Yvonne Okwara, 5 Other Journalists Who Rose From Menial Jobs to Fame

From left to right: Classic 105 radio presenter Maina Kageni, Citizen TV news anchor Yvonne Okwara and former NTV anchor Mark Masai.
From left to right: Classic 105 radio presenter Maina Kageni, Citizen TV news anchor Yvonne Okwara and former NTV anchor Mark Masai.
Maina Kageni/Yvonne Okwara/ Mark Masai

From taking orders at restaurants, and working as matatu touts to chasing breaking news stories and conducting hard-hitting interviews, some Kenyan journalists rose from bottom to stardom.

Contrary to popular opinion, a section of the journalists had to confront an array of challenges to be among the top one percent - with their background entailing doing menial jobs to make ends meet. 

Kenyans.co.ke takes a look at six journalists who previously worked odd jobs.

Citizen TV anchor Yvonne Okwara in an Instagram post dated September 27, 2021
Nesh Maina

Yvonne Okwara - Waitress

The famed Citizen TV news anchor is well-known for her flawless interviewing skills every time she is hosting newsmakers. 

Unknown to many, Okwara's first job entailed working as a waitress at a local restaurant located at Reinsurance Plaza, Nairobi. At the time, she earned Ksh150 a day excluding tips. 

This shaped the journalist, who in a previous interview, affirmed that it taught her discipline and patience and ultimately opened opportunities.

Ken wa Kuraya - selling mitumba

Inooro TV News Anchor Ken Kuraya is no secret to the limelight but his path to fame was not without hurdles. Prior to venturing into the media, Kuraya tarmacked for 15 years

He also resorted to doing menial jobs such as selling second-hand clothes, and doing construction work in Nairobi to make ends meet. 

At the time, he relied on family and friends to get through the tough times. His doors opened after he auditioned and landed the role of an actor at the famed Tahidi High show.

Mark Masai - tout

In December 2022, former NTV news anchor Mark Masai made headlines after he was fired by the station after amassing 14 years. From clean-cut three-piece suits to his mastery of the Queen's language, it is unlikely to imagine that Masai once worked as a tout.

The role, however, was not out of necessity but a chance to gain more skills to propel him in life after he completed high school between 2002 and 2004.

At the time, his brother was a matatu driver and hence he sought to venture into the family business. Masai was also part of a choir, African Children’s Choir, that toured the US and performed for masses.  In February 2023, he was appointed as the Public Relations Director at Professional Marketing Services (PMS).

Maina Kageni - Delivery boy

Celebrated Classic 105 radio presenter Maina Kageni has dazzled Kenyans for years with his golden voice every morning alongside Daniel Ndambuki alias Churchill.

Nonetheless, the famed radio host began as a truck driver and fish distributor for a Chinese firm.

Shortly after completing his high school education, Kageni flew to the United Kingdom for his college education. He, however, did not register in college and began working as a delivery boy for a Chinese company.

Eric Njoka - mortician

Njoka's hustle entailed a special role as he worked as a mortuary attendant behind the TV scenes. Part of his daily routine involved going through the morgue’s registry and ensuring the appointments for future clients were in order. 

The mortuary was set up by his father over 15 years ago.

“My dad trained me to be a mortician so to speak. His family's objective was to make me work here and learn skills to start my own hospital and mortuary in the future.

“My dream was not to work here. My dream was to become a journalist but my dad did not appreciate that career. He never saw any talent in that," he recounted.

Dan Mule - NCPB sweeper

Former NTV anchor Daniel Mule is no stranger to tough times as he was forced to work as a sweeper at a government agency in an attempt to settle a Ksh1.8 million debt that was left by his late father.

After working for six months consecutively and earning Ksh230 daily, Mule was placed in charge of other sweepers at the National Cereals and Produce Board.

His fortune changed after he applied to work as a writer for the Nation newspaper before his star at the Nation Media Group (NMG) blossomed. 

NTV's Daniel Mule poses for a photo in Nairobi on December 25, 2022.
NTV's Daniel Mule poses for a photo in Nairobi on December 25, 2022.
Photo: Dan Mule