She doesn’t need much introduction, does she?
Worked for Barclays Bank for 14 years then started her own company, which has won numerous awards at public relations society galas. She was voted among 100 Most Influential Africans by New African Magazine in 2013. She has handled some big accounts like Safaricom, Kenya Airways, KCB and Kenya Red Cross, among others.
If you are friends with her on Instagram, you will follow her jetset lifestyle. And inspirational quotes. And pictures of her contorted in yoga poses; twisted and writhing in the quest for equilibrium and peace.
But most times, Gina Din will never have a single strand of her hair out of place. She’s picturesque. We meet in her office, along Gitanga Road.
She speaks softly, thoughtfully but firmly.
What has been the most challenging thing running your business as a woman?
It’s tough now, but 18 years ago, it was almost impossible. Getting multinationals to believe a Kenyan woman could do it was hard. But we broke through it and we have had incredible support from corporates. I think the advantage I had, even though I didn’t know it then, was that I began building my brand a long time ago even at Barclays.
How do you handle your failures in life?
My biggest failures have always been my error of judgment in the people I hired. I assumed that their loyalty was automatic. I’m sure I’m going to fail in future as much I will succeed but I don’t fear it.
What are your greatest fears as a woman?
Children. Obviously, the fact that we have a large population of youth and no jobs. If we don’t give this huge number of youth something to do, we are soon going to have a very angry population.
Does physical appeal dictate how far one can go as a PR practitioner?
I think if you turn out looking the part, you will earn some marks already. If you can take care of yourself, it probably follows that you can take care of a client’s needs. So I’m particular in the way I present myself.
So you throw some good money at your wardrobe?
Not necessarily. I have a real mix of my wardrobe; I have stuff that are quite cheap to be honest. I don’t think you necessarily have to buy expensive to look good. Dressing well means knowing how to put stuff together.
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
Lots! I mean honestly, I have a lot of shoes. I mean a girl has to have shoes. Girls love shoes.
How do you let your hair down?
I do yoga. I read a lot. I have a very large network but a very tight circle; I spend time with my tight circle. I travel a lot. Yoga makes you very balanced. If I weren’t doing yoga I would probably be drinking a lot (laughs) so yoga has become my drug.
How do you maintain balance in your life?
We have managed up to 30 clients at a go, and it’s all about managing your time and making sure that everybody that needs my time gets my time and I prioritise.
What does motherhood mean to you?
It’s the most important role for me. When God blesses you with children, it’s a huge responsibility because you are moulding them for the future. I want to make sure they are secure as young people because I don’t want to be fixing adults in the future.
What’s your greatest insecurity?
I’m quite a confident woman…I mean, but I have had major insecurities growing up that I wasn’t bright enough, or smart enough. Its only quite recently that I came to. I think insecurities actually become your driving force because you get so determined to get through them to prove the naysayers wrong.
Do you think you are a good mother?
I am. If there is anything I am proud of, it’s the fact that I have been a good mother. My children might tell you otherwise, I don’t know - (smiles).
Have you been a good wife?
I think I have been a wonderful wife. And a good partner and a good friend.
What do you then least like about yourself?
I hate that I’m so impatient, I really do. I hate that I want results NOW. I’m a perfectionist to a fault, so I’m always critical of some of my judgments.
What’s the biggest regret you harbour in life?
That my father isn’t around to see me now. He passed on when I was only 18, a time every girl needs a father. My mom followed many years after.
When were you at your happiest in your life?
I have been a happy person. But I think from my 40s onwards I got happier because I was just coming into myself. My 20s were challenging, lost dad, was unsure what I was doing with my life, had this big job at Barclays that came with challenges.
In my 30s, I knew where I wanted to be, set up my business but I had a lot of insecurities. In my 40s, I felt that I had come to know who I really was and what I wanted and then when I turned 50, I realised I finally settled down to who I was. It’s been absolutely incredible. At 50, there are certain things I turn down and I’m not afraid to turn them down.
What’s on your Bucket List?
I have a long one. I want to see the sunrise and sunset from as many parts of the world as I can, and I’m ticking them off. I want to see as many countries in Africa as I can. I would also like to influence policy in some way. Then I’d like to be really thin. (Smiles). I have a gym at home and so I do the treadmill mostly, but then I love food, so I need the gym.
Do you drink?
I drink champagne.
I saw some mad yoga poses on your Instagram. You are pretty serious about that stuff, aren’t you?
Oh yes. I see that as part of what I do at work, you keep pushing your body, getting out of easy zones and like your job, it gets you to a better place each time you push. I have been trying this new pose for three weeks now, finally I got it. (Shows me picture of her right leg around her neck). Comfort zones are dangerous.
What are you struggling with right now in your life?
I’m searching for the next big thing. I don’t know what that is. I really believe that you can take on as much as your mind can expand to give you.
What does your husband do?
He’s a captain with Kenya Airways. Great guy. You want to meet him? Hang on, he’s in the next room, let me go get him perhaps he can tell you what kind of a wife I am. (Laughs).
[Captain Chris Kariuki walks in moments later: tall, clean-shaven, and deliberate]
Captain, what do you like about Gina?
She is very focused, works very hard. She has grown from nothing; office of one contract then two contracts then she has grown to this! She is way ahead in her thinking, quick mind, and strategic thinker always two or three steps ahead.
On the domestic side, she is a fantastic mom, almost like she went to school for it; loving but strict. On the negative side, she can have a short temper.
How did you meet her?
She was 16. Her dad had a hotel in Nanyuki called Sportsman’s Arms. I was in the Kenya Air Force, we had gone to the US to train and when we came back, there was not enough space at the air base so some of us were put up in their hotel.
I was too tall for my bed but they ignored me and so one day, I stormed into her dad’s office, where she happened to be and being the young Air Force officer, I shouted, “Hey you Din, I have been telling you to change my room for ages but…. “ and she, only 16, stood up and shouted back at me, “Hey, that will be Mr Din for you!”
We engaged in a shouting match until her dad stood up to defend me. Later, she came to the bar where I apologised.
Did you, as a black man, experience problems with a mixed race relationship?
Oh yes. But not with immediate family. Her parents loved me, and my parents loved her but the bigger family was against it.
Gina, what’s the one question you thought I’d ask that I haven’t asked?
“How old are you?”
Well, how old are you?
(Laughs). I’m 53.
This article was first published in the Business Daily.