In Rwanda, showbiz life is not as sparkling as what we watch on E entertainment and other international platforms. However, our female local celebrities seem to be enjoying the good life and many young girls look up to them. For example, they have fancy wardrobes and cars; they live in beautiful houses and are often invited to parties or events and mingle with society’s crème de la crème, among other things.
But just like it is elsewhere, not everything that glitters is gold, in other words, their lives might not be as sparkly.
For example, it is not easy being judged by appearance or being constantly criticised by the public. And this is just one of the things they endure on a daily basis.
Sandrine Isheja, arguably one of the most respected female radio presenters in Kigali, shares her experience, saying that being in the limelight is not all fun and games, and that for a woman to survive this; they have to know who they really are. Otherwise, the constant criticism can break even the strongest of women.
She has come a long way and she is proud of that, however, sometimes being famous has come at a heavy cost.
“As a radio presenter, my career has been consistently heading to where I want it to be. However, when I started on radio, I used to work for a station that only gave big opportunities to men, they did not believe that a young woman can carry out an assignment and deliver. They started assigning me to lighter subjects and celebrity news. Instead of dispiriting myself, I took what they offered and made sure I became the best at it,” Isheja says.
Persistence has led her to where she is today; however, the spotlight has not only brought her fame, but judgement too.
She says, “Being a female celebrity puts one under constant evaluation and criticism. What can be done by an ordinary person and tolerated by society is a scandal if you do it.
“Some people judge you without even knowing you, they don’t take you seriously. Some even invent stories that are not true about you,” she says.
Knowing who she is and the kind of image she wants to be identified with by the public has helped her survive as a female celebrity.
“I think you cannot stop people from talking or judging you but it’s up to you as a celebrity to be aware of the image you are projecting and ask yourself, if it is how you want to be identified. The way you dress, the places you go to, what you post on social media will determine how people see you,” Isheja adds.
Isheja believes that it is her hard work that has paid off and, ignoring the hurdles that come with the spotlight.
Male counterparts on the other hand were another challenge but she would always find a way of dealing with them because she believed in herself and God and knew that with consistency, discipline and hard work, she would get there without taking a shortcut.
But why is it so hard to be in the limelight?
Sandra Teta, a socialite and events’ planner, reveals that the challenge is mostly with people always being so judgmental.
“People never consider you as a normal person who can make mistakes just like any other human being,” she says.
She says that she understands that for one to be in the limelight, their life is exposed to the public, but this doesn’t mean people should be there to judge you.
Her way to the limelight hasn’t been an easy one, but she never gave in to criticism.
“Today I would say I am blessed, of course the journey was full of ups and downs, and yes I met people who told me I dream too big and I can’t make it but I just chose to focus. I made sure I proved them wrong in everything I did and I guess I’m almost half way through with them,” Teta says.
“The only way that has brought me to where I am now is that I never give up on my dreams no matter the situation, no matter the challenges, I still follow my dreams till they all become reality,’ she adds.
The socialite advises other women in the spotlight to mind their lives and not others, and that they should learn from their mistakes for them to become better people and even more successful.
Pacifique Uzamberumwana, commonly known as Odda Paccy, a musician, says that living a celebrity life is not as easy as it looks. Aside from the hustle of making ends meet, there is the issue of keeping up appearances to fit the ‘celebrity image.’
“Social media is not making things any easier for us, some people post negative things and this paints a wrong image of us to our fans. Some fans can judge your personality according to those negative rumours, but I wish people could understand and stop believing whatever it is they read on social media,” the rapper says.
Tidjara Kabendera, a popular TV personality, says that one thing about being a celebrity is the limit one has when it comes to doing certain things in public.
She says that the media is sometimes unfair to celebrities, although she believes that this all depends on how the person carries herself in most cases.
“I am a respected woman and I barely see any negative stuff about me in the media. I carry myself with dignity because I believe it’s us who give the media what to write about, if someone is bad they write bad stuff about them but if they are good then what is written about them is good too,” she says.
Kabendera suggests that celebrities should understand that being relevant doesn’t mean doing peculiar things just so they are constantly mentioned by the media.
“Keeping one’s dignity matters most, more so if you are a female celebrity,” she says.
Should the public be considerate?
Lydia Keza, a sales agent, says that celebrities are sometimes judged harshly and, their lives are made miserable for no reason.
She says that she understands that some celebrities are not good ‘figures’ but it’s not anyone’s place to judge them.
“No one is perfect; if someone makes a mistake we shouldn’t be quick to judge them just because they are public figures. One can barely know what really transpires and making irrational comments can only hurt people,” Keza says.
Robert Mugabe, a social worker, says that celebrities should also understand the status they hold, such that they take caution in whatever they do, especially in public.
This, he says, will leave little room for the public to criticise them.
“A celebrity should be cautious concerning what they do, they should understand that they lost the luxury of living ‘untroubled’to avoid things that could embarrass them,” Mugabe says.
Sarah Mukashyaka suggests that celebrities should avoid putting their private lives ‘out there’ because people can’t talk about what they don’t know.
“People in the limelight tend to post each and every single detail of what they do in their day-to-day lives which I think is not a good idea. It’s from this that they post stuff and regret later,” she says.
Mukashyaka says that she understands that they are public figures but they should respect their own privacy.
How can female celebrities cope with social criticism?
I think people should first change their perceptions towards celebrities, some people still think that what some women celebrities do isn’t ‘suitable’ enough but people should learn to respect other people’s choices in life. For the women, they should know what they want, and not let the status change who they really are.
Alliance Isimbi, actress
Most women in the limelight are always criticised which affects their self-esteem. Another big problem they face is lack of privacy, and I wish the public would try to help them with this, just like everybody else we all need privacy. I would advise them to be themselves and not what people want them to be and to be optimistic in all situations.
Sheila Mutoni, field enumerator
Even when it is evident that women are just as able as men, some individuals stubbornly still think women are weak. Female celebrities face hurdles in their journey just like other people. Some people think they have no emotions but they do, they have feelings too. Women can do even better if they are supported fully. We need society’s support.
Anita Pendo, journalist
I wouldn’t wish to live life as a celebrity because I find it too much to handle, their life is out there for the public to judge. Sometimes people misinterpret what they do or say and this can depict a different image of them.
Monica Kayesu, project assistant