“Today marks yet another milestone,” she captions a picture of herself carrying a pile of huge books on an early October post, adding, “Four years of my life in one hand: My PhD thesis. I will probably discuss my topic and area of research in the near future… for now, I just need to toast to myself, (because), This isn’t for the faint at heart!”
Dr Lindah Muthoni is the ultimate influencer, holding a doctorate of philosophy and working as a civil servant when she’s not making waves on her social media pages. Indeed, attaining a PhD is not an easy task. A 2019 report by Business Daily notes that only one out of 10 PhD students in Kenya complete their studies.
When we first organised a phone call with Dr Lindah, she was out and about preparing for her graduation, so we scheduled the interview post-graduation. It is a Tuesday morning when we can finally speak, she slips away from a morning of meetings.
“For the most part, it was tough, long, but I thank God that I’m here,” she says about her PhD journey, adding, “I had a good support system - friends, family and my employer were very supportive, and aside from that, prayer worked for me, as well as taking it a day at a time.”
She tells Eve that she wasn’t always passionate about furthering her education and that it was something that happened naturally over the course of her academic journey.
“I grew up in Tharakanithi, a small town called Chuka. I come from a beautiful family and I had a happy, healthy childhood. I came to high school in Nairobi, and after I finished, dad asked me what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure at the time, and my sister suggested Human Resources. After my degree, I tarmacked for two years before securing my current job.”
When the ambitious influencer took on her first job, she began her Master’s at the Management University of Africa, a natural course of action that she describes as “God’s plan.” Content creation was another aspect of her life that seemed to come naturally.
“Back when social media was just beginning to be popular, around 2014, I had an Instagram page with a significant following even for that time. We didn’t call it being an influencer back then, and we weren’t making money from it,” she says, noting that she took a break from social media to “get her life together.”
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“Even though the account I had at the time grew, I wasn’t aware of myself. My confidence and self-esteem was low. I was tarmacking, I lived at home, I was throwing anything at the wall to see how it sticks.”
Stepping back from the world is something Dr Lindah does often, to recharge, re-strategise and work on herself. She jokes that sometimes it irks her loved ones that she can switch off her phone and disappear for days, even weeks at a time.
“When I started my job in 2016, I took that break from social media, I was off the grid completely. I was deep in my books for about five or six years,” she says.
Dr Lindah would find herself back on the socials towards the tail end of her PhD when she playfully joined in on her friend’s social media posts and felt called back to re-engage with her pages.
“I created an account on TikTok to see how it goes, and it blew up,” she says, adding how the growth has been “exponential”, with fans recognising her often and the fame consistently rising.
She says: “At the beginning of this year, I wanted to monetize it, so I opened up my Instagram and began the journey on YouTube, just to encourage people and let the ladies know that they can do this too. Brands started calling, and the rest is history.”
On TikTok, Dr Lindah enjoys a large following of over 272,000, and an impressive cumulative like-count of 5.2 million. On Instagram, she has over 120,000 followers. Finally, her YouTube page has experienced rapid growth, amassing over 20,000 subscribers within months of launching.
“Authenticity is what my fans like, I am confident in who I am,” she says when asked what her followers love her for.
“In my opinion, if I was just another pretty face on social media, I would probably have a following, but the PhD has added the extra pizzazz, people get the best of both worlds.”
Dr Lindah advises aspiring content creators to have several streams of income to raise their value and negotiating power when working with brands.
“It is important to have a plan B just in case so that you don’t end up picking up anything and everything. We should also remember that being an influencer is fleeting - it’s not forever, so have something to fall back on, whether it is an 8 to 5 job or a business venture.”
“Be patient.” That’s what Dr Lindah would tell her younger self.
“People have so much pressure to make it, make it by 25. Everything takes time, even when you plant the seed, you don’t eat the fruit tomorrow. You are doing well. I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself.”
She reflects on her relationship, which is private, but not a secret.
“The moment people know who your person is, it puts so much pressure on the relationship. And when you put someone on social media, you are advertising him,” she says, adding that even when she does get married, the only images that will be released publicly will be those of herself and her bridesmaids.
She adds: “A friend who is a content creator is always being told where her partner is and what he’s up to. There is so much peace in privacy.”
When she’s not working or creating content, Dr Lindah spends time with her loved ones and goes to church - she notes that she is a devout Christian.
“I want to inspire younger people coming after me. People have this misconception that you can only do courses that are popular and selling, e.g. business management. There is a big gap in terms of guiding people in what they want to pursue and what they can do. Many of us are in these grey areas. My goal is to indulge the youth and try and add value in society.”