She made her debut on TV playing the role of Salome in KTN’s riveting soap Lies That Bind. Ruth Maingi plays her roles with such ease, passion and finesse, she stands out.
“I enjoy what I do. This is what I was born to do. Acting comes naturally for me, I do not struggle,” says the 30-year-old actress.
Just recently, Ruth was honoured at the 2014 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards for her impressive role in her latest series Mama Duka written and produced by Njoki Muhoho.
In the series that airs on KTN, Ruth acts as an approachable Swahili shopkeeper who offers solace to troubled souls. Her warm and friendly demeanour allows her to offer wise counsel.
How did Ruth land in the acting world?
“I have always loved performing in front of people ever since I was a child. I remember when I was a small girl, I used to sing and dance in school and church,” she recalls.
Even though she pursued a diploma in insurance after high school, she was so immersed in the performing arts that she ended up in theatre.
“At some point, I was dealing with policies, premiums and compensations. But I was so unhappy, stressed and feeling misplaced. I quit after a short while,” says Ruth.
After quitting, she joined Kenya National Theatre Performing Arts School for two years. This was the beginning of her success as an actress. In 2007, she joined Kigezi Ndoto Musical Theatre Performances.
She travelled to India in 2008 when casting in Sauti Kimya and Githaa. She transitioned into screen when she landed a major role as a coach in The Team, a TV series with Media Focus on Africa produced by Dreamcatcher.
She also acted a featured support role in Wash and Set and in Saints by Spielworks Media.
This year, Ruth has managed to get a role in five movies produced by Zamaradi where she acts a lead role in two of the movies The Next East African Film Maker and Orphan.
Though she appears like she has arrived, Ruth confesses that the journey has not been easy. “It has taken hard work, persistence and passion for me to be here. Before I got my breakthrough, I hustled like all other actors,” she says nostalgically.
Apart from her prowess on stage, Ruth also has an eye for fashion.
“I can combine colours, fabrics and jewellery with natural ease,” says Ruth.
She was the stylist in TV series Lies that Bind and was a nominee for Best Costume Designer in Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2014.
When not busy mastering her script lines, she is behind the scenes mixing and matching wardrobe attire for the cast.
What does it take to be stylist?
“I have to understand the characters of the entire cast and dress them in a fashion that is consistent with their role. I am also tasked with shopping for the outfits of the cast,” she says.
Ruth has also done styling for talk show Ladies First and Jane & Abel on Africa Magic, Sumu la Penzi, How to find a husband and Rush. She also does her own styling and ties her own characteristic head wrap. Other than that, Ruth is also a professional dancer.
“I perform contemporary and Afro fusion dancing to express myself and relief stress. I blend in Congo, South Africa and ethnic dance moves and liberally swing my dreadlocks to give me character. I have also incorporated salsa and jazz dancing and learned basics in ballet,” says Ruth.
Ruth has come this far because she is diligent and loves her work.
“I give my best to the job at hand. I do what I am expected to do when am expected to do it. I execute with diligence because I love what I do and it gives me fulfillment and satisfaction,” says the versatile actress.
And how does she balance it all?
“It is tasking. Perhaps that is why I have not settled or started a family,” chuckles Ruth.
Ruth says it is a misconception that acting doesn’t pay.
“People always ask me what I do apart from acting. Or they ask me why I don’t work. What people do not know is that acting is now paying well in Kenya. In a month, a good acting job or single commercial can earn you about Sh250,000. An MC job for a single night is worth Sh150,000 – Sh300,000 if one is good at it. While a six-month movie can pay Sh3 million, which will compensate for the subsequent months before the next assignment. It’s time Kenyans respected the arts,” says Ruth
Her parting shot: “Artistes should respect themselves and their professions. Come to set on time with your lines prepared. Be physically, emotionally and psychologically prepared. Coming drunk on set is unacceptable. Be humble when you make it and give back to society by passing on your skill to others.”
The other side of Ruth Maingi
Ruth was born and raised in Machakos County and is the fourth born among six siblings. She nurtured her acting career while at Kathiani High School and Township Muslim Primary School in Machakos. Owing to her demanding job, she says she has no social life.
“I am not dating and have no kids yet. My work takes all my time, but I would love a responsible man who first of all takes charge of his life,” she says.
Ruth loves travelling and can comfortably live out of her suitcase for five months.
Her future plans?
“I want to establish myself at home and then go international and eventually become a producer.”
Her message to upcoming artistes: “Do not give up. Stick to your course. You never know when the breakthrough is coming.”
An impulsive ‘shopaholic’, with more than 50 pairs of shoes, Ruth confesses that she has clothes overflowing in her cabinet.
Her favourite local actress and mentor is Lydia Gitachu. Internationally, Ruth admires Meryl Streep and Angela Basset. Her fashion tip for women, “Do not follow fashion trends blindly. Dress according to your body size and shape and learn to hide flaws.”