“I am very passionate about young people and making sure that they are empowered to realize how capable and powerful they are. Young people need to be made aware of the rewards of working hard and pursuing their dreams because they are not only doing it for themselves but for the coming generations as well.”- Celestine Gachuhi.
Celestine Gachuhi is an actress, singer and motivational speaker who is passionate about life and young people. In the last few years, the name Celestine has become a household name mainly because of the role she plays in the award-winning soap opera, Selina. Onscreen Celestine plays a love-smitten, innocent young woman trying to find her place in life but in real life, she describes herself as outgoing, fun-loving and very determined. Celestine emphasizes the importance of hard work and believing that dreams can indeed come true.
Where did you grow up and was it always your lifelong dream to be an actress?
I grew up in very many different places. In Muranga we lived in Gaturi then Kahuhia. We then lived in Nakuru and relocated to Narok where I finished my high school studies. I changed schools quite a lot because we were always moving to different places.
It had always been my dream to be on television. In the beginning, I wanted to be a news anchor like Julie Gichuru, I would see her reading the news and aspire to be like her one day. Even though I had dreams of being an anchor, I had been acting at church and in high school so my love for acting was slowly developing. After high school, I was part of a group that was acting out set books so acting pretty much took over and I have pursued it since.
Where did you go to school and what fond memories do you have from that part of your life?
The first school I went to was Kin’gon’go Primary school. Looking back at that time of my life, I remember how I would sing in church on Sunday or how my mum gave me a present when I came second in my class after exams.
I then went to Kahuhia primary school and it was while I was there that I experienced my first earthquake. I remember being very excited and scared at the same time because I had seen the earth shake for the first time but again, mother nature can be brutal, so I was a little frightened as well. I later went to a school in Maasai Mara and it was such a contrast from Muranga because I could see wildlife, which was not common where I had come from.
In Graceland Academy Nakuru, I remember getting very sick often so that was very difficult for me, but it was in Graceland that I also started modelling so despite the illness, I had something to always look forward to.
I then went to Ole Tipis Girls’ high school where I had so much fun. I was involved in all the interesting activities such as drama and music. I was also quite cheeky in high school, but I fondly remember that time of my life.
Growing up, who or what was your greatest inspiration?
My grandmother from my dad’s side really stepped in when my mother passed on. She took us under her wing and treated us like her own children. She was amazing in all ways and I have so much love for her. My grandmother from my mum’s side is also a very significant figure in my life. She and my other grandmother really did everything in their power to make sure that my siblings and I were well looked after, and we are all very fortunate to have them in our lives.
How did you find your way into acting?
I started acting in primary school. After finishing form four I took the number of an acting group called Pambazuka. After I relocated to live with my sister in Nairobi, I received a call from Pambazuka and was invited to audition in Kenya National Theatre. I was picked as part of a cast that was going to be doing travelling theatre. I did that for some time and I later decided to audition for television. Since I got my first job, I have been on TV until now.
Before getting into acting, you worked in a salon and hawked panties, what lessons did you learn from those experiences?
These were and still are very important experiences in my life. I regret none of them, I believe going through that time in my life played a huge role in helping me become more mature. I learnt that you will not always be handed opportunities, most times you need to go out and work really hard to get to where you would want to be. I didn’t want to hawk panties or work in a salon for the rest of my life so I had to look at the kind of life I wanted, and I needed to appreciate the process of getting there. The five hundred shillings I got every day at the salon was a stepping stone towards bigger things. That’s how I looked at it.
You are a talented singer as well, what type of music do you love listening to and making?
I love listening to smooth gospel RnB music. I can listen to secular music as well as long as it is not too explicit.
You did a vernacular show at some point, what are the common misconceptions about vernacular actors?
People often assume that when you do a vernacular show, you are not capable of performing on a show that is on a bigger scale or one that demands a more sophisticated style of acting. A common misconception is that vernacular actors all come from the village, which is not true at all.
As a budding actress, what would say was your dream role?
When I was starting out, any role in the calibre of Selina was my dream. I can confidently say that I am doing my best at the show and I am in many ways living out my childhood dream.
When you auditioned for Selina, did you have any idea about how big your role was going to be?
I honestly had no idea about how big the show was going to get. The producers tried to prepare me, but I just took it as another job and worked hard as I always do. Selina would later become a household name. I am very happy with the impact it has had on our industry.
Selina is an adaptation of an Indian soap opera, from an actor’s point of view, does it feel different from the Kenyan stories?
It does feel different to some point, but I feel like the writers have really done a great job in making Selina a story that the Kenyan audience can relate to. Being a form of art, I believe that we should try to introduce something different to the audience every time and this only adds to the entertainment experience because even when we do Kenyan stories, we try to portray them in a unique way.
You have a huge presence on social media, how important is it for an actor to be active on social media? Does your fame put some extra pressure on how you carry yourself?
The public will always place certain expectations on anyone that is in the public eye. They will want you to be perfect in the way you do all things and carry yourself. Personally, I do not feel any pressure to subscribe to any of those expectations, sometimes I don’t feel like putting on makeup or wearing high heels. My wish is to live the closest thing to a normal life, I don’t want to be questioned for getting bread in the morning in my pyjamas. A lot of pressure exists but I am trying my hardest to fight it and simply live my life the best way I know how to.
Social media is an important tool for everyone especially if you are in our industry. There is a pressure that comes with not posting something and keeping your fans entertained. I think the most important thing is finding a healthy balance and just using social media for its intended purpose.
You are also involved in motivational speaking, where does that passion come from?
I am very passionate about young people and making sure that they are empowered to realize how capable and powerful they are. Young people need to be made aware of the rewards of working hard and pursuing their dreams because they are not only doing it for themselves but for the coming generations as well. As a young person myself, I am very resilient when it comes to chasing my dreams and getting the work done. I never give up.
When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing for fun and recreation?
I enjoy swimming, travelling and watching television. I love watching TV so much I can do it from Friday to Monday and only leave my house to go to work. Otherwise, I also enjoy hanging out with my sister and friends whenever the opportunity presents itself.
What is one assumption that people make about you that is untrue?
Most people have made the assumption that I am a quiet person, but I am really not. I can be quite reserved especially if I am meeting you for the first time, I will likely not get loud or cheeky but those who know me can attest to the fact that I am not quiet at all.
What is your ultimate dream? Where do you want to be in the next years?
My ultimate dream is to go to Hollywood and just own it and do all the marvellous things that it has to offer. As much as I want it for me, I would be also doing it for the younger generation to show them that anything is possible.
Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.