Nairobi News


Kenyan media celebrities and the ‘menial jobs’ they did before fame

By Wangu Kanuri September 28th, 2022 2 min read

Kenyans have always celebrated their favourite media personalities, envying their glamourous lifestyles. What many Kenyans don’t know, though, is that most of these celebrities started off doing menial jobs.

A number of them have tales of the odd jobs they did before they became household names; from flipping burgers abroad, driving trucks and waiting tables in restaurants. Here are some media celebrities who are a true definition of rising from grass to grace:

1. Jeff Koinange (Sales assistant) – The renowned media personality first worked as flight attendant then as a sales assistant at American fast-food company McDonald’s, selling fries and hamburgers. This job, he says, was daunting as he worked on night shift with customers driving through the food store. “I would see a customer approaching from the CCTV cameras welcome them then pick their order,” he once narrated. The Citizen TV journalist is currently one of the most highly paid journalists in Kenya thanks to his vast experience.

2. Jalang’o (Counting and packing chewing gums in cartons) – The Lang’ata MP once recounted how he was paid Sh1 for counting and packing 500 chewing gums in one box. Since he was not fast, in a whole day, he would end up packing just 7 boxes for eight hours which amounted to Sh7 for a whole day’s work. “It was my first day at work and I only did that job for that one day, never to come back after my evening pay,” he said.

Lang’ata MP Felix Odiwour who is better known as Jalang’o. PHOTO | FILE

3. Maina Kageni (truck driver) – The prominent radio personality used to work as a truck driver in the UK at the age of 21. Maina at that time had left Kenya for the UK to study but never set foot on a lecture hall. He would instead work as a truck driver and fish distributor for a Chinese firm. All along, his mother thought that his son was studying. Little did she know that Maina had squandered all his school fees by living large in the UK. “When my mum finally found out she was not happy with me. In 2019, she called me home and after dinner, she told me she had forgiven me for not going to university,” Maina once narrated.

Radio presenter Maina Kageni. PHOTO | COURTESY

4. Yvonne Okwara (Waitress) – The famed news anchor revealed that she once worked as a waitress at Walker’s Restaurant at Reinsurance Plaza. She says she used to pocket Sh150 a day. “The restaurant would open its doors at 9am but we had to report to work by 7 am. Closed at 8 pm. Stayed till 10 pm to clean up. All for 150bob. But I learned a lot. To respect wait staff and dealing with people! A smile goes a long way. Earned more in tips this way!” she said.

Citizen TV news anchor Yvonne Okwara. PHOTO | COURTESY

5. Jaguar (Matatu tout) – The former Starehe MP Charles Kanyi, who is better known as Jaguar, worked as a tout for matatu that ply the Buruburu and Lang’ata routes for close to three years. The little money he made enabled him to pay school fees. With time, Jaguar developed interest in music. “I was in charge of choosing the best matatu deck, and listening to the music inspired me.”

Former Starehe MP Charles Kanyi aka Jaguar. PHOTO | COURTESY