Tue, 14 Feb 2012 12:06:51 GMT | By Obed Boafo

Confidence Haugen - Africa’s Very Own “Big Sister”

Former Big Brother Africa contestant Confidence Haugen has used controversy and infamy to her advantage, building a successful nightclub brand and inspiring women with breast cancer to continue smiling.

Confidence Ama Haugen (© Supplied)

Confidence Ama Haugen, Ghana's own celebrity

A sizeable number of people on the African continent ask for fame and recognition, and achieve it almost immediately.

However, for 38-year-old Confidence Ama Haugen, who was one of Ghana's two representatives at last year's Big Brother Africa reality television show in South Africa, life in the fast lane came just when she least expected it.

In this part of the world, celebrities are such a big deal. The beauty of the cameras and lights constantly staring you in the face might be overwhelming for some, but for others there is an innate ability that always ensures that certain things come to them naturally.

Confidence is one of the people with such and ability, and thus, when the opportunity to represent Ghana at the Endemol-produced show came up, she grabbed it with both hands.

A good number of television audiences who watched the show remember her for all the wrong reasons. The infamous incident that saw her breasts pop out during a steaming bath session is very fresh in the minds of viewers.

She said of the episode, "Most people are quick to judge and criticize but don't do so constructively. Somebody would say, 'Oh, Confidence, why did you show your breasts to the whole world... '; this is so not typical of Africans and I will reply and let you know why I did that."

However, negative publicity has worked to her advantage and ensured that her short stay in the reality television show has become far more relevant than she ever thought. Now, her stock has rocketed, making her one of the continent's top celebrities.

"As a [nation], we sometimes dwell on the negative sides of people without making time to consider and count the positives. It is a mindset we must work at changing."

Haugen missed out on winning the 200,000-dollar prize money at stake, but she more than enough proved her point.

"It was a wonderful experience that brought me closer to the continent. It took me into the homes of millions of viewers, some of whom I have never met in my entire life... that was awesome. For a businesswoman, I think I took a smart decision to compete in the show."

Before she left Accra for the Big Brother House, she had her fair share of stardom back home with her Aphrodisiac Nightclub in Ghana's capital Accra. From a superfluity of avoidable controversies to wild rumours and perceptions about her personality, and how she's made it to the top, Haugen's Aphrodisiac Nigh Club has gradually built a huge cult following for her - thanks in part to all of the above.

Another outlet of the nightclub was recently opened in Kumasi, Ghana's second-biggest city, and a third one is due to be opened in Takoradi, Ghana's third-biggest city.

"Aphrodisiac is growing and we are poised to change the face of nightlife and entertainment in general in Ghana. It's been long in coming but finally, we've arrived."

Confidence Ama Haugen (© Supplied)

Confidence, the businesswoman

Close to her heart, however, is Project Smile, a breast cancer care initiative that in her own words "would seek to put a smile on the faces of persons with the disease".

Late last year, she told me, "Everybody is talking about breast cancer but we are not talking about people who live through it. For you to survive breast cancer is a big deal, so that is what we are working towards. Project Smile basically is about putting smiles on people's faces. It's something very dear to my heart. I believe charity work must be self-driven such that even when the support isn't coming, you feel motivated to push hard."

The motivation to start Project Smile, she told me, came from a personal experience - having had surgery done on her breast at a time when she felt insecure and irrelevant as a woman.

"If something is broken and you can fix it, fix it. I believe most physically deformed persons are in the state they are because of poor judgement," she says.

Haugen is understandably upbeat about the success of Project Smile and how it will be received.

"The name Confidence Haugen is now popular and can get [the Project Smile team] to places. I know, with the mileage that I have received so far, I am able to use it to my advantage. Now, when I talk, it will carry more weight; people will pay attention and offer help if need be."

Whatever accolades Haugen is currently receiving are as a result of years of paying her dues to Ghana's entertainment industry.

Before she burst onto the scene in 2004 with the launch of the Aphrodisiac Nightclub, nightlife in Accra was dead and needed to be resurrected. Confidence Haugen pounced on this gap and, gradually, Aphrodisiac became the go-to place in town for even a normal night out. The facility offered the city's ravers an alternative option aside from the usual boring suspects who had outlived their goodwill.

Awards and special mentions have poured in since, and today the club remains a hot joint for local and visiting celebrities such as Akon, and top footballers like Didier Drogba, Solomon Kalou, and Emmanuel Adebayor.

"Looking back, I must say we've come very far. It's been tough, but we survived. Five years from now, we should have a story to tell."

When asked if she would ever look away from nightlife as a calling, she confidently said, "I am not quitting [the] night life business anytime soon. I am sure when I am 50, I will come up with something for that age group."