Celebrated journalist Uduak Amimo is most notable for crossing swords with bureaucrats, politicians, and opinion makers on television.
She hosts the current affairs talk show, Cheche, on Citizen TV but has taken a break to see how she could mentor younger people who are keen on getting into the media.
Beyond the screens, the talk show host is not as no-nonsense as people would think. Asked why people misconstrue that about her, she said, “I don’t know. People keep telling me to smile more. To lighten up. To be more pleasant. I don’t get it. It’s like, have you ever asked yourself why I’m not pleasant around you?”
Uduak was speaking with freelance journalist Yvonne Aoll about her life beyond the screens.
What do you hope to be remembered as by your family?
I don’t have a family of my own. But I hope my siblings remember me as their elder sister who looked out for them and who had their back. As for my parents, that’s a bit difficult. That’s entirely up to them.
Would you like to have your own family one day?
I’d like to have my own people, yes. I’d like to have someone to talk to at night, I’d like companionship and I’d like someone to travel with. I’d also like to have twins. (Pauses) I don’t know if it’s too late, but it would be fantastic to have twins.
Are you currently dating?
What would make an ideal date for you?
(Thinks) A date where we are able to connect deeply. It could be that we are playing, having fun, scuba diving, riding bicycles, whichever, but if we can connect deeply, that would be more than ideal.
Long walks, long talks, that kind of depth works for me.
And apart from depth, what other qualities would your ideal partner have?
A person who’s God-fearing, kind, self-aware and one who likes to challenge themselves. But really, kindness is key for me, because people can really be unkind.
If, by fate, you don’t get to have a partner and or your own children, would you be okay?
I would be fine. I would be okay. I’m sure there will be ways to occupy that space.
Adoption, yes or no?
I’ve thought about it. I thought of adoption even when I lived in London, I’ll find a way.
Would you ever consider getting someone to just father the children and then raise them yourself?
(Pauses) When I was younger, I used to think husbands and fathers weren’t quite necessary. This was because of my childhood, the dysfunction in my upbringing and the things I’d gone through. Because my uncles really came through for me, I used to think, what children really need, are uncles.
I’ve since grown to know better. So no, I wouldn’t deliberately go out and choose to deny a child one parent. Children need both parents.
Things happen, and a child is left with one parent, like divorce or an accident. But to set out intentionally to give a child access to only one parent? No.
Did you always plan to be a journalist?
No, I was going to do Law at university, in South Africa, but this was when apartheid had just ended, and they were being funny with their visas.
So I went to USIU to mark time, and by the time the visa came out, I had discovered journalism.
How is Cheche?
It’s great, but I’ve taken a break from it. I’m currently training to be a coach.
What kind? Life coach? Media coach?
The actual qualification, offered by the organisation I’m training with, is called Personal Performance.
But it is somewhat similar to life coaching, although for me I’ll give it a media focus because I find that quite a number of people come to me seeking media guidance.
What advice would you give to young people looking to get into journalism?
Know why you are getting into it.
Kenya makes celebrities of journalists, especially if you’re on-air. And sometimes people think the biggest ticket to fame is journalism. If you’re not careful, the fame will destroy you. Be very clear as to why you’re getting into it.
Any other advice?
Today, with the digital space, content is king. And that – the content – should be, and should remain, the main goal.
I see people who focus on traffic, and numbers, and popularity, and trending, and that’s all fine, but that shouldn’t be the goal. If you make that the goal, you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment.
Do you have any role models in the media?
I don’t really have any role models per se, but this is because I went into journalism for ideological reasons. However, I do have much respect for the likes of Christiane Amanpour.
What are some of the things you did in your 20s, that you’re incredibly proud of?
My 20s! I’m proud that I followed through with a career path that I’d never quite thought of taking on. I did well at university, graduated with Honours.
I also became more settled in my 20s, I had a sense of stability, this is compared to most of my childhood as I’d always been back and forth between my parents.
Are there things you wish you did differently in your 20s?
I was, at this time, in the US, undertaking my Masters. But I think, just because of the history with my parents, I was always in a hurry to be independent, to be on my own, and to achieve.
I could have been easier on myself, I could have gone a bit slower, and decompressed from some of the things I’d been through.
Decompress and heal?
Correct. I think if I’d have taken time to heal, I’d have been more self-aware and more careful when it came to relationships, not just romantic ones, but also in terms of the people I allowed into my space.
With hindsight being 20/20, what would you tell your 26-year-old self?
My 26 year old self? Hang on, what year was that? (Takes out phone to calculate) I was in the US at the time, and I’d been headhunted for a job in the media, this was supposed to be fantastic, but I was miserable.
I was miserable because I hadn’t come home for two years straight and the studying and working had gotten to me. I also hadn’t learned yet that I was an introvert, that people exhaust me.
I would tell my 26-year-old self to take time and get to know myself better. To learn who’s good for me and who’s not, what I’m good at and what I’m not, what environments I thrive in and what environments I don’t, what gives me energy, and what drains my energy. Knowing oneself is very key.
And your 35-year-old self?
Where was I at 35? (Takes phone out to calculate again) I was on a mission at the time, to just leave London, and I ended up in Ethiopia. At that stage, I wasn’t very tolerant. I knew what I wanted, and if something didn’t work for me, I was out.
So I’d tell my 35-year-old self to take time and be more strategic in my thinking and with my moves, especially when it came to work.
Are you afraid of ageing?
Not necessarily. I think there’s a point I’ll get to and I’ll be content, but the getting there might be the problem. The process where your knees hurt, your back hurts, your energy dwindles, that wouldn’t be too pleasant.
In terms of friendships, what are some of the biggest deal-breakers for you?
Friendships (pauses), I’ve had friendships end for various reasons: feeling unsupported, violated, misunderstood, taken for granted. Being taken for granted, this, for me, is a big one.
If we call each other friends, and for some reason, you need support and I support you, I show up, but then when the tables turn, I’m in a crisis, the sky is falling on my head and you’re nowhere to be seen? That’s it.
Do you let go of relationships and friendships easily?
It depends on the level of emotional investment. Sometimes, your head knows what to do, but your heart takes a while to catch up.
Why do you think people stay in toxic relationships, even with the awareness that life really is short and should be lived in the best way possible?
For some, the relationship serves a certain purpose. It may be that it validates you, or that you’re insecure, or that you don’t know how to stand on your own. For other people, they just don’t know any better.
What do you think of slay queens and sponsees?
I’m not one to judge. I don’t know what one’s background, or life has been like, to make them choose that path. But if you do choose it, be smart about it, think of and invest in your future.
Do you have a ‘squad’ you hang out with?
What is a squad?
People who hang out in groups, almost always have more than one camera with them, and often like to show that they are living ‘the life.’
Wow. Okay. That’s something else you’ve introduced me to today, in addition to this very beautiful restaurant.
I wouldn’t know where to start with a squad, I didn’t even know what that was until just now. Yvonne, (shakes head) my level of introversion is on another level, you wouldn’t even begin to understand.
Uduak, are you happy?
(Pauses) I think life is a journey. I find that things like happiness, fulfillment, contentment, are not destinations, they are not an end in and of themselves. These are all by-products of alignment, of purpose. I would like to think of myself as being aligned.
You can catch the full interview here www.yvonneaoll.com