Confessions of the Video Vixens
What you need to know:
- We go behind the cameras to find out how their real lives are, and how they navigate the male-dominated music industry.
Long before the world of socialites, and Instagram models, lay the hot commodities that were video vixens.
You can trace the genesis of the video vixen to American Hip-Hop and R&B of the early 90s. Prior to the 1990s, beautiful women in rap videos tended to be window dressing, treated as ornaments to the rap star flexing at the center of attention.
With Hip-Hop going mainstream worldwide, later on, the brown-skinned beauty became a fixture in music videos.
The Kenyan music scene was not left behind.
In the noughties, young women became part of Kenyan music videos, with the aim of appealing to the general populace and capturing their attention hence more ratings.
Beginning in the 2010s vixens were at the height of many young people’s imagination. This is when socialites like the voluptuous Vera Sidika in P-Unit’s smash hit ‘You Guy’, Huddah Monroe in Jaguar’s featuring AY ‘Nimetoka Mbali, Brenda Otieno in Bahati’s hit ‘Adhiambo’, to Becky vixen who has featured in almost all Gengetone hits.
Here were beautiful young women taking the spotlight, radiating beauty and confidence, and even outshining the artistes themselves. Video vixens were not in the pages of magazines, these were women who embraced their body and curves with an irresistible attitude. They transformed the music videos’ aesthetics, as the productions became more detail-oriented and music videos were more like mini-movies.
There have been challenges though. First, there was the sexualisation and labeling. Then there has been the issue of their exploitation both sexually, and monetary-wise. Others also see vixens as living fake lifestyles, bankrolled by shadowy figures. And finally, there is the question of their survival in the era of social media, where people can stream their music without paying for it, and the most popular are now digital influencers aka content creators.
In this article, a few video vixens get candid about their life.
‘I protect myself from sexual predators’
CAROLINE NG’ONDU, 22
Ngo’ndu who prefers the cognomen ‘Becky Carol’ has appeared in music videos such as No stress by Masauti ft Trio Mio, Pokea Sifa by Kidum, Me Like It by KRG, Noma by King Kaka ft Rich Mavoko, and Form Today by Femi One ft Kagwe Mungai. She is currently studying Tourism and International Relations at Zetech University.
“In 2016, while I was in high school I enjoyed watching international music videos and particularly the vixens. I admired their bodies, their look, flare, and sense of fashion and style. I didn’t think the Kenyan videos matched up, but I did enjoy a bit of the Tanzanian videos because they didn’t compromise on their vixen’s quality.
One day I was at my aunt’s store when I started dancing to a song, and she told me, ‘You could be like her (pointing at the vixen on the video). I think you are confident and have a nice body.’
That’s when the bug of being a video vixen hit me. I didn’t know where to start but I started posting videos of myself dancing on my Instagram account which I opened in 2017.
One day, a follower in my DM, suggested that I consider being a vixen. He knew of an up-and-coming artiste who was looking for a video vixen for a Justin Bieber cover song he was doing. He introduced me to him and we did the video. That marked my genesis to the world.
The video got me many referrals and I found myself working with rappers Ssaru, then Masauti, Mejja, Femmie One, and the list grew. The more I worked with big artistes the more I gained followers and even started getting interviews.
Still, I had a problem. I didn’t know how much to charge. To date, there is no rate card for video vixens. For the Justin Bieber cover, I asked for Sh12,000 after consulting my mum.
Averagely, an experienced and well-networked vixen can get Sh100,000, a semi-experienced Sh20,000 and a novice start at Sh2,500 to Sh10,000.
I always take into account who the artist is, the workload, location, additional expenses like outfit provision, makeup, role, budget, other vixens incorporated, and the impact of the project on my brand before I state a figure.
However, it hasn’t been all smooth. I am tough-headed and this has cost me a couple of gigs. Being in an industry that is male-dominated, sometimes I have to decline sexual advances from directors and artistes.
It’s a common phenomenon. Some will threaten not to pay you when you turn down their sexual advances. Others will cancel you on a project just because you turned them down.
What irks me is that some vixens fall into these traps. They get lured into having sex with an artiste or a director and once that happens, paying them becomes a problem because they now have a ‘thing’ and that implies they work for ‘free’. Many opt to be used this way hoping to become famous.
There are also those directors or artistes who will invite you for gigs then instead of paying as agreed, they trick you guys into having parties, where they buy booze, and some will end up having one-night stands with the girls when they are drunk. Then on it becomes difficult for a vixen to demand her money. In most cases, they never ask and when they do they are told, ‘Are you forgetting how I treated you at the party? Didn’t you enjoy it?”
I have learnt to say no to these sexual advances. I also never accept to twerk on videos. Thirdly I have to be informed of who the other vixens are before I get on the shoot. As I said some of us like to keep it professional while others don’t.”
‘In Kenya, all we are told is to dress skimpily and shake our butts on camera’
SHERYL LAURA, 26
Call her Mayah if you may. Mayah makes her money through hosting events in Nairobi, doing commercial modeling, and video vixening whenever an opportunity arises.
“A video director, King Kenon who now happens to be a good friend, is the guy who introduced me to the industry. We met on Instagram. At the time, I would post my photoshoots on IG, my feed was very active and I guess I gave the impression that I was a model when actually I was just having fun. Kenon then slid into my DM and asked if I would be interested in featuring in an artiste’s song as a vixen. We met and did a shoot for an up-and-coming artiste. That was back in 2018 and it marked the beginning of my vixen journey.
I used to love dancing and twerking back then haha! Dancehall music was huge and twerking had become a thing because the video vixens did it. I was young and loved it. From one song to the other, I ended up appearing on a number of notable songs such as Prakata by Willly Paul, and Panda by Redsan where you will see me vigorously shaking my ‘assets’. Just to be clear I no longer twerk on camera, I overgrew it.
When I joined the industry, I was still in campus and didn’t know how the industry worked. I got Sh3,000 paid for my first shoot and I was so excited as a student.
As time went by, I got Sh2,000 to Sh5,000. The figures then rose up from there. I received so much support from my parents especially my mother (I had already lost my dad). She used to tell me, “if you continue like this you're going to be the next Vera Sidika’. Vera, then was the best sought after video vixen.
My boyfriend was also supportive, he drove me to the video shoots and even linked me to some artistes because he was in the entertainment industry. He understood how it worked.
I learnt of exploitation like sexual advances and nonpayment from other vixens who came before me. This information helped me a lot, because I now knew how to go protect myself. No artiste has ever hit on me, save for the crew members or the stylist. Being hit on is normal, and in my case, it’s never been a bother.
My qualm with the profession is on its perception.
That’s why we can never compete with let’s say Nigerians. Look at how their video vixens are dressed and styled. They never give the impression of ratchet-ness like we do here. In Kenya, all we are told is to dress skimpily and shake our butts on camera.
Here, it’s all about showing your glutes, thighs, and boobs. That’s why vixens tend to be reason either slim-thick, or thick. Of course, it’s not like vixens elsewhere don’t shake ass, but they do so on certain terms and projects. I feel Kenyan directors need to up their game and also let’s have stylists who are well-versed in vixening.
When you pay a vixen Sh10,000 and instruct her to have specific outfits that may not be in her wardrobe, then what is she left with?”
‘When I went back to vixening, my boyfriend dumped me’
SOFFIE MBUTHIE, 22
Her Instagram boasts 36,000 plus followers. Soffie describes herself as a commercial model, actress, and brand influencer. She has appeared in a number of music videos as a vixen such as Mambo ya Mhesh by Bahatio, Wavy by Khaligraph Jones, Show Kitu by King Kaka, Odi Love by Willy Paul among others.
“I got into vixening in 2019 after finishing form four. There was this neighbour whom I was fond of and who knew of my interests in modelling. One day he told me, “Soffie there is this friend of mine, a video director who has asked me to find him a lady to feature on a musical shoot he is doing.” That’s how I ended up connecting with director Tery Joelz.
My first project was Show Kitu and I connected so well with Joelz that he kept plugging me on other shoots.
When I did the shoot, at first I didn’t tell my mum because I wasn’t sure how she would react. When the video was out I showed her and she was really impressed. She urged me to carry on. Besides I had made Sh7,000 from the shoot which was a nice surprise.
In 2020 I got signed to a model agency Chava Agency, and I got a manager. He drafted my portfolio and upgraded my rate card, so any gigs since have always been through my manager. He gets the deals, and we split the pay in percentages. Working with an agency has been my lucky strike because I have never been exploited. There is some level of professionalism that it brings.
Of course, I have heard stories of vixens coerced to have sex to get shoots. Sometimes, vixens are lured with free alcohol and have to do shoots for free. I’m glad this has not happened to me. The worst that ever occurred, is not getting paid for a shoot by an artiste.
Last year, I stopped vixening for a period to protect my relationship. I was dating a certain Tanzanian artiste whom I feel was very insecure. I think he was worried about the money I was making and the connections. He asked me to stop doing it, promising to provide for me, which he never did. It was actually my mother who urged me to go back into vixening. I remember her saying to me, “Soffie brand yako inashuka, you need to do something about it.”
That’s when I decided I will get back and that was the end of my relationship with the Tanzanian. The things we did for love lol!
Nowadays, I do commercial shoots and I have worked with Eric Omondi as he pays well. Commercials are less tedious and demanding as opposed to music shoots which may last a whole day or even two.
Some music shoots may also involve a lot of extremes such as wearing skimpy clothes and excessive touching which even though its acting, it’s sometimes irritating.
I am planning to quit vixening in the next two years.
Vixening is a natural selection career, and a new crop of young vixens are coming up. By nature, the older ones are always replaced with fresh faces.
My plan is to set up my modelling agency, and sign up models to offer vixening services.”