Her marriage lasted five years before she and her husband decided to get a divorce. In the years that followed, a stirring in her heart made her recall her childhood dreams of working in the film industry. In August 2018, Mona Ombogo took a bold step to create a talk show and share lessons drawn from her life experiences.
Take us down memory lane, how was it growing up?
I grew up mostly in Swaziland, a little country in southern Africa. We were a big family, six children, me being the fifth. The thing about growing up in a foreign country is that you grow to love yours a lot.
Kenya was like the golden land to us, we were so proudly Kenyan, cherishing every holiday that we got to spend here with people who predominantly ‘looked like us’. In Swaziland, we knew we were different, sounded different, thought different even, but my parents always made us feel that being different was okay. I think that’s where my courage to follow my dreams came from, no matter how ‘odd’ they are.
I remember how my parents would watch me in amusement when I climbed on top of a table and pretended that I had just won an Oscar award for ‘Best Original Screenplay’; and I was talking to chairs and tables, who were my audience, and using a spoon as a microphone. If I was to thank my parents for one thing, it would be allowing me to let my imagination run wild without making me feel odd.
You have an online show, “Life with Mona”, that began around August 2018. Tell us a little bit more about the show?
“Life with Mona” is about tackling the difficult and often unspoken issues in life. The topics revolve around sex, relationships, spirituality and following your passion and purpose. The show aims at holding out the mirror to society, and encouraging us to think again on attitudes and belief systems that most of us follow, not necessarily because we think they are right, but simply because it’s what we have been taught.
The show has two parts: the “MonaLogues”, which is just me sharing my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned in my long 40 years. The other is a discussion with an expert expounding on the Monologue episode. For instance, I recently hosted Maurice Matheka on a discussion about ‘the other partner’.
One of the experiences you talk about on your show is going through a divorce. What led to the separation?
My ex-husband and I didn’t really know how to talk to each other in a way that we would pass across the correct message. This miscommunication stemmed from our different backgrounds. I grew up knowing that instead of yelling, you should discuss and fight for your points until you feel they had been made.
I did this a lot with my ex, and when he got angry, he would shout, which would make me retreat because I wasn’t used to this type of communication. I didn’t understand that he resorted to shouting because that’s how they talked in their home when he was growing up.
Our issues were never resolved. And as the issues piled up, we failed more and more to communicate with each other until it was just too late.
What would you say to a woman who feels that a divorce or separation is the only way out?
Do it. Don’t be afraid to admit that part of your life has served you up until now but it’s time to walk away. Too many of us are so afraid of a different future that we insist on living in a past that no longer serves us.
Make a plan, talk about it with people you trust and then action it. As amicably as you can. As Barnabas Achoki, a relationship coach, once said, ‘when divorce or separation is on the table, the worst has already happened. There is no need for enmity to make it more painful. Be amicable.’
How have people reacted to your show?
The response has been amazing. People want to tell the truth and hear the truth. We need to start having more honest conversations as a society, as families, in our homes, because that is the only way we can evolve.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a digital content creator?
It truly is all about finding people who have the same vision, bringing what you have to the table and pushing it, until the heavens open with abundance. That’s what we are doing, one step at a time.
Although financing has been a challenge, I have been blessed to partner with amazing filmmakers like Anderson Marendes who literally pushed me into doing “Life With Mona”, and Ledama Sempele who brought on Film Crew In Africa to partner with us and take our production to a much higher and professional level.
What are some of your greatest accomplishments in life?
Surviving every single challenge and celebrating every single victory, and then taking both with me into my next great adventure. Life is about motion. As long as you’re moving in the direction you want to be, and when you’re not, finding a way to rectify your spin, then you’re winning. I don’t think there are any single great accomplishments, I think those are made of many small steps taken well.
You are also an author…
Yes, I have authored two books; V for Visa and SoulFire. My mother says I started writing when I was two years old, scribbling on everyone’s school books. I wrote my first story—12 pages long—when I was nine years old. Later on in high school, I wrote two romance novels which were actually great as per reviews from friends. Unfortunately, I lost the manuscript.
I started writing SoulFire when I was 17 years old and only published it in my 30s after it had undergone many, many alterations. My ‘debut’ novel would then be V for Visa, a Nairobi romance about a young girl trying to get a visa to go marry her fiancé in the UK, but it’s denied. I am currently working on the sequel.
Which women—both locally and internationally—do you look up to and why?
Oprah Winfrey; because she never let her situation limit her. She grew up poor and black in a society that disdained both, and even when she rose to the very top echelons of society, she didn’t stop. She kept asking and keeps asking, what next?
It’s about dancing to your tune, learning new steps and every so often, changing the music as you yourself change.
What is your life mantra?