tours. I grew up around diplomats and their kids. That gave me the opportunity to attend an international school. I was exposed to a lot of things before most of my friends. Even though Internet was not such a big thing, at the age of eight, I was already exchanging experiences with people from Ireland, America, Europe and all over Africa, especially Tanzania and Angola.
How did you support yourself in school?
I was 18 when I started college. My father is a great man. He taught me a lot of things when I was growing up. He taught me how to survive in any situation and how to make money. When I got into college, I was determined to show him that I can make it on my own. College tuition for citizens is taken care of by the government; but in order to earn money for books and feeding, I opened a burger spot in partnership with my friends. After we started the burger business, we rented a big house and moved in together. But my friends later treated me in a bad way.
What did they do?
We were four and we had 25 per cent share each in the business. We agreed to change location to a place near the school so that we can sell to students. We closed the shop as a result of the plan. I put all the machinery and furniture in my grandmother’s house. We were looking for a new place to rent but at some point, they said we should just sell everything and keep the cash.
One day, they told me that they had found a buyer and I asked them to take the things from my grandmother’s house. Later, I found out that two of the guys had opened the shop somewhere else with the machinery in partnership with two other friends of ours.
How were you able to switch into interior decoration?
It was easy. I am a very versatile businessman. I have done so many things in my life to get money. I have been a driver for the Zambian president, a tour guide and a gynecologist’s assistant to name a few. But the interior design business is done by my friend who is an architect. I take care of the marketing and management aspect. Our third partner is a light and sound engineer.
How did you discover Nigeria?
I am still discovering Nigeria. It is not easy for a foreigner to just come into the business. But I am lucky because I had the exposure of Big Brother Africa.
How did you get into the Big Brother house?
My sister, who took part in the previous edition, took me to the auditions in Addis Ababa and I scaled all the hurdles.
You remained in the house till two weeks to the end; did you think you might win at that point?
Of course, that was what everybody thought until we left. But the difference between me and other housemates was that Angelo and I had fun. We were not bothered that we did not go home with the money. We were just there to have fun.
You were not romantically linked to anybody in the house. According to you, there was somebody you were committed to.
I was committed to someone.
You are no longer committed to the person? I found out that she was cheating on me. I did not cheat on her or engage in any other relationship. The reason was not because of her, I also did it to respect myself. I always said that if I found out she was cheating; there was no way I would be with her because I would be unable to trust her.
How long were you seeing each other?
It would have been two years in March. I was in Nigeria when I found out. I had plans to bring her to Nigeria.
Are you thinking of dating a Nigerian now that you are in Nigeria?
No. You must be the first person who is not asking me if I am with Beverly.
I thought she was dating someone and you are just nice friends?
Would you be surprised if Beverly and I started dating?
I won’t be surprised, are you thinking of dating Beverly?
I don’t have a plan. You can never plan emotions.
Now that she is living in your house, don’t you have feelings for her?
I and Beverly were in the same bed for three months. We woke up together.
That’s because you were committed to somebody else at the time
How are you coping with Nigerian dishes?
I like ofe nsala. Beverly’s mother makes the best ofe nsala. I cannot eat amala and okro. I like rice, plantain and goat pepper soup. I am also a big fan of a particular eatery.
How has your fashion sense evolved over the years?
I used to be like my father. He has an amazing fashion sense for his age. He was one of those people with an Afro and bell bottom trousers when he was young. But his sense of fashion is not our sense of fashion. I am huge fan of hip hop and I used to be a rapper, I am always dressed in the hip hop attire. I wear baggy jeans and long T shirts, big belt buckles and earrings.
I don’t like suits and tight trousers. I cannot wear dress shoes because they hurt my feet. I cannot wear dress trousers unless it is necessary. I have had one suit all my life and that is the suit I wore during my college graduation. I love shirts with funny graphics as well as wrist watches and rings.