She has been gracing TV screens for a little over two years now but Yasmeen Saiedi is without a doubt one of the most popular household names in the country.
The 20-year-old actress had just finished her secondary school education when she tried her luck at auditions for what has since become a popular telenovela on Kenyan TV, ‘Maria’.
Yasmeen Maria spoke to the Sunday Nation about her journey thus far.
Before Maria, many had never heard of you, what were you engaging in?
I finished my high school studies in 2018. Basically, at that particular time, there wasn’t much I was doing. I landed the ‘Maria’ role in early 2019.
How did you learn of the auditions and what prompted you to go?
I learnt that there were auditions for a TV show through my circles and I thought to myself, “why can’t I go and give it a shot?”. There wasn’t much I would lose from trying.
Did you think you would make the cut?
I would be telling a lie if I say “yes”. This was just destiny. I should say, I honestly gave it my all. I executed the role so well that everyone in the room got mesmerised. It was destiny.
Sounds like you’ve got a lot of confidence in yourself?
I believe I do. But, on this one, I was really nervous. I had never done such a thing before, and wasn’t quite sure or convinced that I had this talent. I joked a lot about acting and drama, but not for a second Had I ever thought I was good enough.
Did you ever think the show would thrust you into the limelight?
Honestly, I didn’t know “Maria” was going to be as huge as it is. I was doing something to keep me busy and perhaps earn a little coin.
How has the fame changed your life?
My life has changed a great deal. Being famous is not an easy thing, unlike it may seem too many. I no longer run my errands with ease as before, because of all the attention I get every single moment I show up in a place. I also lost a lot of friends when I became famous.
Are you suggesting fame is a bad thing?
Not really. It has its pro and cons, but you’ve got to learn how to live with it positively.
Why did you friends leave after you became famous?
I guess many felt intimidated with my fame. Some didn’t understanding enough; that this was just me working. I would also say some were jealous of the achievements. But people come and go, I made new friends.
Is Yasmeen as naïve as Maria is?
Maria is the person you see on the screens. Yasmeen is friendly, outgoing, smart, eccentric and fierce.
Still being new in the game, would you say acting in Kenya pays well?
True, I haven’t been around long enough. But my opinion is that the acting industry has money. With my little knowledge, I’d say that it depends with the production company you work with. For my part, I’m grateful for where I landed.
There was word that you purchased a 23 million house?
That’s False. What happened is, I tagged my location on my pictures on Instagram while in Karen, and the assumption made was that I had bought a house. But it’s a good rumour, who wouldn’t want to own a house worth such a sum?
How did you land your first ambassadorial deal?
Maria made all that possible. The Supa Mojo brand realised the character Maria’s portrayal of a young, naive, ghetto girl was relatable to many and felt we should work together in building both brands.
Is it true your mother, who is also your manager, controls your bank accounts?
(Smiling) Yes, she does. Is it a bad thing? I think it’s not.
Does this mean you aren’t responsible with your finances?
That’s not correct. I started earning at the age of 18 and, at the time, I felt like I couldn’t handle such huge figures by myself. I needed some guidance from someone I trust.
Any other projects that you are currently involved in?
None, besides “Maria”, at the moment.
What are your future plans when curtains fall on “Maria”?
I will still be in the acting industry and, Insha’Allah, will be looking out for more auditions; different roles, just to showcase the gem I’ve got. I’m also open to more endorsement deals.