Beautyprenuer Phoina Wambui is known for her love for lavish parties as well as her dramatic make-up transformations. But behind all the glitz and glamour, lies a social media influencer whose actions have sparked debate and divided public opinion. Wambui, popularly Phoina Tosha, was born and raised in Thika town to a single mother.
“I’m the only child of my mother. I come from a humble background. For a long time, it has been me and mum and that’s why we are so close,” she told The Nairobian.
Phoina attended St Michael’s primary and high schools in Thika and later came to Nairobi where she studied mass communication.
“I had a short stint in a community radio station located in Kibera but that didn’t last long. I started working for a car tracking company for a few months. That’s when I decided to venture into the makeup business. During work breaks, I would go on YouTube to learn new tricks to improve my craft and I started freelancing as a makeup artist,” she added.
She worked for 10 years then she decided to launch her makeup line, Phoina Beauty, and a beauty academy.
“I have always been passionate about makeup, and after understanding what the market needed, I felt like there was a gap especially when it comes to lipstick shades. I decided to create shades that I love and use them on my clients and the response was encouraging. That’s when I realized I needed to invest in products that are Kenyan-owned and pocket-friendly. At the school, we offer courses on wig making and maintenance, makeup, nail technology, and hairdressing.”
The makeup brand recently celebrated one year
“On our first year anniversary, we expanded our portfolio to 16 lipstick shades and four eye colour pallets. We have a splash collection palette, it’s a colourful pallet suitable for creatives or clients who like to explore colour. The tutorial pallet for beginners and neutral pallet,” she noted.
Phoina says one of the biggest challenges she has faced as an entrepreneur is high taxes. “Doing business in this country is challenging but the main ones are high taxes, delays in production, and managing employees. Even with these hurdles, I have learned how to manoeuvre on a daily basis.”
Since expanding her business, Phoina says she has had to change to accommodate other things.
“My priorities have changed and now I have a beauty school, salon, and product line. I’m now focused on offering quality services and the more the brand grows, the more there is a need to offer other solutions.”
Her secret to building a successful brand online is staying consistent, “Consistency, that’s what has helped me build my brand to where it is, and when it comes to the hate on social media, I just choose to ignore it. Some messages are actually entertaining to read.”
Phoina recently made headlines when she invited EALA MP Winnie Odinga to one of her events and there were rumours that the two are dating.
She told The Nairobian that was the first time they met.
That was the first time I met her
“My event was a women-driven event. It was about women's empowerment and women doing great in different fields. Winne Odinga is a person many look up to and my team reached out to her and invited her to speak at the anniversary event. That was the first time I met her and talked to her. She gave an amazing speech on that day. It was quite inspiring and how the story changed on the blogs was quite surprising to me. All in all, it was an honour for her to grace the event. It’s actually sad that people choose to drag her into such a conversation,” she said.
Though there have been many speculations about her dating life, Phiona revealed she is in a relationship with a male partner.
“Yes, I’m in a relationship with an amazing man.”
Phoina has also been seen on multiple occasions with Rev Lucy Natasha, whom she says is a client who became a friend.
“The first time I launched the retail shop, I invited her to come and speak at the event so we became friends and she is also a client who I do make up for from time to time,” she said.
After her public fallout with socialite Amber Ray, the two reconciled, something she notes was important for her.
“Nobody wants to be at loggerheads with their friends, especially one you have shared great memories with - us reconciling and perching things up was important.”
Phoina, who is currently in her early 30s, disputed claims that a man finances her luxurious parties and launches.
“No man is paying for my parties but who wouldn’t want to be supported? It gets so hectic with business and support is necessary.”