Celebrity life in Rwanda: The good, bad and ugly

Being prominent is a dream for many. When you think about the money, cars, mansions, tours, fans, flashy life, and the overwhelming love that comes with fame, you could think it’s all a bed of roses.

By definition, a celebrity is someone well known and outstanding, for example; singers, actors, reality show participants, TV presenters, athletes, politicians, the list is endless. But have you ever thought of what happens in the world of fame? Here is the sweet and dark side of it.

For some celebrities, the most painful part are the false rumours spread by both the public and the press. This leaves them with no dignity and hence losing their fan base.

This year, a solo local musician Safi Niyibikora, best known as Safi Madiba, dragged one of the local websites, Touch Rwanda, to Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) over defamation and intruding on his privacy.

The website published numerous articles alleging that Madiba’s wife, Judith Niyonizera, is a prostitute and does trivial jobs like cleaning houses, on top of defrauding men in Canada just to please the husband with gifts.

The singer claimed that the allegations were false and that journalists should have facts before publishing stories.

The journalist was found guilty and Touch Rwanda was ordered to apologise to Safi through an official letter, pull down the story and post a public apology on their website within 24 hours of the ruling.

Another instance is when news went round that Anita Pendo, a renown MC gave birth to two children with Ndanda in a space of about one year.

Radio presenters on one of the local radio stations, however claimed that Pendo, has a third child whom she hides from the public.  When she heard the false gossip, she  harshly reacted to an Instagram post claiming that some radio presenters are not on contract but give useless comments and asked them to bring her third child so that she cares for her if there is anyone raising the little ones for her.

“Sometimes being in the limelight is devastating, as the public and the media say or write wrong information about you. There was a time when people said that I am a lesbian and that I murdered someone. This was so hurting but I never reacted, because I know that silence is golden,” Pendo noted.

US based artiste Meddy Ngabo during his performance in Bugesera. Sam Ngendahimana

She however adds that regardless of the storms, fame has a good side, because she has got an opportunity to meet people that she has always yearned to meet, mainly President Paul Kagame and the First Lady.

Pendo also stresses that she has been exposed to different companies that pay her whenever she works with them, for instance; MTN, Bralirwa, RGB, RDB, Skol, among others.

 “Being someone’s role model means the world to me,” she notes.

She also says that contrary to what fans think celebrities are not all rich. She believes that being rich is a process that requires taking one step at a time.

 “The moment you enter showbiz, forget about your private life being yours alone, it now belongs to the public, they want to know which car you drive, where you stay, who you are dating, the way you dress, talk, post on social media, live, work, and much more,” says Arthur Nkusi, a Kigali based stand-up comedian.

He notes that the hardest thing to build in the entertainment industry is a good brand, on the other hand, reputation comes with favors, for instance, when he launches a new product (work or show), people pick it up so fast since they already know him.

Companies, as he reveals, also connect with him easily as they want him to advertise for them because they are assured of the positive effect.

“As a comedian, I have to be creative and think of doing something new every moment because I compete with my previous work, there is too much panic trying to do my work to the best of my fans’ expectation. Always thinking of new jokes is a bit tricky.”

To his disappointment, some people assume he has to crack jokes always even in real life, for instance some fans find him in church and expect him to tell jokes.

Sometimes his fans insult him; “Imagine driving around with your family or friends and someone feels the urge of screaming out your name in a disrespectful manner. This terrifies me.”

To those yearning for stardom, he advises that you first know why you need to be a star, because one day you will need that reason for motivation, it comes at a cost.

According to Lucky Nzeyimana, a journalist at RTV, celebrity life comes with connections and also it is easy to achieve what you want.

TV presenter Lucky Nzeyimana. File.

“The dark side of being an icon is that people watch our every step and think that we do not make mistakes. They forget that we are also human just like them,” he says.

He notes that although fame is amazing, sometimes you regret being in the limelight as you are always on the watch and everyone feels that they are free to comment about you whenever they wish.

Deo Munyakazi is a musician, songwriter and inanga player, who says that his guitar is his voice which has connected him to not only within Rwanda but also to the whole universe; this is a means of him to express his feelings, and spread his message.

Through fame, he has been able to interact with a number of people he could have never got close to if he wasn’t known. Many opportunities have come his way due to his talent. It is no wonder that through music, he is pursuing a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

The instrumentalist further explains that when he started out he was discouraged by many people as they thought playing a traditional instrument was outdated and couldn’t compete with contemporary music genres like RNB, pop, and hip hop. However, he gave this all a deaf ear and moved forward.

Munyakazi adds that, it is sometimes a bit discouraging especially when you are just starting, and that if you are not strong enough, it’s easy give up as people throw a lot of negative comments; nevertheless, he is glad inanga (local guitar) and folk songs were appreciated and played on mega functions, therefore he has never looked back ever since then.

“As an artist, I am favored to speak my mind and have people to listen to me, I have also been able to cross borders and showcase my art straight from my motherland ,the fun bit about being a musician is that you have someone to appreciate your songs and get inspired as well,” says Mike Kayihura, a musician.

He says that there is a lot of pressure from society, as some people might not like your songs regardless of how much money and time you invest in them, although the other challenge is the absence of copyright, since anyone can access their music easily without paying for it. This underrates their work and effort, yet music is a job for survival.

Rukundo Vanessa, a Kigali based public speaker says that although public figures enjoy the privilege of not introducing themselves wherever they go, the disadvantage is that they have many expectations to meet, yet sometimes the decisions taken might have negative impacts on their lives. It is a risky world.