You know her as Wafirethi, the no-nonsense wife to Njoroge (Kenneth Gichoya) on Papa Shirandula. Her real name is Hanita Njoki Mwaniki and for the first time, the 31 year old has opened up about her chronicles to eDaily, including an exclusive message addressed to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Tell us about your childhood and family
I am the first born in a family of three (all girls). My immediate follower passed on. I was born and raised in Ngong. Being the eldest, I had a lot of responsibilities on my plate.
My childhood was fun. I played a lot. I was a tomboy. Most of the games I engaged in were boyish. I rode tyres, pulled toy cars made out of wire and I was very jumpy.
My parents separated and later, my mum passed away when I was 9-years-old. My uncle, Peter Komu, who lived at Ngong took me in and my two other siblings were taken by my grandmother who lives in Kibera.
How often were you meeting your siblings?
Meeting them was quite difficult. Actually, during my early years of education I moved to Riruta Satelite to my aunty’s place. While in Riruta I enrolled at Ndararua Primary School.
When I joined secondary school, I returned to my uncle’s place in Ngong. I attended Masai Girls High School.
At what age did you start to embrace your feminine side?
When I joined Form One I stopped engaging in activities that were deemed boyish.
During my childhood I used to wail when my guardian would dress me in a skirt or flowing dress. I used to feel very uncomfortable as it would force me to sit in a certain manner. Older women around would beat me, while saying: “kaa vizuri kama msichana”.
I embraced dresses in high school as I had no other choice but to put on uniform (laughs).
How did you relate with female students?
Honestly, until today, I don’t have many female friends. Gelling with them is difficult. 80 percent of my friends are male. You won’t find me going for a night out with fellow women; but you will easily see me in the company of men.
It is something in me. Though I came to realise when you have many female friends, very petty things tend to provoke a fight.
Men on the other hand are easy and cool – they don’t harbour grudges. Men respect me. Furthermore – unlike women – they don’t have the habit of showing off their property; and they don’t rub it on my face, telling me how big I am.
Looking back, what do you wish time could change or heal?
I wish I could have studied upto university so that I become a doctor – I have passion for humanity. I dropped out of school at Form Two because of financial difficulties after my uncle’s death. I have never taken my result slips from Masai Girls.
I wish my parents would have brought me up – I could have received a mother’s love and a father’s care.
I wish my father would not have left my mum. It is sad that I met him when I became an adult.
Most of the time I wonder: where was he all through my life challenges? When I became a celebrity, he came to look for me.
Have you met your father?
Yes. He lights up when he sees me. I forgave him because parents too can make mistakes. There are things that I have not gathered the courage to ask him. I just wish I’d be bold. The issues are like burning ulcers, I just have to speak out.
I would want to ask him where was he when my mum passed on; where was he when my younger sister passed on?
Why did he not show up during my mum and sister’s burial? I would want to know what grudge caused such a rift between him and my mum – to an extent he did not even bury his daughter.
Apparently, he remarried and relocated to Ndeiya. He has four other children with my step mum.
When did you start acting?
When I was in high school, I realised I had talent, and I would sweep awards in drama and arts competition. Actually I was the head of drama and music clubs.
You don’t know this about me: I like gospel music and Mercy Masika is my favorite artiste. Currently, I have written seven songs and I will release them soon.
And how did you land a role in Papa Shirandula?
Kenneth Gichoya (Njoroge on Papa Shirandula) is my very close friend. We live in Ongata Rongai. So one day he challenged me to audition for a role in Papa Shirandula. He told me I have talent that should not go to waste. I auditioned as his wife in the local drama and made it. Since then the job has been paying my bills. I give it all to God.
Sometimes I sit down and watch the programme and just laugh at myself. The Wafirethi character fits me well. I feel very nice when I hit Njoroge in some scenes (laughs). There are times I hit him for real and it excites me. After the shoot, he complains to me how I hit him hard… (laughs).
Many questions are fielded to me by fans asking: where is my ‘husband’ Njoroge; and why am I always hard on him. I have to convince them that what they see on television is a product of acting.
But in reality, Wafirethi and Hanita are two different people. Hanita is a mother of one – an adorable 9-year-old daughter. I also take care of my sister’s child.
Motherhood has taught me how to provide for my children. It has taught me good values. It has taught me love. I help quite a number of children in Kikuyu.
What do you do for a living besides acting?
I emcee at events. I also started a shoe store business. Initially, I had put up a bar and restaurant business in Ongata Rongai, but the facility was broken into by robbers who stole property.
What hobbies do you engage in when not working?
I watch movies, read magazines and inspirational books, and listen to gospel music. I also work out quite often – though I prefer taking long walks.
Every Sunday I go hiking on Ngong Hills.Mafuta tu ndiyo imekatalia kwa mwili, otherwise…(laughs). Since I was little, I have always been a pum pum.
Are you dating?
I am single. But mtu asitupe ndoano juu atagongwa na Njoro (laughs).
What qualities do you prioritize in a partner?
The first attribute is respect. Second, he should accept me the way I am. Third, he should be transparent – he should not date me with ulterior motives.
Fourth, he should be hardworking. Fifth, he should be clean. Kwanza akiwa mtu anavaa kiatu smart na belt, tutasikizana sana.
What’s your take on the Kenyan acting industry?
The actors are good. They can do wonders if accorded full support. The government should look into artists’ welfare – support them at least 80 percent.
We are earning little for our acting but fans think we have loads of money. Most of us are thus forced to live a lifestyle beyond our means. Actually I have a message for President Uhuru Kenyatta…
Interesting. Go on, he probably will read this…
Please Mr President, look into our welfare as artists because we are also part of your citizenry. We furthermore, entertain Kenyans; and we have vision.
We can work magic when given the necessary support by your government. We can propel the Kenyan acting industry to the top in the continent and even in the world.
I would love to meet you and tell you a lot that is on my mind. On behalf of Kenyan actors, kindly invite us to State House one day. We love you.