She is beautiful and vivacious. She is short tempered and sometimes over bearing. She can be rude and likes taunting her docile sister in law. She has guts untold and easily tells her mother in law off. She can be evil although she is very hard working. Her husband is a drunk and he is sometimes a total disaster.
She married him for his family money but eventually fell in love with him. Now she is stuck between a loving and sometimes a disappointing husband, a nasty
mother in law and her husband’s worker who is in love with her. She is Celina Mitego, the wife of Charlie Mwamba in the popular local drama Mother in Law airing on Citizen TV every Sunday evening.
In life, Catherine Kamau is pleasant. She however compares and contrasts Celina on various levels. Both Celina and Catherine are very ambitious and hard working. Although Catherine will never marry a drunk let alone date one, she will, like Celina not tolerate an irritable mother in law. She will however be more diplomatic when putting her in place.
Both Catherine and Celina are short tempered but instead of being confrontational, Catherine walks away to cool off. Celina and Catherine are very brave but Catherine is not a gold digger, preferring to work for her own money. One day, she hopes to get married and settle in with a happy family though never in her mother in law’s compound. She believes distance yields respect and would want to keep hers.
Dramatic since her childhood
Twenty four years ago, somewhere in Nyahururu in Central Kenya a child was born. Young Mr. and Mrs. Kamau, both 19 years welcomed baby Catherine in their lives and five years later, her baby sister now 19 years old was born. She started her school life in Nyahururu and attended a couple of primary schools, before joining Chogoria Girls Secondary school for her high school studies.
While growing up, Catherine was the family drama queen. She participated in church plays and imitated people with ease. Such was the case when she earned herself an expulsion from school while in form three. They waited for her to represent the school in national level competition for poetry and brought home the trophy. She was then kicked out for perfectly mimicking the school headmistress.
Home in Loreto Msongari
After the expulsion from Chogoria Girls, Catherine was taken to Loreto Msongari to continue with her education. It was very difficult for her to cope at the beginning because the way of life at Loreto was so different from what she was used to.
Her school mates came from the upper class and adjusting to being a ‘nobody’ was hard. In Chogoria girls, Catherine was used to being the center of attraction but in Loreto, she felt inadequate. She had no friends of her class and therefore she sought solace in books. But with time, she managed to find her footing and became a popular girl from East lands area. It was in Loreto that Catherine perfected her acting skills and discovered that she could also sing.
In 2004, she participated in the Miss Loreto competition and was crowned the queen. That year, she reigned high and won the hearts of her school community. She represented her school in many co curricular activities without disappointments. She schooled at Loreto Msongari and completed form four, which saw her begin her second phase of life, which is equally dramatic.
Immediately after completing her secondary school education Catherine enrolled at Kenya College of Accountancy to study accounting but dropped after discovering it was not what she wanted to do. She then packed her bags and proceeded to Kampala International University in Uganda to pursue a degree in communication but she did not go beyond pre university bridging.
She discovered she was pregnant and had to abandon her studies in order to take care of her pregnancy and prepare for her baby. In 2006 and at 19 years of age, Catherine welcomed her son to the world. After her baby was born she joined Kenya College of Communications and Technology and studied a diploma in communications, specializing in public relations. She has not had a chance to actively practice public relations, but the skills helped her land a major role in the mother in law program as Celina.
Acting is my career
When I asked Catherine what else she does besides acting, she rolled her eyes and responded in the most unlikely manner. “Unlike many people, acting is a full time job for me. I wake up every morning to go to work on set and I hardly have any time for anything else, except when we are on shooting break. On the side, I Karaoke at Hunters club in town and Sawasawa club in Ngara. I also do several stage plays and I am a member of the Phoenix theatre. Soon, I will produce my first music album.
Acting in Mother in Law is a real eye opener for how much local talent we have in this country. Our director Catherine Wamuyu is arguably one of the best in her field. She has managed to bring out the best out of each of the cast and I believe that is why our program is so popular.
As Celina, I represent the ‘today’ woman who is able to stand up to nasty mother in law. Although not all mothers in law are as bad as ‘Charity’, those who are like her must not be allowed to get away with the vice. The controversy surrounding my character is sometimes very laughable. A friend told me that her mother in law switches her TV to another channel anytime we are on air. She says that I am teaching women bad manners and rudeness. The truth is that her mother in law has a lot of similarities with Charity. I also have a large fan base of those women who say they learn a lot from my role and in a way; they have found courage to put to a stop unnecessary harassment from their in laws.
My set husband Charlie Mwamba is my favorite character. I admire how he is able to bring out his role given that in real life, he has never touched beer. He is humble and very hardworking. He has acted in very many other plays and in each; he brings out his roles perfectly”.
Although he annoys Celina with his uncontrolled drinking, Charlie is very loving and Celina lives on hope that one day, he will quit drinking and marry her in a colourful wedding ceremony.
“While growing up, I used to admire Naomi Kamau who acts as Alison and my elder sister in law. I loved the way she used to recite poems in Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and hoped to one day to be able to do the same. When I went to audition for my role, I had no idea I would be picked let alone cast alongside Naomi. She is my source of inspiration and I love the way she effortlessly brings out her role as Alison. I learn daily from her and I am happy to be living one of my dreams.”
My other dream
Catherine believes that Kenya is more talented in acting than it is acknowledged. “This industry is growing we need all the support that we can get. Our Government should come out and standardize this industry. Nollywood is flourishing because their Government has invested on them. Our script writers should also endeavor to tell the Kenyan story instead of scripting Western ideas. We have a rich culture but often you find our local plays are so westernized that it beats logic.
Our movie industry will move a notch higher the moment we start becoming original. That said, I have faith in our industry and I am proud of the emerging trends. I am also happy that the media is finally embracing local programming and I believe that soon, more and more people will be able to earn a decent living out of their acting skills.”
Catherine has fellow actors and actresses who she admires. “In Hollywood, I would like to act alongside Julia Roberts. I admire her prowess in bringing out whichever role she takes. In Africa, I am greatly inspired by Genevieve Nnanji. I look forward to the day I will meet her face to face. She is so calm and her roles always outshine the rest. I also admire her business acumen and I am always on the look out for her clothing line St.Genevieve.”
From South Africa, Catherine would want to meet Hlomla Dandala, who acts as Jacob Makhubu in Jacob’s Cross. She will also not mind any role which she is acting alongside Desmond Elliott of Nollyhood. She believes he is quite handsome and very talented. But if thrown in Hollywood, she knows who she would want to act alongside. “I would like to be Tom Cruise’s girlfriend who is in trouble and he shows up in a motor cycle to rescue me! We combine our efforts and defeat the enemy before spending off while my hair is being blown off by Manhattan winds! That scene keeps replying in my mind and my dream might just come to pass one day.”
The unconditional Love I receive from my son. I am his queen and that means a lot to me.
Who are your mentors?
My parents are great. I admire their love for one another and how they have raised us. When I became pregnant, they supported me fully and ensured that I managed well. They love my son so much and that makes me want to be like them when have my own family.
What is your beauty regime like?
I just started to take a lot of water. I scrub my face once in a while and skip rope in the house. I am unfaithful to the gym so I try to keep fit through other avenues.
What is yourfavourate food?
I love Mukimo and Nyama Choma. My guilty passion is tropical heat potatoes crisps and I munch them everywhere. I also indulge on the roadside Kachumbari Smokies.
What advice do you have for upcoming actors and actresses?
They should go for as many auditions as possible. They should also not be choosy about the roles they are given because a good actress should fit in any role.
What next for Catherine?
I hope to one day start a foundation to encourage young pregnant girls. Meanwhile I continue to use my experiences to encourage those that I can reach.
Is there anything you would want to change about your life at this point?
No. I have no regrets in my life and I have even turned my bad experiences to positive inspirations.
Story: Lilian Maingi, Fashion Stylist: Taphenes Lydiah, Photography: Ben Muthee, Make-ip: Kate, Sensuelle Collection
Salon Magazine – November 2011