Judge Ian: Why I Was Mean to TPF Contestants [VIDEO]

  • File image of former TPF judge Ian Mbugua
    File image of former TPF judge Ian Mbugua
    The Standard
  • Many Kenyans remember Ian Mbugua as the mean judge on the Tusker Project Fame (TPF), one of the most popular ever TV reality shows in Kenya.

    The stint on the show was career-defining for Mbugua who, in 2020, teaches drama and music and manages the theater at the Brookhouse International School.

    In a past Engage Talk, Mbugua opened up on the hate he received from Kenyans on the streets thanks to his blunt, stinging criticism of contestants who appeared on the music talent search.

    Mbugua was known not to mince his words as he evaluated performances, famously dismissing many of them as 'rubbish'.

    Former TPF judge Ian Mbugua on May 5, 2020
    Former TPF judge Ian Mbugua on May 5, 2020

    He noted that, in particular, Kenyans had a bone to pick with him as he was perceived to be unfairly targeting his compatriots on the show which included contestants from across East Africa.

    Mbugua explained that a big reason he was considered mean was that TPF, like many other reality shows, required conflict and drama to be exciting to viewers.

    "It is reality. It is TV! I could use kinder words, but it would not be nice for television. I could tell them 'That was kind of nice but you could try and do this and that', No.

    "Let me tell you the truth about reality TV. There's nothing real about reality TV, nothing. And all of this was completely unscripted. There was a time they tried to introduce scripts, I said no, I ca not do it," he stated.

    Mbugua further stated that his comments were meant to push the artists to work harder as the music industry was by defult, tough and demanding.

    Singer and entrepreneur Muthoni Drummer Queen had, in a recent interview, alluded to similar thoughts on the show seemingly being scripted.

    Unknown to many, the Blankets and Wine founder successfully auditioned for the first season of TPF, and was in a group of 16 selected contestants before they were trimmed to 12 who entered the main house.

    Muthoni noted that while she was initially excited for the show, the experience was not what she expected.

    She stated that, to her, it felt like a marketing exercise as producers sought to cast contestants in a particular way while ignoring their actual personalities and artistry.

    Muthoni also disclosed that, at the time, she started doubting whether the competition was based on talent or it was just a scripted show to keep viewers entertained.

    "Reality TV is fake. Shows like the Kardashians are engineered. When you enter the place (TPF Academy), they tell you its an academy but it wasn't, it was a marketing exercise.

    "It was also designed for its entertaiment value. What does the audience feel, what is the opposition between the judges about? There is nothing like original thoughts, it is all engineered. They say, this is the judge who is always angry, this one is nice," she stated in the August 5, interview.

    Watch Mbugua's talk below: