What you need to know:
- She is popularly known as Auntie Jemimah through her comedy
- She started off as an accountant
- Her first attempt at comedy was a flop
- Today she is a celebrated comedian, Radio presenter, Wedding MC and digital influencer
We all know her as Auntie Jemimah. Her funny skits, which she does in Kikuyu have earned her hundreds of thousands of followers on YouTube and social media. The artiste whose real name is Wangari Nguri is also a Gukena FM presenter and a wedding MC.
"Auntie Jemimah takes the character of your typical Kikuyu rich women who hail from the village but refuse to be humbled by their background. When she visits the village for a wedding, dowry or burial, she considers herself best placed to run things constantly reminding the village people there is life past the river they've known," she writes of her Auntie Jemimah image, who popular culture has branded as 'Auntie wa Harrier.'
How did Wangari get to play this relatable character? "I have always had a passion for media. I had a way of making my classmates' ribs ache with laughter," the 31-year-old, says.
Being an accountant
But that doesn't mean it was her chosen career path. "My parents didn't think being in media would bring in the money for their firstborn daughter," she says. After high school, Wangari was enrolled in an accounting course.
"I did my CPA till level four and started working as an accountant," she shares. Her ability to crack people up was still evident at her workplace and her colleagues encouraged her to do something with the skill. "I eventually took heed and did my first video in 2016," she says. Unfortunately for her, things did not turn out as she hoped they would.
"The video got a lot of backlash. It's was controversial and centred on love issues," Wangari says. She decided to take a back seat. That's until a few months later when she attended a wedding and the cake cutter persona and humour gripped her.
That marked her big break. "I figured that the concept and Auntie Jemimah's image would be hilarious. I did the video around the concept and the reception was overwhelmingly good." She explains.
She received a lot of positive feedback and people around her encouraged her to retain the brand name and do more of the videos.
"A friend mentored me to become an MC. I would tag along to the events she emceed and take notes," Wangari says. Eventually, she spread her wings and started doing her own gigs using her brand name Auntie Jemimah.
Still, the gigs were not as lucrative, so she doubled as an accountant during work hours. In 2017, and with new found fame, Radio Africa who were launching their first vernacular station gave her first radio presenting job.
"I was glad about the breakthrough," the digital influencer who uses her mother tongue, Kikuyu, as her language of trade, says.
In December of the same year, she decided she had enough of her finance job.
"I decided to fully pursue my passion and earn my income by making people happy," she says.
But from someone accustomed to a monthly paycheck, going it alone was anything but easy.
"I didn't know that the first three months of the year, events are rare," she says.
It was not until eight months later, that endorsement deals started coming through. She decided to start engaging more characters for her digital content and introduced the other characters on the Auntie Jemimah YouTube videos.
"You need discipline and consistency to make it in comedy and the MC world. It's male-dominated," she says.
"What advice would you give to upcoming digital content creators?" I ask her. "Take care of your mind, as it is your greatest asset in the business," she responds.
What it takes
Having authentic content that one can easily position for their target audience, discipline, and patience as one grows in the industry, are the other virtues that are prime. "It's true, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter," Wangari who loves to watch crime, documentaries, legal drama, and travel during her free time, says.
While Covid-19, has been a major blow for entertainers and event entrepreneurs, Wangari has seen her rescue come in the form of online content creation.
"People are consuming a lot of digital content during this time. Within the period we have been able to explore more character for our digital content," Wangari whose YouTube channel has more than 100,000 followers, says. Through the channel and social media platforms, she earns by endorsing brands in her humorous comedy.
For now, Wangari and her Auntie Jemimah persona are not about to slow down. "I love making people happy and have a good laugh," she says. Often, a comment will come through that would make her day. "Someone will post on how watching my content made their day, or changed their sad mood and I will be joyous. This keeps me on toes to create more content," Wangari shares.