Wairimu “Mimo” Karanja, aka Queen of TBT/Mafinyoo, is one of the more popular Kenyan content creators on TikTok. The 26-year-old boasts over 88.1K followers on the platform and over 1.8 million likes.
Who is Mimo Karanja?
I am a creative; I create content on social media, that is on TikTok and Instagram, which is where I know most people know me from. I have a background in media and communications, and I hail from Kiambu.
What was your life like before Instagram and TikTok?
Before social media, I was interested in the performing arts, which is why I did media studies.
The first social media platform I ever joined actually was Facebook, which I joined because everyone was doing so at the time. I always consider myself a late bloomer because I am usually the last person to join these social media platforms among my friends.
I was not allowed to access the internet up until I finished high school, after which I downloaded Facebook as my first social media app. After a while, I joined Instagram, which initially was just for social purposes and not content creation.
TikTok I joined much later, which way back then was known as Musical.ly. I remember I saw a video on Idah Alisha’s page and I was intrigued. I quickly downloaded the app, and I remember the first video I ever posted was ‘Unbwogable’.
At what point did you start growing on TikTok?
In 2020, when Covid hit and I lost my job, I had enough time on my hands to create as many videos as I could. I became consistent on TikTok during the pandemic. Inasmuch as I lost my job and financial security, doing what I loved helped me not sink into a bad mental state.
When did you realise you were becoming a big deal?
In 2021. In 2020, some of my videos were blowing up but not at a certain rate. In January 2021, I started this thing about Nairobi girls’ dating narrative, how they love money and they were doing well. It was then that my videos started taking off, and even my chewing made my videos get more views.
Which video went viral at the time?
There’s this video I did with a friend of mine, about how Nairobi girls, when asked to pay the bill, they make an excuse like it was swallowed up by Fuliza and how they just won’t make it. Now that one seriously blew up. Things after that started opening up in terms of numbers and growth, but not in brands and money. I was still not making any money.
When did you start TBT videos?
Mid-2021. The videos were getting 50,000 views. The one that I did that blew up was of ‘Mr Nice’, which people loved. From there TBT videos were on demand from fans, which made me keep it up. People love them because they’re relatable.
How did you end up settling on TBTs?
TBT videos are what gave me my space in the content creation scene. TBT/Mafinyoo videos made me who I am, and they opened doors for me. I feel like people saw themselves in those videos as it reminded them of a certain happy place in their childhood.
What sets you apart from other creatives?
It was a unique thing because I feel like the Nairobi girls videos I was doing, I started on TikTok but eventually, people picked the idea and spread it but the idea was originally mine. I knew Nairobi girls’ narrative was easy for people to just get the sound and use, which was okay, but with TBT videos, I feel like that is what defined me.
Why do you always chew in your videos?
Funny thing is that I don’t chew gum. In my videos I usually just make it look like I am chewing, but in reality, it’s something that came naturally when I was working at a media house, where this friend of mine and I always wanted to add a little sass to our conversations. When I started the Nairobi girls videos, I needed the sass to come through and I found myself chewing just to make the videos juicier. Chewing gave the character of a true Nairobi girl.
Between TikTok and Instagram, which is your favourite?
I like TikTok for fun and creation, and Instagram because that’s where the money is at.
When did you get your first brand endorsement?
Last year, on Instagram. It was EABL. They reached out to me via my DM. I tarmacked in the content-creating space for two years, in that I gave myself two years before taking up any brand endorsements.
Was the pay worth it?
It wasn’t good, in all honesty, but I took it as an internship because I wanted them to see the kind of work I could do. I believed that even though the pay wasn’t what I expected, it was going to open new doors.
Have you ever been trolled?
Generally, I don’t get a lot of hate, but I remember this one time I posted a video about having a big forehead because I have one. I got traction on the video, but months later the video was picked up by a blogger. The comments section was nasty and I was trolled for days.
Have you ever thought of quitting?
Many times. But I gave myself two years to really get into the space and out of those two years, I realised I love what I do. Also, I was brought up to have thick skin and work hard.
What is your favourite colour?
Right now I am enjoying green, but I am more of a brown/beige sort of person.
What three words describe you?
Funny. Smart. Assertive
Who’s your favourite comedian?
What inspires your fashion sense?
Anything comfortable, and my mum.
What four things do you never lack in your purse?
Tissue. Wipes. Nail cutter. Handkerchief.
What are your favourite accessories?
Earrings and watches.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Reading people’s minds.
What values matter to you the most?
Hard work. Spirituality. Punctuality.