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The little girl who lit up social media with red carpet poses

By Caroline Chebet | May 27th 2020
The four-year-old Joy Jebiwott.

What started as a simple photo-shoot at home to keep busy from the school closures has resulted in a viral image that has swept the internet by storm.

The photo of a smiling, four-year-old Joy Jebiwott in traditional regalia, her head thrown back as she quenches her thirst from a Coca Cola soda has garnered millions of views, shares and tags world over.

Coincidentally, the soda the four-year-old girl is seen gulping down was a gift after a successful photo-shoot by an amateur photographer, Douglas Lagat, her cousin.

Joy, a pre-school pupil at Dreams Hill Dreams Academy in Eldama Ravine, was not modelling for the picture, and her photographer did not for once imagine the image would go viral on the internet. 

“Joy had visited the village from Eldama Ravine town where she lives with her family when I decided to do some photo-shoots to keep busy. After a while, Joy looked tired and we promised her a gift, which happened to be a soda,” said Lagat.

A finance graduate, taking photo's is Lagat's hobby, and seeing his cousins and sisters together at home following the indefinite closure of schools to rein in Covid-19 offered another perfect photo-shoot opportunity, this time in a rural setting.

The shoot happened at Kamalanget village in Emining, Baringo County, just when  Joy had come visiting her grandmother and cousins who had formed a group called Savannah Crew to showcase culture.

“She was a natural,” said Lagat.

Days after her image went viral, the pre-school pupil seems unaware of her new-found fame. Like children her age, she is more excited by her new environment - the vast playing fields, the forests and new found chores like collecting firewood, tending to cattle and fetching water from the streams for her grandmother and aunties.

Joy on the set at her grandmother's home in Kamalanget village, Baringo. [Joseph Kipsang, Standard]

According to her parents, Joy, a bubbly child and a second born in a family of five, refused to go back home, saying she wanted more time with her grandmother. 

“The next thing I got was her photo, which I thought was lovely. Then a friend called to congratulate me, saying he had spotted the photos online,” said Jacob Keror, Joy's father.

At first, his daughter's sudden online fame made the father afraid.

“At first I was worried for my little girl and wanted the photos pulled down, but many people were calling to relay positive feedback. We had to accept that Joy was unique,” he said.

Her mother, Mercy Kochei, said she was not surprised. Deep inside, she has always known about her daughter's bubbly nature. It was bound to come out in the open.

“I was stunned but not surprised because Joy is outgoing. We are happy that she is learning her culture and loves it,” she said.

Lagat says he shared the photos two weeks after they were taken and was surprised by the online attention they drew.

Joy’s other cousin, Barbra Lagat, a student at Jomo Kenyatta University, said they formed the Savannah Crew to showcase the beauty of the county and its culture.

“That Joy’s photos have gone viral is an an eye-opener that we can still do more,” she said.

“This proves to the world that there is more to this county than insecurity," said Baringo Chamber of Commerce chair Elisha Kiplagat.

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