Vybez Radio presenter Chiki Kuruka grew up in the United Kingdom where she broke ground, discovered herself and found her love for dance. She chats with William Osoro about racism, her love for Kenya, dance, partner and how she learnt to take a lead in life amidst the trolls and negativity on social media.
Growing up in the UK, did you face racial discrimination?
If you're a black person in the UK, it's gonna happen, you will be discriminated against, it's just a fact. Some of it is overt, some of it is undercover.
I remember the first time facing racial discrimination was when some riots happened and I said to myself, ‘wow this is really bad.’
I have always been a straight-A student with a scholarship to school.
The riots happened as I had just left dance training. I had a hoodie on.
I was in a carriage full of white people in the tube (underground train) and I was the one that got stopped by the police. I was like, ‘of all these people I’m probably doing the most. I'm at university, I've left dance training.’
I just happened to be a black girl with a hoodie on and the immediate assumption was that I had something to do with the riots that I didn't even know were going on.
What made you settle in Kenya?
It's crazy because my uncle lives here. My uncle is a war correspondent and because Kenya is quite a calm country, it is a great base for him since then he can go to war torn countries and report about them.
My two best friends who we were living with together in the UK are half Kenyan and they were coming home.
I decided that I’m coming with them and it was literally as simple as that. I came here and I was like, ‘this place rocks. I'm staying. I'm not going.’
I found Kenya so beautiful and the people really easy-going.
What assumptions do people make about you?
Unfortunately, because of my British accent, a lot of Kenyans have the assumption that I'm bougie but that couldn't be more opposite.
I also think it is something to do the fact that I'm mixed race as opposed to being black, people think that maybe I'm not so connected with my African side.
I fight those two assumptions all the time because I'm from the hood and I'm proud of it. I have chosen to live on this continent, I couldn't be prouder.
So many people are trying to leave Africa and go to the United States or Europe, but the beauty is in this continent, the future is on this continent. I definitely think Kenya is the hub of East Africa. It's just a good place to be.
What inspired you to get into fitness training?
I refer to myself as a wellness instructor. It’s something slightly different because fitness is very much about just your physical. For me, it's everything including how do you feel about yourself? Can you afford your rent? Can you sleep at night? It’s all those things.
I started dancing when I was very young, around 9 or 10-year-old. My mom's rule has always been, 'you have to do as many extracurricular activities as possible. Don't just go to school and come back.’ So school didn't use to stress me that much as dance was a way for me to get rid of all of my energy and I could focus on my education. There's something really magical in the combination of music and the movement which made me balanced.
I went to an all-girls school and I was always very body confident. It used to really upset me that friends of mine who were super confident had body confidence issues.
I started teaching dance for that reason, as it requires you have to be a bit open.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
After I came to Kenya and I had been dating my partner for almost a year and a half, we were going to a high fashion event. By that time, people knew who we were and there was a lot of pressure from the press.
So I made such an effort and had a beautiful dress made and bought some gorgeous shoes.
After about an hour into the four-hour event, I realised I couldn't walk in those shoes.
I was literally gully creeping around the entire place. To this day, when we are going out, my partner jokes ‘are you gonna be gully creeping around in these shoes?'
You spoke on plans of having a breast lift surgery one day…
I don't think it's anyone's business the decisions that someone else makes regarding their body. I've seen the genes in my family and children don't do us very well. When I look at my aunts and their boobs are by their hips, I just don't want that to be my story.
Not reconstruction surgery, just put me back the way I was before.
Have you ever had a run-in with your partner’s fans? How do you deal with hate on social media?
I have never had run-ins with fans. The reality is that people who say nasty things online will never be brave enough to talk to me face to face. And I come at it hard. So I would dare someone to come and say to me face to face something that they'd be brave enough to type.
That's normally the person who you'll see in every time saying ‘Hi, oh my gosh, I love you guys.’
Also, I always consider myself really blessed because if you look at other people on social media, the amount of hatred I get is so tiny in comparison to the support and love I get.
What was your reaction on learning you had landed a job with Vybez Radio?
It was super exciting because I have been in the dancehall industry my whole life. I remember just feeling finally, this is an opportunity for me to spread positivity, good vibes and good energy. I love that that's what the entire station was about.
The media is so full of negativity, not to name names, but so many shows thrive on trolling.
We make a very conscious decision not to do that. Everything that we put out is positive.
I was just happy that I got to be in the space where we were doing what I believe in.
How is it like working with ZJ Heno?
Heno and I laugh about this all the time because we actually hadn't met before we started working together. People are always shocked at that fact because it's nerve-wracking when you're supposed to have a relationship with someone, especially someone that you've never worked before with.
I keep it 100 and really struggle to fake friendship.
I count my blessings every single day because our friendship came right after we met and before we were co-hosts.
We do not fake our relationship on air, it is genuine. We chat. We crack jokes, we have a very similar sense of humour, we stand for similar things. He, like me, likes to keep it 100. He is not about the whole fake lifestyle. So yeah, we've been super blessed.
Mind your mind. When you feel good, you do good. So it's okay to say ‘I'm not okay’. It's okay to say ‘I don't want you in my space’, because the better you are, the better you offer society.