Musician Wahu Kagwe.

| Pool

‘My way out from the pandemic cash crunch’: Female celebrities on changing their lifestyles

What you need to know:

  • Entertainers in the country had solely depended on 'gigs' to generate income for their livelihoods before Covid-19 hit 
  • Many suffered meltdowns, others relocated from the city, while all were forced to adapt to the new normal.
  • Celebrities Wahu Kagwi, Jackie Vike, Careh Priscillah, Sanapei Tande come clean on how they are coping with the new normal, and the lessons they have garnered from the experience

It's open knowledge that those in the entertainment industry are among the worst hit by the pandemic. 

Events were put off in the ban on social gatherings that precipitated the various lockdowns. Performances have been canceled and not rescheduled.

Entertainment stakeholders camped on social media for weeks calling for the head of state to open the country. Many if not all had one cry. "We are suffering".

Indeed, they were, as most entertainers and influencers in the country had solely depended on 'gigs' to generate income for their livelihoods before Covid-19 hit in March of last year changing the whole narrative.

Many suffered meltdowns, others relocated from the city, while all were forced to adapt to the new normal.

"Adapt or perish," the riot act read. 

We spoke to female entertainers to understand how they are coping with the new normal, and the lessons they have garnered from the experience. 

I learnt how to be an influencer

WAHU KAGWI (Musician)

Musician Wahu Kagwe Photo | Pool

Wahu is a seasonal musician having started in 2000. She is married to fellow singer David Mathenge alias Nameless. Wahu also runs a beauty parlor Afro Siri in Westlands, Nairobi.

"When the pandemic hit, it caught everyone off-guard. Ooh Man! we had plans for the year but all that changed.

The bookings for gigs dried up and so we were in this new space trying to figure out what to do. Then Monsky—that's my husband's nameless nickname by the way—asked, "Why can't we become influencers. I mean if others are making money out of endorsing brands, why can't we?"

We had never considered this aspect as a way of making money, I don't know if it's because we are old school or something, haha!

I had to change my business model. I was forced out of my comfort zone. I could no longer depend on my music performances nor my business. I needed to find a way to stay afloat.

Influencing was very new to us. We had to adjust to this venture. Because of the restrictions, people were spending more time on their gadgets, online shops were on the rise, most advertisers had moved to social media so we had to adapt.

We started going big on social media and creating content about us that was appealing to the masses. The response was good and several advertisers started reaching out.

I remember calling Kabi Wa Jesus to ask how they do this 'thing' and the first thing he told me was to go and get a ring light for shooting content. I had never imagined that one day I would be in such a situation.

A ring light, I wondered what for? Wasn't my phone good enough to shoot content? Now I'm told I will need an iPhone or a camera for that matter.

There is this one client who asked for some of my content and suggested I need to send better quality videos. Whoa!

We ended up opening all sorts of social media platforms that we had never bothered to create accounts before, like Tiktok which signed us for a campaign deal.

We now have over 90,000 subscribers combined on Tiktok. However, it's a drop in the ocean compared to my over 298,000 subscribers on Facebook and 1.5 million on Instagram. With consistent content generation and an increase in social media engagements, I started attracting endorsement deals.

My business was also affected massively. I run a hair and beauty salon. When the pandemic began that was one of the places people stopped coming.

I had to look for the landlord to strike some sort of understanding on how I will be footing the rent just to ensure we're not kicked out of the premises.

For my employees, being a business based on commission, I asked them to come only when they were sure they had clients. I mean what's the point of catching a matatu wasting all that fare just to come and sit idle then spend more cash in the evening going back.

The business is yet to pick up but we remain hopeful for now. We are also back to doing music, Monsky and I just released our first joint collabo from our upcoming album.

The pandemic has made me realise the importance of investing in family. The curfews and lockdowns gave me a whole lot of time to re-connect with my family. I hadn't been spending quality time with my family, where I'm genuinely present listening to this child's issues and bonding with my husband.

You know the normal routine is you come back from work exhausted, take a quick shower and you don't want to talk much. All you do is ask, 'have you done your homework' and phew! You're off to bed. 

I needed to invest more in my family."

Live within your means without caring what society says


Actress Jackie Vike Photo | Pool

Vike became a household name courtesy of the TV comical drama Papa Shirandula where she portrayed 'Awinjah'. She is also an Influencer

"When the cessation was first announced, we all lost our jobs—the entire Papa Shirandula crew.

I'm an actress and acting needs a production. Papa Shirandula had a huge crew and with the protocols put in place, we couldn't shoot. This made me realise there is no safe job.

So what now with my main job in limbo? I started content creation for my online platforms and channeled a lot of my energy towards increasing my online presence.

I would say, my acting has now shifted to content creation and luckily I have been able to land several endorsement deals. I have worked with Aerial, Equity, Moflix Diapers, and currently with Tusker.

At first, it wasn't easy to attract sponsors and for the better part, I depended on my savings to foot my bills and even generate content.

Now things are a little better with more brands coming on board to work with me. But I miss the cast and wish we would resume. I know the death of Papa Shirandula—May the Lord rest his soul in peace— complicated matters but I remain optimistic.

During these times, it's important to save but at the same time be proactive because how long do you think you can survive on your savings if you are not versatile? 

Many of us lost our jobs and for the few who were lucky, they had pay cuts. Whichever you want to look at it we were all affected one way or another and we must learn.

I realised the importance of being an all-around person, as well as living within my means without necessarily caring what society says about me.

At the end of the day, I'm a mother with responsibilities and societal expectations are not one of them.

Forget the pressure from society because of our celebrity status, let's just go for what we can afford so that 'hata kanuke, kasinuke' you are still fine."

Save for rainy days and learn to DIY


Make-up artiste Careh Priscillah Photo | Pool

Careh is a self-taught makeup artist and a commercial model. She has worked with several Kenyan celebrities. Careh is the sole proprietor of Careh Beauty situated in Nairobi CBD.

"I had just paid rent for a new premise when the first case of Covid-19 was reported and subsequently the lockdown.

Careh Beauty Parlor needed a new space to accommodate the growing list of clients but also a new image was needed then boom Covid-19 hit.

I had to complete the renovations of our new salon with my savings. I had to balance spending on the renovations and catering for my house bills.

Let me tell you, I did most of the renovation by myself. I designed the salon myself and even went to fetch the needed materials from Gikomba. You know why? Because I couldn't afford to pay fundis to do it for me.

Initially, I had been fully booked for weddings and other events, but they were all canceled. Clients were now telling me "You can't touch my face now."

I was offering makeup classes and from 20 students they trickled to five. 

Were it not that I'm good at saving it would have been catastrophic because I had also stopped influencing. I was pregnant and I just couldn't. Sometimes a client would contract me to influence a particular brand but whatever he or she is offering, when I factored in the costs of content production, it wasn't valued for money.

For now, I'm a bit happy because normalcy has started to return but the business will need some time to pick up. At least the bookings have started trickling in.

Being mindful of my expenditure is my newly acquired skill. I remember seeing some meme that read 'If you didn't acquire a skill during the pandemic then you never will?" That makes sense now."

I had to learn how to use tech for business

SANAPEI TANDE (Singer and Actress)

Singer and actress Sanaipei Tande Photo | Pool


Popularly known as Sana, the 36-year-old is an accomplished singer and songwriter, and former radio presenter. Sanapei is currently acting the role of Nana Tandala the unscrupulous businesswoman in the Maisha Magic drama series Kina

"The pandemic happened when I had just quit hosting Karaoke and with the bars and restaurants closed as artistes we didn't have much of an option.

We couldn't perform. There was no karaoke anymore.

It's common knowledge that we artistes make our money from live performances so having all those places closed down and gatherings banned, things really changed negatively for us. 

But I'm grateful I had something else to fall back to which is acting. I know with music I have struggled to make enough money and some people always tell me, "Music to you is a hobby, ooh! You don't know how to make money from music" hehe! I know the problem is with me but…

I mean there has been the good and bad in the pandemic. I think it has given artists time to reevaluate the kind of music they do and plan better.

For some of us we've learnt to do things virtually, you know, you learn to do online performances and that teaches you a lot. 

I'm not into technology but I was forced to learn which is a good thing. There is a positive side to the health crisis.

Acting is definitely a plus because people are at home and we have to keep the entertainment going."


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