WHILE MOST people crave the public spotlight and celebrity status that automatically come with being a TV personality, the reverse is true for Rwanda Television reporter Marie Joyce Uwase, aka Jojo.
Jojo is a roving reporter who, with her camera crew, follows the news where it is but exhibiting bias for society, showbiz and entertainment stories.
“I have been with RTV since August 2013. I was assigned to the department of culture, art and entertainment as a reporter and that’s usually my field, but it doesn’t mean I can’t cover any other story!”
Impact of limelight on her lifestyle
Because she covers the society bit, her face has gained its fair share of recognition among TV viewers.
“Some people know me as ‘that girl on TV’. When I pass somewhere, everyone is talking; ‘hey, that’s the TV girl. My friend once asked me; ‘did you know you have become a celebrity?’ I asked what she meant, and she said: ‘because everyone is the best friend of the TV girl’. So I can’t do stupid things in public anymore.”
So, has she taken to moving around veiled or hooded just to evade public scrutiny?
“My life has changed so much even when I’m with my friends they never let me do what I really want. They tell me ‘heey … stop it! You’re a TV girl so stop doing stupid things in public.’
“I miss the days when I would go somewhere and do what I want, and nobody recognised my face,” she adds.
But owing to the strong passion for communication she holds, Jojo has found it within her to live with this “occupational hazard.”
“When I was young, I enjoyed watching TV. In secondary school I studied Mathematics and Physics, but when I finished high school, I turned around to join journalism school because that is where I really felt I belonged.
I was greatly inspired by people like Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks and Wendy Williams because most of the time I used to watch their shows and when they talked, they expressed themselves freely, and that’s what I wanted also. That is how I ended in journalism.”
After completing secondary school, Jojo enrolled at the Catholic Institute of Kabgayi (ICK) for a four-year course in Journalism and Communication. Upon completion, she did her internship at Isango Star FM, where she hosted a women’s magazine show.
In 2012, she went to RTV for her second internship and never looked back. “It was so amazing that after school, I decided to come back to Rwanda Broadcasting Authority as a volunteer on short-term basis. Today, I am a full time employee,” she says.
Jojo contends that her love for television is not the end in itself, but a means to that end:
“You know sometimes I wish I could help everyone. I like to hear other people’s problems and use my position as a journalist to broadcast their stories. Sometimes there are people with important skills and talents, but nobody knows about them, so it’s my duty to tell the world about them.”
“I like travelling to know how other people survive, to explore their culture, so this is the perfect opportunity to get to know people from all over the world. It’s a good place for me because it helps me to meet with many people in different sectors of society, to reach many places where other people only dream of.”
What her day looks like
Her typical work day kicks off at 8:00 am, when she reports to the newsroom to brainstorm story ideas and plan the day with colleagues.
“I do some communication by e-mail, then, depending on my schedule I hit the field, talk to people, gather information, write my scripts, and edit them, ready for broadcasting. Other times I invite people in studio, depending on the nature of the story,” Jojo says.
“Sometimes when it’s my day off and I have an important story, I’m forced to cancel my off, because work comes first. I can forget to eat but not a story!”
“A camera is not a big deal and I never freak out before it when I know my story is okay and I’m sure about what I’m talking about. If there is any advice I need before going on air, I ask,” Jojo adds.
The story is rather different when it comes to interviewing her news sources for the cameras.
She says: “When it comes to the cameras, most people feel shy to go on record. Sometimes I try to make friends with people, we talk then they start to relax, until you ask them to face the camera! They will say ‘OMG you even brought a camera? Then they will decline the interview, and that’s the most embarrassing thing for me.”
After close to a year on TV, she now feels rather confident in her own skin as a broadcaster:
“I’m more comfortable before the cameras now. When I’m talking before the camera, I do it like nobody is watching me. Think of what you would do when you are alone and nobody is watching you; you are yourself, there is no hiding. It’s the same with me, I never hide who I am, I just enjoy the camera moment and also most of the time when I’m talking I do lots of gestures with my arms, lips, eyes, every single part of my body works. It’s the reason I chose TV, not radio or print media.”
Does she watch her own news items when they air? She laughs out loud and says: “No! Only when people call me and tell me I did something wrong, because sometimes I do crazy funny things on camera. Otherwise, I don’t like watching myself”.
Away from TV, Jojo is an actor and comedian. “I never do it most of the time but sometimes when I’m with my close friends or when there is a home party for kids I do some singing though I’m not really good. I’m a bad singer who likes singing.”