Today on Pearls And Heels we feature Medrine Hilda Nyambura. Medrine Hilda Nyambura is a copywriter at a digital marketing agency and she is also a theatre and screen actor. She has been in the arts since 2009. She started out at Phoenix Players Theatre under the mentorship of George Mungai and served in different capacities before moving on to other production houses and eventually an agency. She had a short stint both in Radio and TV and soon she will go back to it.
She says “writing is where I have found my sanity and many people in my life have made it possible to do this for a living. I am forever indebted to them. I have been a contributor to different online publishing platforms including HapaKenya. Being a copywriter allows me the pleasure of creating a world and seeing it come to life.”
- Describe your typical day.
I am usually up at 5 am. On some days, I am at a shoot by 6:30 am, have early morning meetings, and sometimes I am in a brainstorming session or writing copy. A lot gets done in the morning so I savour my morning hours to get everything important done. Afternoons are mostly for my research and browsing online for new content. I am addicted to ads and speeches.
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor with a practice that would have red floor rugs, and red walls and I would drive a red car. Looking back that sounds like a scene from SAW.
How did I end up acting? I began acting in high school plays and then professionally after high school. I was first featured in a pilot for a TV series with Simiyu Baraza. After that did not work, I joined Phoenix Players Theatre where I failed miserably at my first audition. George Mungai the then Creative Director, advised me to stay on as an assistant stage manager. That way I watched all the shows and learned how to put up a show from scratch. A year later I auditioned again and there began my journey as a stage actor. It’s sad that the one place that gave birth to many actors in Kenya today has gone under, again!
The writing all started with little notes to my mum growing up and letters to my friends. During a class in campus we learned how to script for TV & Radio, article writing and copywriting, it all made sense to me. I have worked for different companies as a contributor and later joined an agency as a copywriter.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would fear less and step out sooner. There were great opportunities to jump into stuff I really loved (still do) doing but I never ceased them. Now I am doing exactly that.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
- Read. Read. All of it, mostly good writing but reading.
- Write twice as much as you read. Practice writing works magic. The fact that you are not writing for publishing allows a lot of freedom and risk that will definitely spice up your work.
- Thick skin. Once you write it down, it’s done. Don’t get too attached, work on the next concept.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Being a copywriter and actor in Nairobi works for me. There is literally inspiration everywhere. Plus, the network of creatives in Nairobi is huge and that helps when you have a deadline and a blank page staring at you.
Nairobi has lots of creatives with whom I have collaborated. Plus the main platforms for performance are here. The networks and opportunities work for me.
I wish it was easier to get around this city. We spend too much time in traffic, it’s ridiculous. Moving around in Nairobi is becoming a nightmare. There’s just so much traffic everywhere. I think I will go the scooter route.
- What motivates you?
At the risk of sounding redundant, purpose. We are all part of a puzzle and my job is to find out where and how I fit in and pursue it with laser focus. All that should be geared to make the world better.
- How do you define success?
Loving what you do, making a living from it and impacting the world. The understanding that much is required from who much is given.
- Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Two sets of people. Mothers. Especially mine. She has so much tenacity and grit that still baffles me to date. She has been there through all the murk you could think of, for me, my family and even strangers. It’s never about her. Sometimes I have to remind her to think of herself.
The second group is the women making a difference in the arts both locally and internationally Katherine Kamau, Njeri Gitungo, Lupita Nyong’o, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Sarah Treem e.t.c There are so many women who are doing such great work in writing and acting that I am inspired to tell my own story as a creative.
- What is your favourite aspect of your job?
When a concept comes to life and I see the client not only appreciate the work but achieve their business goals as well. That gives me life.
I also love working with actors. It’s incredible how much talent we have. When all logistics are taken care of and an actor thinks only of delivery, fireworks.
- What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Listening. Seriously no matter what field you are in, take time and listen to people around you. It saves time and helps put out fires quickly.
Discipline. The essence of instant gratification has almost nullified the fact that if you need something solid you will need to put in the work. Old school still works. You need to do your time in the trenches if you are going to be at the top.
Keep learning. You will basically get better with each minute you invest in what you do. There are so many resources online to improve any skill.
Ask for help. Delegate. Somebody is always willing to help.
Teach. I once read somewhere that if you have talent and you are not using it to better someone’s life, you have no business having it.
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Listen to the creative director and remember one good tagline comes from 49 bad ones.
The best ideas come from everywhere. I once asked a janitor what they thought of a product and got a copy from that.
Please don’t get too attached to an idea. It’s just that. An idea. If it is good celebrate and get back to work. If it does not work, use the delete key and get on to creating.
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
There’s a client I always wanted to work with since I was around 10 or 11. One day she walks on set and after pleasantries, she walks to me ready to roll asks, “Madam copywriter what should I do? ”
- What makes you happy?
Good content makes me very happy. Sometimes it is not popular but it’s good.
A well-written series/movie gets me all the time. However, a good book wins the day, always.
I also love great conversation and just understanding why people are the way they are. Everybody has a unique story and they just want to be heard.
Animals make me happy too, precisely dogs. I mean they run and jump at you and any baggage from the day is gone.
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
My hobbies revolve around my work. Reading and writing obviously. I also love acting and though I don’t get to do it as much as I would love to, it’s my basic go to the source of creativity. Does Karaoke count as a hobby?
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
10 years ago, I wanted to be a dentist and here I am. While there are things I am working on achieving, I am open to life’s adventure. One thing though, I will definitely be in the arts
If you would like to interact with Nyambura you can find her on Twitter at @nyamburamn. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Pearls And Heels: Josephine Marura Mwatibo