According to science, the more massive the star, the faster it burns up its fuel supply and the shorter its lifespan. One would say the same for the fickle, if not fast-paced world of entertainment. Stars have been known to dazzle many with their talent, only to fizzle out before their audiences can catch a breath. Most of us were introduced to Patricia Kihoro from the third season of Tusker Project Fame. But unlike some stars, this charming, multifaceted, down-to-earth woman whose personality is as smooth as her voice continues to grow from strength to strength. She has cultivated a massive, loyal and (mostly) adoring following from her performances, work and social media pages. And from the look of things her fans, friends and foes alike have a lot to look forward to:
Patricia is instantly open; greeting me with a warm hug that instantly erases the need for painful ice breakers. As we settle down, she is tying up a few work-related details on her phone. From where I sit, her skin seems to be glowing from an internal light source and is completely make up free. I compliment her on how great it looks. She is gracious in her response, and shares briefly about her two year struggle to get her skin to this state of vitality.
“I started consciously trying to improve my skin two years ago because it was quite horrible. I wore make up all the time to cover it up. Just last night, I was looking at my face in disbelief! We have come a long way.”
She tells me about sharing her skin care journey with her followers, prompting me to ask her how it feels to be in the limelight, accessible by one click, and to whom many look to for answers about almost anything under the sun.
Life in the spotlight
“Being under public scrutiny is something that I am learning to navigate,” Patricia confesses with a smile. “When we all joined social media way back then, none of us had any way of knowing that it would become this big thing from which people are earning decent livings and building ridiculous numbers of followers. It was just a way to share pictures and jokes! But now there’s a different pressure to posting when your work is based on your social media page. You have to think about what a certain picture says when you share it especially when you are an influencer.”
We get into the kind of jobs she accepts as an influencer. “I try to work with brands that are seamless to incorporate into my life; the things I love, interact with, enjoy and use daily. That makes it effortless and also genuine. I am also quite keen on working with Kenyan brands because there are so many amazing brands out here worth shouting about. So I find ways to partner with them in a way that’s beneficial both ways.”
She concedes that the double edged social media sword has its benefits, “InstaGram is my favourite platform. It allows me to push myself in terms of artistic expression. I think about angles, impact and editing and I like that it challenges me to be as creative as I possibly can. Twitter is where I get my daily laughs from!”
With visibility often comes misconceptions, I tell her, asking what misconception she has dealt with lately.
“Oh, that has to be the insinuation that I have a male sponsor! I talk about all the work I do: From my radio show, my performances, being an MC, partnerships, brand collaborations and everything that entails being an entertainer. Over the last two years, I have worked so hard so I can get to a place where I can enjoy experiences. But then you get people asking, “how can you afford these things? What is your career?” Most people save to buy cars; I save for travel and experiences. For me, it’s worth it. I just want to go everywhere I possibly can.”
What does she enjoy the most about travel? “It’s so interesting for me to see how other people live. Travelling allows me to expand myself. What is so obvious to one country can totally not exist in another and that is incredible to experience.”
Last year, Patricia went through a period of phone harassment. “People can be very entitled about my business, and I understand why, but I remind myself what is important; having close friends and family who never treat me differently and always remind me who I am. I just ignore the trolls. I am not sure whether it was the same person or different people, but they got a SIM card and would call and text me talking about my “fake” social media life and how “sad” I was. Can you imagine how hollow someone’s life is for them to decide to make up lies and harass a person they don’t even know, especially when you can unfollow/block them and live your life? I once just replied to one message: I will pray for you. ”
She confesses that she is quite reclusive, and enjoys her own company. “I spend a lot of time in my house, watching movies, surfing the internet, listening to music. I also spend time with my family. I am quite wary of the energy around me and also of the energy that I project. So I do my best not to take on what I cannot handle. ”
Most people don’t know that Patricia taught herself how to ride a scooter by practising within her neighbourhood over a weekend. “I sold my car two and a half years ago because: I was sure I was going to die in it. I was taking for granted the fact that I could go out, drink, have a good time and still drive home and at the time there was a lot of drinking and driving related deaths. So I said goodbye to owning a car and hello to the scooter.”
Working the airwaves
Patricia initially started working in radio by reading news but she had always wanted to host a radio show where she played African music. “I wanted a platform to showcase fresh, talented non mainstream artistes that I felt were not getting enough airplay. Luckily enough my dream found a slot every Sunday. That show is a passion project for me. I love getting feedback from listeners because it’s not uncommon to hear an artiste on my show that you haven’t heard anyone else. I do know that some artistes have managed to grow their fan base as a result of playing their songs and that fills me with so much pride and happiness.
One of my favourite comments is ‘wow, is that Kenyan?’ We have been so conditioned to believe that foreign is better or that foreign validation is what makes us great but I know we are great and we need to start validating ourselves because I witness it in so many forms of art, fashion, jewellery and music. That’s why I always try to take Kenya with me everywhere I go.
“I get a lot of questions about how to get on radio. I love working on radio and although people assume this, it is not as lucrative as it used to be as a standalone career. Digital media is taking over now; and traditional media had to suffer budget cuts. Podcasts are really huge now. If done well, you can make a decent (direct) income from sponsorships and do very well. Even radio stations now record and stream their shows online because of this shift.”
“I can tell you that I have true friends and I am so glad for the people in my life. A lot of people assume that the friends I have are social media friends. But that isn’t true. I go way back with my girls; long before social media. I have beautiful history and wonderful relationships outside social media with each of them. What you see online is just a tip of the iceberg.”
How would you define true friendship? “Friendship means support, encouragement, being shielded, being there for each other and being called out when you are out of line. Being a friend means that I am constantly seeking to be a better person for them and for myself. I have had moments in life where I wasn’t at my best as they have, and we were there for one another through it all. We aren’t the same people we were five years ago. Change is inevitable. Every day I know that we are all growing, so I also have to grow in the friendship I give.”
The celibacy vow
On the question of romance, Patricia shares about her decision to take a celibacy vow. “Last year I got into something that started as innocent, platonic DMs that grew into more towards the end of June. Our first date was in a bookstore and it lasted 12 hours – the stuff of my fantasies. We spent hours in there, comparing notes, talking about books, and buying book and then we went for lunch that turned into dinner. For our second date, he decided to spend his birthday with me; he brought food to help me through a hangover and we ended up spending another 26 hours talking and connecting.”
The relationship was long distance because he lives out of town. “We would speak for hours every day. There are elements of what we had that were real and beautiful when we had them. We got close very quickly, but after three months things became strained -- we weren’t talking as much and I could feel that he wasn’t in a good place. He had a lot to deal with from his past and that affected the present. So we broke up. I tried to keep in touch but after a while, we just stopped speaking altogether.
“I decided it was time to heal and take time out. There was no big ceremony; I just decided to take a year to rediscover myself. I think the lesson in that relationship I believe was God just telling me ‘this is just an introduction.’ I mean I am asking for a man who is just right for me and if someone is out there praying for a woman who fits my description, then I have to do the work to become the best version of me.”
“There are some directors that I have enjoyed working with: Like Jim Chuchu and Wanuri. They trust their actors to know what to do with the characters that they are playing. They allow you to ask questions and become a part of the whole process. A lot of people believe acting is about pretence but acting is about finding yourself in the role that you play, or finding the character in yourself. Again, I have learned as a performer that in asking questions you have to be respectful because even if you feel as though another character you are working with isn’t allowing you to be your best, it is not up to you to determine whether they leave or stay.”
“People see me talk about my mum a lot online, but I am also quite close to my dad and siblings. My brothers are amazing. They teach me how to chill out. I have been friends with my dad since I was a little girl. My dad and I fight like friends! This has enabled me to have beautiful friendships with men, and that is how I am able to retain my friendships with exes even when the romance doesn’t work out.”
“I made a vow to myself when I was younger that I would sing every day and not hold the singing to some standard like how much money it would earn from it. And I do it without fail because it’s part of who I am. It’s just that people think singing can only happen on the radio or at gigs. I miss singing on stage; I don’t enjoy recording though. Before everyone had an idea of what I should sing and it didn’t feel right. I might go back to it. I just don’t want to make music just for the sake of it. I want to make the same kind of music as the ones I have listened to and they moved me.”
When asked about future plans Patricia simply says: “The only thing we know for certain, is that we will all die someday. So the best we can do is live a good life without regrets. Regret is a waste of energy.”