By Kevin Motaroki
It sounds impolite to say it but a socialite needs to be loaded. True, she thrives on attention and popularity, but she also needs money to make these possible to get. One cannot dress in the day’s hottest designer issues without a puffed up bank account. The source of the money doesn’t matter – it could be from a parent, lover, politician or businessman – as long as it exists.
The craving to be a socialite among Nairobi’s teenage girls, and even women, has become the in-thing. They flaunt their “assets”, as bums and busts are now commonly referred to, and they compete. Many fall along the way, and the few that do are left to compete for that coveted “leading socialite” tag.
When it was coined, the term socialite used to refer to a woman with money, and whose manner of spending that money – usually on food, travel, clothes and beauty, brought her fame. They used to set the trend on fashion, obviously because they had money. But today’s socialite is, well, not exactly that. The question here then is how do socialites make their money?
The most obvious one is music. They do not necessarily sing: they appear in Music videos, for leverage, for positioning and, most importantly, for connections. Verah Sidika. Hudah Monroe. Corazon Kwamboka. Risper Faith. That is about as long as the list of Nairobi’s most popular socialites goes, and they all got profiled through music video appearances, both foreign and local.
Hudah has appeared in music videos by Prezzo (My City My Town) and Sidney Twalib, among others. Verah, who prefers the tag Queen Vee, first appeared in Prezzo’s “Unataka Nini”, but what really propelled her into the limelight was P-Unit’s “You Guy” in 2012. Last year, she went international, appearing in Nigerian artiste Davido’s “Carry Go”. Last year, Risper twerked her way into popularity, and some massive bashing afterwards, in musician Blaq’s “Money Maker” video.
To most, twerking, gyrating and releasing nude photos of themselves is as all there is to the socialite. But entertainment writer and editor Njeri Muchai think there is more.
“Socialites leverage on their popularity to get ahead in business. Verah, for example has opened salons and established businesses in designer wear. They may twerk and do all those “silly things” but some of them are actually very smart,” she offers.
“They may be all those things we call them but Kenyans love dirt; it is what keeps the socialite around. We will bash them in media but we will always go back to like and share their photos and videos. That is all they need; it is why they are socialites.”
Socialites also rely on connections forged through, well, being socialites, to create more, better rewarding links. A socialite’s contact book is a treasure. The more she is talked about, the more connections she makes, and the more persuasion she wields. Early this year, a local daily splashed a photo of Verah hanging out with Mombasa governor Hassan Joho. Now, a governor’s time is not something every other pretty girl gets; it requires that coveted title mentioned previously.
On her Facebook page, Verah describes herself as “a model, fashionista, art and design freak, and an interior designer”. Last year, according to Google Trends, Verah was the third most searched item on Google in Kenya, and the most searched personality. If this interest in her person is to be translated into visibility, her business interests ought to trend as much as she does.
Corazon describes herself as “the most sought after model” – whether this is true or not is for those who dispute this to prove, but priming herself is meant to put her in the know of those in the business of modelling. In retrospect, she is a lawyer by training, but has chosen to major in twerking, vibrating any body part that can do that, gyrating and generally being anything that is not even remotely associated with law? Bad choice? Probably not. She is a big girl who knows her stuff.
Another entertainment personality with a leading media house, who preferred to be anonymous, concurs that while it may be the true for some, it is not always a case of beauty without brains.
“We tend to look down on socialites as just big, beautiful flesh, but some of them are actually very intelligent. Think of their so-called assets as their capital. They leverage on those to gain connections, which they use to start and grow their businesses. I know two who own very successful salons and shops that deal in designer wear, as well as supply and tendering enterprises,” he said.
“The difference between them and most of us is that they have a more vanity than we do. But who is going to be thinking about that when they have successful enterprises to show for it?”
A number of them do have real jobs, although how their employers reconcile what these ladies engage in online and what repercussions that may have on their corporate images with what they are meant to project is beyond me. Risper, for instance, does sales and marketing for a Nairobi-based design and IT firm. It is to these that they go back if they fail to crack it as socialites.
In the end, it is really not anybody’s business what we may think about socialites – what they do and how they do it. They say they are making waves, and the waves are certainly being made. What more could there possibly be to ask?