The Kyallo sisters: The hefty price of wanting it all

From left to right. Betty Kyallo, Mercy Kyallo,  and Gloria Kyallo. The three sisters recently launched season 2 of the Kyallo Kulture reality show that premiered on Showmax. Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Sisters Betty, Mercy, and Gloria Kyallo speak candidly on heartbreak, business, fame, family and womanhood as their reality show, Kyallo Kulture enters Season 2

Media personality and businesswoman Betty Kyallo knew exactly what she wanted to be at a young age. Her career would involve anything that would make her be in front of the camera and to her being a news anchor was it.

But over the years her life journey has taken a wild turn, publicly going through a divorce after a six-month marriage and being a target of cyberbullying.

The effect of her love-hate relationship with her fans also trickled down to her two sisters Mercy and Gloria Kyallo who without asking found themselves dragged into the middle of their big sister’s drama. 

The three sisters speak to Saturday Magazine about their dreams, goals and challenges and how being each other's support system helped them conceptualise their reality TV show Kyallo Kulture.

‘I want more than love from a man’

Media personality and Businesswoman Betty Kyallo. She is one of the lead casts for the reality TV show Kyallo Kulture season 2 which premiered on Showmax. Photo | Pool

Betty Kyallo, 34, is a Kenyan media personality and entrepreneur. She describes herself as a mum, CEO, journalist and a believer in positive energy and living life unapologetically. Betty and her sisters, Mercy and Gloria star in the reality show Kyallo Kulture on Showmax

“My life has been an open book, I started my journalism career at the age of 22. Starting as an intern at KTN and gradually rising to TV anchor. My life changed completely because when I started reading the news I was given a set of rules of what I should or not do. From what to wear, to going out clubbing or what to drink. There was also pressure from fans.

Fame is expensive because I now had to start living up to the standards of being a brand and also being affiliated with a corporate brand. My mother would give me her car to drive to work as society expected me to live a different life.

At KTN I was being paid Sh5,000 as an intern and on numerous occasions, my parents had to chip in financially. At KTN I met the father of my daughter Ivanna. I dated Denis Okari for four years but our marriage lasted six months. This is something I still can’t understand myself, I do not know what happened, I think the problem was the white dress.

But years have passed and we are friends and both on different paths.

As my popularity grew I had to deal with online bullies. I realised not everyone is going to like me because even Jesus was not liked by everybody.

I take life a day at a time.

On family, I have beef with my sisters like any normal family. I would not say that I was the golden egg. We were all golden eggs. We just had different seasons of coming to our success. It is only that mine came first.

Mercy is highly opinionated and this sometimes puts a strain on our relationship. 

I believe women can have it all, but it all starts in the mind. You first need to believe that you can have it all before it happens. It is also important to understand that you concur one mountain at a time. For me I have had seasons, I started with a small business, which gave me a little bit of money. I have always wanted to be a TV star so I went for it. This shows that everything has its own season.

I dream of becoming like my role model Oprah Winfrey. I admire the way she was able to easily transition from TV to business.

I currently ran several businesses. I own Flair by Betty, and After Shave while After Shave, Meru is a partnership. SummerHouse restaurant is also a partnership. 

I do not know why people think the businesses I run are not mine. Even while I was at Posh Palace Salon I was a fifty/fifty shareholder. Maybe people feel like these things are too good to happen to one person. 

As a content creator and businesswoman, I have qualms with the proposed Finance Bill.  It is very unfair especially since young people are just getting into content creation so as to earn a living. It takes a lot of time and resources to make content and the money earned sometimes is not much.

I have learnt never to pressure myself. But it is not easy, sometimes I do not get to see my daughter as often as I would want, given the fact that I am her main guardian. I get the mum guilt.

The only mental breakdown I have had was during my divorce. I kept asking myself if separating was the right thing to do. This was something that women probably go through daily but not publicly. As a woman, I knew I would be judged harshly. Going through all of it publicly and for a very long time affected me, but now I am in a good place.

For a person who has been a recipient of trolls you would think I would know how to handle cyberbullying, but dealing with online hate comes in different faces. No one has the formula. But there are things you can do to protect yourself, I rarely read about myself unless it is something positive.

I remember a time during my divorce people would send me links and I would just be shocked at what was written. From then on I never read anything negative.

I never start drama on purpose, but I feel drama sometimes likes following me, I can post a video of me dancing in a bikini and suddenly I would start trending. I never ask for it. 

Kyallo Kulture show for me is a new source of income and an avenue for people to know who Betty really is apart from what they see on social media. The only downside is that it takes a lot of work. The end product that people see might look like fun but it is a lot of sweat.

The show’s season two is all about family and evoking those tough conversations between siblings.

I would like to still get married one day. My ideal man is a successful man, I am tired of this notion of let’s wait for each other because I work hard and I want the good things in life. I was not brought into this world to suffer. While love is important, it’s not enough. For me, we both have to level up on hard work basis.”

‘The hardest part of fame is dealing with trolls’

Mercy Kyallo in a purple dress. Mercy is expected to take the centre role in season 2 of the Kyallo Kulture reality show that premiered on Showmax. Photo | Pool

Mercy Kyallo, 30, is an entrepreneur and founder of Yallo, a fashion brand that deals with producing leather accessories. She founded the brand six years ago after losing her job. She has mostly enjoyed a private life despite her famous sister

“I like this second season of Kyallo Kulture because it is highlighting our lives separately rather than as a group.

I have always been proud of my sister, I remember the days she started anchoring at KTN I would call our friends and listen to her sign out on air.

I started my accessories business when I was very young. I was just 19. I had an idea and had tried in vain to get an investor into my business. I applied for grants, even the youth fund but nothing happened. One day I was venting to a family friend and after hearing the dreams I had they decided to invest in my business. This happened at a time when I did not have any job and I immediately put all my energy and focus into building my business.

Betty and I have partnered before in different hustles, she would buy necklaces and brassieres and I would sell them so we have always been entrepreneurs. Betty being the most famous of us three, dragged us into the limelight many years ago posting pictures of us on social media and people would always be curious about us.

The show sort of cemented our position in the media space and made me famous.

The hardest part of fame is dealing with trolls. I am a human being and I get affected by negative criticism but having a great support system and people to talk to has helped me overcome it.

With age, I have realised that I do not need anyone’s approval. If it is okay with me then nobody else’s opinion matters. What I have learnt from the show is that there is no way I can escape being vulnerable. That is why I am able to speak about the IVF treatment I went through that almost cost me my life.

It happened when I was very young the experience left me with physical and emotional scars.

Shooting a reality show takes a lot of time. It is not as easy as it looks. But the show has opened many other doors for me.

My role model is Kris Jenner, the Momanger of the US reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The show was a favourite while growing up and I was fascinated by how Kris could juggle being a mother and manager at the same time while still maintaining class. I usually compare how she drinks to how Betty drinks.

My ideal man is a kind man because I believe kindness can hold a relationship through good and bad times. When someone is kind you know they can take care of you and a relationship for me is all about being taken care of. Of course, the man has to be successful.”

‘I am getting out of Betty’s shadow’

Gloria Kyallo in a yellow dress. She is the youngest of the three Kyallo sisters and also one of the main cast of season 2 of the Kyallo Kulture reality show that premiered on Showmax. Photo | Pool

Gloria Kyallo, 24, is the youngest of the three Kyallo sisters and is currently studying Psychology at USIU. Being the sibling that has been sheltered from the limelight, her thrust into the spotlight came with the premiere of the reality TV show Kyallo Kulture

“While growing up Betty was like a mum to me and when she got her first job at KTN we all celebrated as a family and she took us out for hotdogs. Betty has always been a big influence on us. She told us to go for the best because we deserve it and never settle for anything less.

When she got her first paycheck she bought me many story books because my mum could not afford to buy me any. When she started getting famous her fame also translated to me.  I would get special favours from my school teachers. I got a soft life because of her.

But after high school, I felt that I needed to be more than just Betty Kyallo’s sister. I needed to be my own person and find out who I really was away from my sister's shadow. I started being careful about the things that I did, the places I went to and the people I interacted with because my family was always in the spotlight.

I have realised that I can never be Betty Kyallo’s sister forever. I need to form my own identity which in the show everyone will get to see.

Having a famous sister also came with its downside. I remember when Betty was going through her divorce I was in form two and I did not even know about it until some teacher told me. This took a toll on me not because her marriage was ending but also the way the news was delivered to me. I felt that my sister should have been the one to tell me.

I’m a proud mother of dogs. I am still on a journey of learning especially in this digital era where I have seen a lot of careers end and people destroyed because of cyberbullying. When I was celebrating my 21st birthday I remember being trolled for a dress I wore that I really liked and being the soft kid that I am I really cried. Crying is how I express myself. I am a crybaby. That was one of my lowest moments thanks to social media.

I do not want to say that I have now grown a thick skin because I am still a soft kid and I still get hurt but I have decided not to engage.

Being young and already making good money has sometimes made me feel the pressure of wanting to live a certain life just because of peer expectations. Wanting to drive a nice car, and wear the best clothes but I am glad I have my family who keeps me grounded.”

About Kyallo Kulture reality show

Kyallo Kulture is a reality series that dives into the personal lives of Betty Kyallo, one of Kenya’s most prominent media personalities and a thriving entrepreneur, and her bold sisters, Mercy, and Gloria Kyallo. Season 1 was a hit with Kenyan viewers, becoming one of the top 10 most-watched shows on Showmax in Kenya in 2022. Kyallo Kulture was also nominated at the 2022 Kalasha Awards for Best TV Show.

Season 2 is currently streaming as a Showmax Original, with new episodes every Tuesday. Kyallo Kulture is produced by Eugene Mbugua’s D&R Studios, which is also behind The Real Housewives of Nairobi.