Mwanasha Johari (Sultana) is renowned for her leading role in the Citizen TV drama series Sultana where she portrays the character of a blind girl.
The series, which airs from Monday to Friday at 7.30 pm, brought Johari to the limelight. However, she has managed to keep a low profile despite her growing fanbase.
Her story on the show mirrors her humble background as a kid, losing her parents when she was seven months old to walking barefoot to school and going against all odds to pursue her passion.
Speaking exclusively to Kenyans.co.ke, 23-year-old Johari spoke about how her star shone brighter while recalling her troubled past.
Johari, born in Tanga Tanzania in the late 90s lost her parents at only seven months old and was left in the hands of her loving uncle and aunt. Her aunt had to put on two hats, nurturing her and loving her as her own raising in her in Msambweni.
“I went to school barefoot, I did not even have a bag to keep my books. My aunt used to wake up so early to sell mangoes just for me to eat. She would kiss my forehead before she left. In the evening she would always bring me a snack,” she said amidst tears.
At such a tender age, Johari faced more trials than she could handle, in 2008, she was separated from her foster parents and taken to an orphanage to continue with her education.
At Furaha Girls' Orphanage in Utange, Johari missed her aunt and uncle who rarely visited her as they were struggling to make ends meet.
The warm fading thoughts of her foster parent caring for her and making her smile, however, kept her hopes alive.
Luck came her way when the foreigner running the orphanage saw her potential and offered her an opportunity to study at St. Annes’s Academy before it was changed to St. Elizabeth. The school was adjacent to the orphanage.
Johari attributes her poor background as her greatest motivation. Her passion to be an actress sprouted from her countless successful competitions at the Music Festival.
She nurtured her skills at Hassan Joho Secondary School, 2016-2019, traversing the country to proudly represent her school.
“In high school, I loved the Music Festival, I used to participate in solo acts and group acts as well. I was good at poems and I won in all competitions I participated in,” the thespian recounted.
Citizen TV's Sultana
Prior to making a breakthrough in Sultana, Johari was featured in the drama series Nyanya Rukia and later on Pete aired on Maisha Magic.
“My first acting gig was in Nyanya Rukia - comedy, I was an extra. After the first scene, other extras went home but I was adamant to get another shot. I felt like the one scene was not enough. I loved acting and I could not imagine going home after one scene.
"I stayed on the set and told the director that if they needed any extras I would gladly volunteer. The assistant director was shocked to see me there every day seeking a role. I was ready to get any role even if I wouldn't get paid. In the end, I happened to have at least five roles,” Johari told Kenyans.co.ke.
While chasing her dream, Johari also worked as a model and video vixen, boosting her confidence as seen in her perfect depiction of the blind girl - Sultana.
On her first audition, she was mesmerized by the script and the blind girl character. She did not act nor pretend but relied on her troubled bringing to seize the moment.
As she tasted overnight fame from the Citizen TV drama series, Johari stated that the producers - Rashid Abdalla and Lulu Hassan - had alerted her of the changes her new role would bring into her life.
Citizen TV anchors, Lulu and her husband Abdalla own Jiffy Pictures, the company behind Sultana and other famous drama series Maria and Zora.
“They told me to stay humble regardless of how famous I got. I love my name ‘Sultana’. Kids in the neighbourhood call me stating how much they adore the show. It feels good. I am happy to see so many people watching my show."
Her uncle and aunt also encouraged her to focus on Madrasa and further her education.
"When I was given the role, I was told to take a member of my family to the set and I took my uncle. But I did not tell him where we were going. He was so amused to see others refer to me as the star of the new show to air on Citizen Tv," she narrated the life-changing moment.
Besides her love for acting, Johari hopes to pursue a career as an air hostess.