Many know Bernice Njeri as Njambi on KTN’s The Real Househelps of Kawangware. She acts as naïve house maid from Central Kenya whose Swahili accent is affected by mother tongue influence.
Njeri’s accommodating demeanor, real personality and effortless sense of humour makes her an ultimate actress on our screens.
She spills it all to eDaily in an exclusive interview:
You seem very responsible. Are you the eldest sibling?
“I am the first born in a family of two (one boy, one girl). My brother is in Form Three. I grew up in a little village called Gachie. It is in the border of Nairobi and Kiambu.”
Was a lot of pressure put on you by your parents –considering you are the first born?
“There was, and there still is! My dad is very strict – he would plainly restrict me from going to certain places and doing certain things. Even now he still monitors me very closely – at this age, imagine!”
Which schools did you attend?
“I went to Hospital Hill Primary School, and later transferred to White Cottage Primary School. I joined Hospital Hill High School for my secondary education. My elementary education life revolved around the Hospital Hill schools – if there was a university with a similar name, I think I would have enrolled there.”
So you were a rich kid of Nairobi?
“(Laughs out loudly) I thank God.”
And what did or are you studying in college?
“I want to enroll for a law degree at Moi University. Initially, I wanted to register for Mass Communication but my parents told me bluntly: ‘you won’t pursue that course (BMass); you are going to enroll for law, and you will do law!’ I did law at a lower level, and I now want to pursue a bachelor’s degree.”
Briefly recount your high school experience
“Oh my God; I was very naughty! I cannot count the many suspensions I served. I was a rebel. I remember punishing prefects (laughs). I could beat them and put used sanitary towels in their metal boxes. I basically did everything bad. The snitch sold me out severally. I was thus suspended countless times. But now, I am very sweet – I have changed.”
What changed you?
“When I got pregnant – my daughter became my turning point. She is my rock, my soul; my everything. I don’t know what I would do without her. She just changed my life kabisa!”
She totally changed your life… But first, which kind of life were you leading?
“I really fear you media people (jokes). But let me just tell you. I used to drink a lot, a lot – from Monday to Monday; I am not sure if my parents know this. I remember there was a time when my brother opened the gate for me after my night out and he told me: ‘My sister, stop drinking alcohol. I won’t be opening for you the gate without mum’s knowledge every day.’ Tears were rolling down his cheeks. It touched me, it moved me; I tried to change, but couldn’t. My parents thus told me to move out.”
Since moving out of your parents’ home, have you taken alcohol?
“No! However, I think when one lives with strict parents; he or she tends to be rebellious for no reason. I don’t know why.”
What lesson have you learnt from your experience growing up?
“I have learnt a lot of things. There is no point of being a rebel. There is no point of being disrespectful. Such tendencies take one nowhere. The more you drink on a daily basis, the more you become useless. The more you thump your chest, the more you become insignificant.”
Do you have any regrets in life?
“Yes. I regret not listening to my parents. They told me to lead a righteous, responsible and respectful life. They urged me to be God-fearing. I did not listen to them then. But now, I am a complete opposite of my past self. I nowadays even go to church – Parklands Baptist.”
You have a law background – how did you find yourself in the field of acting?
“Abel Mutua (formerly Freddie on Citizen TV’s Tahidi High) auditioned me for a role in the local drama Hapa Kule. I was to feature in the programme’s segment known as The Househelps of Kawangware. Abel was impressed by my acting – and that is how I found myself in art.”
What lesson has acting taught you?
“Patience pays. I preach about patience. I cannot even count the auditions I went for at the Kenya National Theatre. Every time I would be told: ‘you are good, you are great’; but I’d see other people who had bigger names getting the roles. My dreams were crushed – the times I shed tears in my bedroom only mum knows.”
You are one of the key casts in The Real Househelps of Kawangware – how do you feel about that?
“I feel good. I love being appreciated for my hard work. When fans meet me, they throng around me and ask we take selfies. I am not used to being the centre of attention, though I have to heed to my fans’ requests.”
Are you dating?
How is the experience?
“It is fun (laughs). I have a shoulder to cry on. Dating is interesting – it has its usual ups and downs. But my boyfriend and I always find our way back to each other. And because I am prayerful, I kind of find love accommodative.”
What advice can you give to girls who pursue romantic relationships prematurely?
“Please, don’t just get into a relationship because a man says: ‘I love you’. I remember when we started dating; my man told me he loves me after three months. I asked him if he knew what he was saying. It found when I was from a very, very bad relationship. Take time to know the man who is pursuing you.”
How bad was your previous relationship?
“It was violent. My ex-boyfriend was terrible!”
Going into the future, what should we expect from Njambi?
“So many series, so many movies, so many commercials; I will be everywhere on your screens in Jesus’ name.”