By David Odongo
NAIROBI, KENYA: Esther Arunga-Timberlake, the former celebrity baby-faced television anchor whose publicised spat with her parents, run-ins with the law, escape from psychiatric care, dalliance with Jazz singer Joseph Hellon’s controversial Finger of God Church, Placenta Party of Kenya, and marriage to Quincy Timberlake- is back.
Well, not quite. In an exclusive interview with The Nairobian, the silky-voiced lawyer-turned media personality spoke in great detail about marriage and blamed her parents for not preparing her to be a wife.
And contrary to common perception that she walked blind-eyed into marriage, she believes her biggest achievement was persuading Quincy Timberlake to marry her.
“I never learnt anything about being a wife while growing up – the focus was always on academic success. I was so self-centered, proud and headstrong - qualities that can make marriage a living hell. I’ve had to learn on the job. It’s been a steep learning curve. I knew nothing about respect and submission. Thank God for a super-patient husband,” she says, heaping praises on Timberlake whose flamboyant dressing and accented English Kenyans still recall.
Arunga says schooling and media work is not the best breeding ground for a wife, saying, “In both fields we were always competing with men, something that just does not work in marriage, particularly African marriages.”
After four years of marriage, Arunga says she has learnt that a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
“I am also very blessed to have a husband who loves me even more than he loves himself. I know this is extremely rare nowadays. I still ask myself how he chose to marry me…” says Arunga.
On TV with exposed cleavage
Touching on a subject that has been debated wildly in recent times, she revealed that her only regret in life is that she was once a ‘television sex siren’.
“This idea of being forced to feature on TV with exposed cleavage, exposing your nudity on national television while families are in their living rooms, is not my style anymore,” says Esther. “I am a wife now and I understand what people used to go through. It is regrettable and I apologise to all wives who went through hard times because of me.”
Arunga, who also revealed that she is soon signing a contract with Al Jazeera – not as a news anchor but as a features show co-host - says she had to leave Kenya and settle in Australia with her husband after life in Kenyan became intolerable.
“People were warned not to let us in their houses. Sometimes fuel stations refused to sell us fuel and even hospitals refused to vaccinate our son Sinclair,” Arunga claims.
Her husband, Timberlake, blames their tribulations on government officials and his wife’s family.
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Offence of treason
“I was never part of Finger of God. The courts could not prove my membership but the Director of Public Prosecutions in conjunction with Attorney General decided to crucify me anyway. This was all pre-planned between the government and my in-laws,” charges Timberlake.
Timberlake claims his in-laws wanted him to leave their daughter for a “senior government official they betrothed her to”.
“I have 36 pending court cases. Of course there are those “cooked” and trumped up charges that are in the pipeline awaiting me, should I step on Kenyan soil. One of them being the offence of treason according to my intelligence sources on the ground. I have also received numerous threats on my life if I step on Kenyan soil,” says Timberlake.
The Nairobian was, however, unable to independently verify these allegations. And what of rumours doing rounds that after her marriage that a very broke Esther Arunga moved into the ghetto, a far cry from the leafy suburbs in which she was brought up?
“I have never lived in Eastlands. And what is this with demonising Eastlands anyway? Are the people who live in Eastlands goats or poultry? They are human beings like us. If I had a chance to live there I would,” she says matter-of-factly.
Asked what she misses about Kenya, Arunga names traditional Kenyan food. But she is afraid of coming back since because her “immediate family is a source of danger”.
“I got tired of getting locked up by police at my parents’ whim; I was tired of being sedated by a psychiatrist. In any case, I am earning good money here in Melbourne as a Barrister,” she says.
Arunga has no kind words for the media, blasting her former comrades-in-arms propagating rumours about her.
“Expect more ridiculous rumours. Who knows whether this time they will say we are stuck in a Norwegian village begging for food or that the Timberlake’s have buried their 4th born in Slovakia due to marasmus?” she quips.