Big mouth. Nag. Troublemaker. Scarlet woman. You name it. All those names are definitive of Njambi aka Babes, the role Bernice Njeri plays on the local TV comedy series, The Real House helps of Kawangware. Njambi is a true rabble-rouser, stirring up trouble among the other house helps. Thanks to her numerous romantic escapades, she gets pregnant and is not sure who the father of the baby is. It could be Brayo the gang member, Njuguna the hustler or Baba Boi her employer.
While Njambi, born Bernice Njeri Njoroge, is nothing like the character she plays, she admits that her past life is not so far-removed. “I was born and bred in Gachie, Kiambu County, in a strict family. My father was the disciplinarian, restricting me from going to certain places and doing certain things,” she says of her life growing up, and adding that her father still monitors her every move very closely to this day.
She admits that even the course she enrolled for was forced on her by her father. “I wanted to pursue mass communications but my father would not let me. ‘You will not pursue that course in my house; you are going to study law. You will do law!’ I remember him saying with finality. And so I registered for law, initially at a lower level, but I am currently pursuing an LLB degree,” she says. She is yet to graduate.
“Naturally, when I enrolled in college, young and full of life, I intended to maximize the little freedom I had acquired. Then again, I think it is inherent of people born in strict families to be rebellious,” says the Inoorero University student.
“I was too eager to start doing the things I had been warned against – drinking and partying – that I did not need peer pressure to get me there,” she says of an indulgence that became a habit. “I used to drink from Monday to Monday. I remember a time when my younger brother opened the gate for me after a night out and with tears in his eyes pleaded with me to stop drinking. Inasmuch as his caring gesture moved me, I just could not stop,” she says.
Eventually, her drinking habit got her kicked out of the house. By then she had become an absolute rebel in high school. “I spent my school life hopping from one school to the other. I was the mischievous kind, having served so many suspensions (for beating up school prefects and grossing them out by placing used sanitary towels in their bags and boxes) that I lost count,” she says.
But her turning point came when she got pregnant. “I was dating this guy back in 2012 and I felt it was time to have a child because we had been together for so long,” she says of her child’s father. He was receptive to the idea. “However, that did not go down well with my dad. There was a problem especially with me being the first born. It was like I was setting a bad example. He was so mad he told me never to return home. I understand his disappointment, and would have probably reacted in the same way,” she says.
But when she gave birth, her father was the first to call and the first to visit. Now Bernice says that her daughter has given her fresh perspective, so much so that she stopped drinking. “With an extra mouth to feed, I knew I had to work harder. So I got another job in addition to being employed at a law firm.” It is at this point that she realized that her heart was in acting. Before she made the leap from the corporate world to a life in the arts, she sought her father’s advice.
“I was wiser. I asked my dad if it was the right thing to do and he told me that as long as I could juggle all my jobs, I was good to go.” Landing the ‘Njambi’ role was sheer chance. A friend had invited her to feature as an extra in The Hapa Kule show and shortly after she got the part, she was approached for the Real House helps.
“It was not long before Abel Mutua came in search of a female who could deliver a role in a Kikuyu accent for a new programme he was starting. And there I was.” The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. The young mum has gone from glory to glory and the future certainly holds great things for the ‘house help’ who aspires to much greater things.