I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. (Jimmy Dean)
‘Um, so I start…tomorrow?’ I asked Farida Karoney, flustered. She had called me while I was on a break at the Coast after hosting 2 seasons of the travel show Out and About, which was now on a sabbatical and later hosted by someone else. I was trying to figure out the new course my life was going to chart. She had just approved my screen tests for the Late Night News on KTN and two days after my first ever rehearsal, she told me I was going to make my debut in just over 24 hours. It was September 2007, I was 23 years old, I was watching MTV and reading Pulse Magazine. I didn’t feel prepared to talk to the nation about pressing current affairs matters. I was busy having fun!
“Yes”, she told me frankly. “I understand you’re nervous but I think you’re ready”, she added gently, but firmly, like she needed me to believe in what I had. So I did. It’s not the direction I thought I’d take, I was a lot more drawn to lifestyle programs and the free will to be me, but was also aware that opportunities like the one I was being presented with were not easy to come by. I accepted that the winds were blowing me in a different direction for a reason, and I not only had to adjust my sails, I had to trust these winds!
I did a last minute run through of everything, learnt how to apply make up in one swift tutorial, bought two suits that would eventually turn out to be oversized so I would use pegs to secure them from behind and hours later, at 11 pm, I was on the air!
After fumbling for a few days I began to find my way and two weeks later, I debuted on the 1 pm news. A week later, KTN Weekend Prime. By this time I had become more savvy, news-wise and all round. I was wearing my suits and not the other way round. Thanks to Beatrice Marshall, who was always so well out together, my hair and make up looked decent! I remember looking in the mirror before one of my Weekend Prime bulletins and it felt like I was staring at someone else. Where had the tomboy gone? What about the causally dressed traveler? I smiled, I was growing up! And I was beginning to enjoy the news and the bulletins in general.
After covering the 2007 elections and subsequent post-election crisis right through to the signing of the 2008 peace accord in Kenya, I settled into the new Sunrise Live segment as the host, and this is where I would hone my adlib skills and inject humor and personality in to my bulletins. Sunrise Live made me alive to my newscasts and I never did bulletins the same after that.
Later that year Esther Arunga would tell me of an opportunity to work in South Africa that we were both asked to apply for, which we both turned down at thay time because KTN had told us to we were going to debut as the main anchors on the coveted 9 pm news! We had both featured on 9 pm as Business Anchor and Features Reporter respectively but had not been the main anchors so that was huge. In early 2009 we joined Lilian Muli and Beatrice Marshall as the other female 9 pm News Anchors during the week. Various newspaper pull outs had a field day seemingly comparing us, the ‘new kids on the block’. I understood that it came with the territory and to be honest it was a great time to be a Broadcast Journalist, but sometimes it just seemed condescending and almost sexist. Ah well, it’s the life you chose, I’d tell myself. But I started wondering if there was something better out there…
My restless feet, eager for a change of scene, saw me applying for the News Anchor/ Reporter job in Johannesburg that I’d previously turned down. It was still available so I sent them my showreel and CV and I forgot about it. Over Easter, just two months later, they called me back. I’d been shortlisted! I was beside myself. I began to imagine life in another country, the opportunity to start over, to meet new people, learn a new culture, really grow into my own! When they interviewed me on phone a few months later and offered me the job, I went on my knees and promised God I wouldn’t let him down or, you know, do anything silly! I resigned from KTN on the 5th of June 2009 after eNews Africa sent me an offer letter, making my appointment official, bar my securing a work permit. Which is where things took a turn for the worse…
(To be continued…)
You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.C. S. Lewis
Photography: Lyra Aoko