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Nice Githinji: I'm nice if you get to know me

Lady Speak

Dr Taabu, of Tumaini Senta, which airs on KTN, is loved for her life saving skills. In spite of that she can be pedantic – almost in a narcissistic manner. On set, she has been chided for being out of touch with the reality of slum life: the environment within which she works. The charge could be anything from speaking too much English and being plainly aloof. But Dr Taabu isn't suffering the consequences of her own actions. Someone else is. That person is Nice Githinji. "There are people who actually think that I am a bad person – like the characters I play," Nice says. "I tell them that I am not but some don't believe me." She finds it unsettling that people misconstrue her personality in real life because they have seen her on TV in certain light. But it is part of the job. The best she can do is deny. When she was born the name her mother gave her was Caroline. But her father didn't want her called Caroline. The newborn, it seems, looked too nice. And so, he said, 'she will be called Nice'. The irony of that incident (assuming it happened exactly as narrated) is that Nice's father bolted out on her, her siblings and her mother when she was around six. "He just chose to live without us. I knew he had left because I no longer saw him and our family went broke," she says. The whole family lived in Mombasa back then. But with no father and no money, they packed up and left for Nairobi. They settled in Makongeni and Nice attended Makongeni Primary School. She never thought too much about her father's absence but on parents' day, as her peers fidgeted with their fathers' fingers, anger would build in her chest. At age 9, Nice acted for her school, playing King Herod's daughter in the Bible in a national competition. That, it seems, was the first time Nice played a nasty character, because, in the play, her father having promised to give her anything if she danced for a gathering, she asks for the head of John the Baptist. "That year I won the national best actress," she says. But did she want to be an actress? To suggest so would be stretching the truth too far. In Form 2, she may have been elected the chairlady of drama club, but in her mind, she wanted to be a lawyer. "I had a certain knack to speak up. I disliked seeing people mistreated. It was not easy for me to let something go if it involved unfair treatment. I guess I saw myself as people's advocate." Acting still hovered on the fringes like a lover who just didn't go away despite being told off. With just a few months to clear high school, she still wanted to study international relations. The plan – in her head – was to immediately move to Makerere in Uganda to seat for Forms 5 and 6, then afterwards head to university. But just about the time she was wrapping up high school her mother died, throwing life into a tailspin. Something else happened: a troupe came to her school to perform a set book. An older friend, and a former schoolmate, was part of the cast. "I asked him what I could do to act as well. He gave me contacts to the play's producer. I called and auditioned," she says. Nice got the job, becoming part of a team, moving from school to school, performing set books for students. "I was making Sh300 per show. I did approximately three shows in a day. The money came in handy because with mom gone there was no one to support us," she says. "When schools closed I went Hartstrings Kenya to perform with Victor Ber, Sammy Mwangi and Ian Mbugua." Before acting infused into her career plans Nice had tried two odd jobs: waitressing and a call centre position. Despite making the final list, Nice left call-centre training on the third day of training, citing lack of enthusiasm. She says: "It just wasn't my kind of job. I couldn't picture myself doing the job. Acting, unlike a call centre, offered me total release." As for waitressing, she worked at bars in downtown Nairobi and ran for stage at her free time. Nice's has been a typical life journey: with ups and downs and everything in between. She believes that she is still work in progress. The best days, she says, are still ahead – though she doubts if she will ever reach a point when she will perfection. Nice is currently single. Dating is the least of her concerns right now, choosing to focus on her work instead. She is not ruling out getting married some day and having children. "It is difficult getting into a relationship in this business," she says. "But I would love to have little Nices in future." Her husband, if she will have one, will live in a different house to hers. The reason, she says, is because she has a fear for permanency. Success in her career has prompted her to rollout give-back-to-society projects to help young people make the right decisions. She says: "I run an initiative; 'Ji-Nice visafe'. It is a platform through which I offer and foster mentorship for young people: addressing sexuality, drug abuse and the ills of wrong teenage choices." Whatever you think of her, Nice still insists that she is a nice person. In real life, she says, she wouldn't ask for someone's head; she would save them from death. Also, she wouldn't be as reckless as the character she plays on House of Lungula. "That does not mean that I will let you get away with anything. If you are wrong I will be honest and tell you so. That is part of being nice," she says.


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