Why 'A Nasty Boy' magazine is causing a stir in Nigeria

Story highlights

  • A new Nigerian online magazine 'A Nasty Boy' is ruffling feathers
  • Editor Richard Akuson wants to explore and celebrate 'otherness' in fashion, people and culture

(CNN)Bold, disruptive and totally unapologetic, a new Nigerian online magazine 'A Nasty Boy,' is set to ruffle a few feathers.

"Sometimes our visual content will not be safe for the workplace... we won't make it any easier for you with our provocative editorials and swear words; take it in good spirits," read's the magazine's disclaimer.
The magazine is filled with provocative images, featuring nude models, articles contain swear words and avant-garde ideas.
    In Nigeria, a conservative country, where public expressions of nudity are uncommon, 'A Nasty Boy' is unsurprisingly causing controversy.
    But for editor Richard Akuson, the publication is sending out a clear message: he's not interested in fitting the status quo.

    'There has to be room for people that don't fit in'

    Growing up, Akuson says he was bullied for being different.
    "I was always called a boy-girl," Akuson told CNN.
    "In university, I was called a yansh man which means a guy with a big butt...my classmates thought I was too polite, in their words too polished and that was not the way guys were meant to be."
    It was this idea, that a man or woman is meant to behave in a particular way, that Akuson sought to challenge through 'A Nasty Boy.'
    "There cannot be one singular kind of Nigerian man or woman, there has to be room for other definitions that don't necessarily fit that opinion," he adds.
    Akuson had previously launched three other publications but says none of them felt right, he was pushed to publish 'A Nasty Boy,' after a run in with internet trolls.

    Celebrating 'otherness'

    "I once did a story on EJ Johnson... and how I felt his wardrobe could inspire, but the conversation in the comment section completely moved from the subject matter to me. 'Why are you always interested in stories like this?; and some responses were 'Oh you know Richard is gay'"
    "That was the awakening for me," he said. "And from that morning I knew I would start 'A Nasty Boy.'"
    Akuson says after his experience he knew the time had come for a platform that allowed for self-expression and shape-shifting ideas and explored "otherness in fashion, people and culture."
    "There are people who do not fit the status quo but are however very Nigerian," he explains. "We should hear their stories and also celebrate them."

    'Fear of association'

    While the public is slowly warming up to his publication, there is still fear and hesitation to be publicly associated with the magazine Akuson claims.
    A large chunk of the magazine's readership resides in Nigeria, Akuson notes that the number isn't reflected in their social engagement. He feels it's because people are still weary to be publicly associated with subject matter that could be considered taboo.
    In an photo editorial called 'Boys', Akuson tried to challenged the perceived notion of strangeness surrounding men being naked around one another. After it was published, he observed something unusual.
    "I could see from my analytics that the photo had been seen many times but the engagement was not as much. Then I got messages and calls from people who thought it was impressive work and I asked, 'why didn't you leave a comment?'"
    Funding also poses a huge problem for his ambitious publication with potential investors questioning its importance.
    "We have met people who just say outright that this is not a necessary publication, it could be something else, and it doesn't have to be this. They don't understand why it's necessary."

    Bold and unapologetic

    But Akuson does, and is driven by the effect the magazine has on people who connect to the message and need to celebrate difference.
    Akuson shares the story of a photographer who collaborated with him on an editorial, whose father broke his camera because he found photos of naked men on it. The incident prompted the photographer to give up on photography, but seeing his work in 'A Nasty Boy' feature on a British website lit his fire again.
    Financial setbacks and going against the grain of Nigeria's conservative principle aside, Akuson's focus is in one direction and he is doing it boldly, and unapologetically.