Gloria Muliro talks of how she scaled the ladder in her music career.
We have evidently lingered a little too long at the Weston Hotel’s reception, as a receptionist walks over to enquire if we are waiting for someone. “Yes we are. Gloria Muliro,” I respond, which clearly impresses the hotelier.
“Oh she’s coming here?” she asks, and all is forgiven as she walks away.
When the gospel artiste finally walks in, she is glowing in a white and pink dress that gently hugs her figure. She seems to be defying the laws of biology and photography as she looks younger than the last time I saw her, and also younger than she does in photographs.
She gets that a lot, but the weight loss might also explain it, she tells me later when we are settled. She has lost about ten kilogrammes within the last year by going on a low carb diet, avoiding sugar for two years despite having a sweet tooth, and by exercising for 30 minutes in the morning and evening.
“I have around five more to lose before l get to my ideal weight,” she tells me, and true to her regimen, she asks for a glass of lemon water when the waitstaff brings the menu.
I realise Gloria is naturally introverted but transforms on stage into the person the public knows, which she tells me surprises the people who know her.
She struggled with low self-esteem and low self-worth growing up and into her 20s.
“But I overcame by getting to know who I am in Christ and learning to love, appreciate and define myself. When I realised I don’t have to be what people think or say I am. I am who God says I am,” she says.
Having found her inner strength, today she is one of Kenya’s successful artistes, and at one time the Music Copyright Society of Kenya had her as one of the highest earning.
However, despite the glamour, her life has not been easy. She says her experiences are what made her into the person she is today, and she would not change anything.
My life is what I make it
“I don’t choose what life brings me but I choose how to respond to it. Take an example of an egg and a carrot and put them in a pot of water. They will react differently under the same environment. One of them will harden, and the other one will take in the pressure until they break. I learned that my life is what I make it,” she says.
She is used to the limelight, but the spotlight was squarely on her when she was going through her separation and divorce. When she was going through the divorce from Eric Omba, her husband of five years, she addressed it then but she declines to speak about it now.
“I don’t want to go into details because I think it has been many years and I have talked about it previously so I would not want to keep talking about it.
What I would mention is that marriage is work and it is not one-sided work. It is a commitment between both people. If it is just one person working in the marriage, then it will not be stable,” she says of what she learned then.
It was a particularly low moment in her life, but not one that she beats up herself over. “No one looks forward to a divorce. I did not see it coming and when it came it was really unfortunate. But it is here. Will I stay down and hit myself and ask why I had to divorce? I did not want it to come to that but it did somehow. So life has to go on. The best I can do is be easy on myself,” she says.
She feels she had given it her all, and she is happy. “When you are at a place where you know that you did everything you could to make your marriage work and it did not when you are sure that there was nothing else left for you to try because you did everything, if it still does not work you can’t blame yourself. I can only pat myself and say, ‘Well done, girl! You did your best!’
The experience taught her a lesson that she holds dear and shares. She says it is generally relevant to all marriages. “I learned that in a relationship it is about what I am bringing to it. You cannot get fulfillment from the other person. It has to be within. What you expect from the other person, you have to find it within yourself, especially things that money cannot buy like happiness, joy, and love. Because you cannot also give what you do not have. Even if you do not find it in the other person, you are fine and fulfilled, you will not end up a broken vessel. God is the ultimate fulfillment,” she says.
Omba has since remarried and they are no longer in communication, but she is unwilling to say if anyone has stolen her heart. “Let me not talk about that. When I am ready to talk about that part of my life I will talk about it, but for now, I am not ready,” she says.
While it was not one of her favourite phases of life, she has overcome even greater odds to be where she is today. Her mother died due to complications of childbirth when she experienced a retained placenta after giving birth to twins. She died the same day, and the twins died six months later. Gloria was nine at the time.
Her eldest sister, Janet Amati, who was six years her senior, took up the role of mothering and Gloria says she is her biggest influence and role model. Gloria is the fourth of six siblings, and they call Amati ‘mum’.
“I remember growing up when my sister used to pray, I did not know how to pray but I would kneel next to her and steal her words. That is significant to me now because my sister introduced me to the things of God without her knowledge. She mentored me and backed me into the things of faith without her knowledge and that really stands out because it has a lot with who I am today,” says Gloria.
Between 2000 and 2002, Gloria worked as a house help and is still good friends with the three families she worked for. “We talk, we visit each other, do lunch dates, I go for their events and I sing at their children’s weddings,” she says.
I still struggle with losing my father
While she has overcome a lot, she says the one thing she still struggles with is the loss of her father to oral cancer four years ago. “I think I healed from losing my mum faster than my father because I was young when my mum died. It is really hard to get over my father. I loved him so much,” she says.
What helps her get through is a steely determination to fulfill her purpose every morning she wakes up. “Every time someone tells me that they were down but they have listened to my song and it has encouraged them, that does it for me,” she says.
She is still doing music, despite not having worked on a solo project for about two years. She has, however, done a couple of collaborations, the last one being Huniachi with her mentor, Reuben Kigame. “I took a break because I have been travelling a lot. I have been doing international ministry in Europe and I also went back to school. I am studying Theology, but this year I decided to balance everything – being in-studio and in school. I released a new song three weeks ago called Look to Jesus. I am still in the studio doing more projects.” she says.
However, she maintains that her main mission is to change lives. She has no children of her own but she loves them and says she looks forward to having her own when she gets married.
“Now that I am single there isn’t much pressure to have children but I know when I get married I will get some,” she says.
Meanwhile, she is focused on taking care of children from the less unfortunate echelons of society. She supports about 30 children through the Gloria Muliro Foundation. It is what gives her joy and purpose.
“I want to be remembered for the lives I touched, and the lives that God has used me to transform, not for the hits I made. It is a fulfilling thing for me to go to bed knowing that I put a smile on someone’s face,” she says.