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Kenyan reality TV shows: Have they gone overboard?

Sunday November 24 2019

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The WaJesus duo is made up of Peter Kabi and Millicent Wambui. Their main areas of business include filming weddings and events, musical videos, documentaries and personal photography. PHOTO | COURTESY 

KAREN  MURIUKI
By KAREN MURIUKI
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ELVIS ONDIEKI
By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Have you ever watched a woman give birth?

Nowadays, you are not required to go to a hospital to witness that. Thanks to a growing trend where couples are sharing video recordings of their daily lives with the public, you can have a “yes” to that often-asked question by simply using the internet.

For instance, in August a couple with a popular YouTube channel streamed live as the wife, Shiko Nguru, delivered a baby at their home.

The video is on their YouTube channel, The Green Calabash, which has nearly 60,000 subscribers.

It shows an almost naked Shiko giving forth life, up to the stage where the umbilical cord is cut.

This was not the first time the couple was beaming delivery images to the world.

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A similar occurrence for Shiko’s previous birth was also captured on their channel in 2017.

SHARING EXPERIENCES

And in August this year, gospel musician Bahati and his wife Diana showed the whole world what transpired when she gave birth to their second child.

There were cameras all over the delivery room as Diana entered the final phases of labour, and the baby’s first cry was recorded by the ready cameras, same as the reactions of the parents.

“God has done it again! The baby is here. That first cry, that is everything. Welcome to my world,” Bahati said as he faced one camera.

Edits of the hospital shots were later aired on the couple’s show, "Bahati Reality", which airs on NTV, and on Bahati’s YouTube channel.

Another couple showed a delivery room video through their YouTube channel in October this year. They call themselves the WaJesus family.

They also published a video of the husband, Peter Kabi, and his wife Millicent at a hospital ward the moment their firstborn was born.

“Our vlogs are mainly about the reality in our relationship. We share our experiences in marriage and the relationships around us,” the couple told Lifestyle.

It is not just giving birth that one gets to watch through the videos shared.

APING

The recordings, shot in the spirit of reality TV that has taken root in the West, capture virtually all aspects of couples’ lives, from domestic disagreements and purchase of new furniture to the visitors they receive and anything in between.

From the Bahatis, to the Murayas, and to the WaJesus Family, the phenomenon where families have placed cameras on lots of the things they do is fast catching up in Kenya.

Going by the number of people subscribed to the YouTube channels where the videos are shared, it also appears that there are audiences thirsty for such type of content.

But it has critics. One of them is Rev James Mbugua, a psychologist based at Africa Nazarene University.

Rev Mbugua says he has stayed in the US for a while and witnessed Hollywood’s reality TV, then compared it to the one in Kenya.

His verdict is that it is an unfortunate way of aping what is happening in the West, where scenes sold as reality are “often stage-managed and some situations and scenes hyped up for marketing purposes”.

“Gullible Kenyans take the shows line and sinker with a subtle, unconscious and unmet need to be like the bubble celeb stars,” he said.

“Reality TV shows in Kenya are often about poor self-concept resulting in esteem issues originating from a foundation of perceived poverty, leading to a desire to shield oneself in a fragile shell of having 'made it',” reasoned the reverend.

STUPID GAMBLE

In Rev Mbugua’s opinion, Kenyan celebrities need “a lot of help” as they stay in the bubble of fame.

He reasons that the fear of getting broke is what is driving some of them into sharing a lot about their private lives.

He believes that there are limits on the extent of a person’s life that can be shared to the public. He also has a bone to pick with producers of the reality shows.

“The makers of such also exploit the naivety of our brothers and sisters. Scenes like the ones by Bahati end up lowering his status in the minds of the serious business world. In the West, reality TV is one big Hollywood con while here in Kenya it is one, sorry to say, stupid gamble,” added the psychologist.

But those in the reality TV world believe it is a whole new vista of opportunities.

Peter Kabi and his wife Millicent, the ones behind the channel that showed a scene of giving birth in October, say they run their channel by laid-down rules.

Online, they call themselves the WaJesus Family. “We share what we feel comfortable sharing. We also have some ground rules. For example, we have to get someone’s consent before including them in our videos. But we also try not to include others because it’s really about our marriage and relationship,” they told Lifestyle.

REVENUE STREAM

To illustrate the thinking process that goes into the videos, they said they have not exposed the face of their son to the world through the channel.

“We are still taking time to know and understand him before showing him to our followers and subscribers. It has all been intentional. It’s not yet time for that. For our home, however, I think everyone knows each and every room. Except the bathroom,” they said.

The couple added that such a show has been bringing them income through collaborating with brands and corporates.

“It is something we would never have done without it. We became intentional with our content creation when we started the YouTube channel, and endorsements just started coming,” they said.

Asked to comment whether there are times when they act rather than depict reality, they maintained that they largely show the real situation in their family.

“We try to make our vlog as real as possible. There’s really no opportunity to act. But for some videos like the travel vlogs, we have to plan the content ahead so that we have an idea of what we are going to shoot,” said the couple.

THE CALL OF DUTY

What about the critics who think it is vain to expose private lives too much?

“People will always have an opinion, which is why we have the confidence and stand to share with the hope that we get to inspire and change the narrative about marriage,” said Millicent.

Her husband added: “The Bible says that when you light a lamp, you’d want to place it where it can be seen. It’s ministry for us; a call to inspire young people and marriages in general, meaning we have to put our light up.”

The couple said it is humbled to have hundreds of thousands of followers, and had a message for them.

“There may be a couple who look up to us. However, don’t compare your relationship to ours or anyone out there. Be true to yourself, which is what we have done all through,” said Millicent.

Below are some of the online platforms where individuals are showing the public intimate details of their lives.

* * * * *

WaJesus Family

The WaJesus duo is made up of Peter Kabi and Millicent Wambui, popularly known as Kabi WaJesus and Milly WaJesus.

The college sweethearts, who met in 2016, rose to fame a year later after Kabi proposed on live television.

Kabi studied film at Kenyatta University, while Milly studied business management at the same institution.

Kabi, a master of ceremonies, producer, and artist is a business partner of his wife in their media production company, Bantu Films, which he started after college.

Their main areas of business include filming weddings and events, musical videos, documentaries and personal photography.

He takes on the on-set directing while Milly tackles the behind-the-scene managerial and merchant roles.

But it wasn’t until the couple landed their ambassadorial titles for travel agency Bonfire Adventures that they took their brand, WaJesus Family, up a notch on YouTube.

SUBSCRIPTION

Two years and 80 videos later, The WaJesus have amassed a subscription of more than 144,000 on their YouTube channel.

Their joint Instagram account has 114,000 followers, with their personal accounts at 206,000 followers for Kabi and 179,000 for Milly. Their Facebook pages have 53,000 and 23,000 likes, respectively.

Their content is on a range of topics, most of which are travel experiences. A month ago, they welcomed their first born son, and took their loyal followers through the delivery journey with a documentation.

Since announcing Milly’s pregnancy on a YouTube video as well, their content made a shift to baby-related topics, including surprise baby showers, nursery tours, gender reveals, among others.

By Thursday evening, their one-day-old upload titled "The Wajesus Family Nursery | Baby Room Makeover | Baby Name Reveal" had more than 141,000 views, even earning posts on local blogs.

YUMMY MUMMY

Joan Obwaka Munyi, alias Yummy Mummy, describes herself as a digital content creator and a TV show host.

She currently has more than 40,200 subscribers on her YouTube channel, having curated content for a year.

She shares lifestyle videos on these platforms, including video blogs with her husband Zach and their two children.

Joan also delves into raw topics that she has had first-hand experience in — like early pregnancy, single motherhood, co-parenting and even drug abuse.

Back in July, she took to Instagram to announce her third pregnancy. This drew a multitude of congratulatory messages from her online fans.

“Not just a food baby. And I am no longer just pregnant with expectation. Happy to announce that Zach and I are expecting our third child. Baby dropping Jan 2020!” she posted, quoting a Bible verse from the book of Samuel about how God answered a prayer for a child.

Joan also shared her struggles in her first trimester and excitement and anxiety that came with it, all bared out on her YouTube channel.

Earlier this year, she also shared her sister’s struggle with alcohol and heroin in a YouTube video.

For this, many of her followers have described her as real, raw and authentic because she makes it easy for people to relate to her.

“Wow! Thanks for being so vulnerable and open with your story and family and your life in general. This is why I subscribed!” posted Sheila Kaindi.

She added: “I love that you are almost always unapologetic and authentic especially in your role as an influencer. Keep the train going doll, we are rooting for you.”

THE MURAYAS

Celebrity couple Samuel Muraya and Linet Masiro, also known as DJ Mo and Size 8 Reborn, respectively, gained popularity from their place in the Kenyan gospel music industry ever since Size 8 got saved.

But through their YouTube channel The Murayas, which was formed two years ago, their following and influence has grown tremendously.

They have 72,400 subscribers, with an Instagram following of 1.2 million for DJ Mo and 1.6 million for his wife.

Their three-year-old daughter Ladasha was also introduced into the spotlight as soon as she was born.

She has a whopping following of 321,000 on Instagram, which is run and managed by her parents.

The family has endorsed countless brands including Huggies diapers for which Ladasha has been a brand ambassador.

DJ Mo and Size 8 are known to share their family moments on social media, and are also known to be vulnerable and as honest to their audience as can be.

Last week, Size 8 gave birth to the couple’s second child through a delivery that had numerous complications.

They documented their journey on a YouTube video, which had 108,000 views just a day after being uploaded, along with congratulatory messages comments from impressed fans.

THE GREEN CALABASH

On their YouTube channel, Rama Oluoch and Shiko Nguru describe themselves as “just a regular Kenyan family”.

Their channel, which has close to 60,000 subscribers, is a library of the family’s day to day video blogs. The couple has three children.

A number of their videos involve endorsing products, but they display them so subtly that the uninitiated will hardly notice it.

In August, they left the internet in awe after sharing a 24-minute video documenting the delivery of their third child — which was done at home and without the assistance of a midwife.

While this video was not marketing any brand, many of the 344,000 viewers described it as a use of their influence to educate as very ideal.

Britt Christensen typed: “Sooo beautiful! Makes me less scared for my birth in a few weeks. Thank you, love from Denmark.”

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