If you are a Tahidi High fan, you know today’s MCM as Teacher Kandi, a handsome and flirtatious geography teacher who has a liking for country music.
But starting Monday, you will see 34-year-old Ken Wa Kuraya as a prime time news anchor.
As Wa Kuraya wrapped up his final preparations for his news anchor debut, he spared some time to share his life story with Citizen Digital.
Television personalities are often viewed with rose coloured glasses, and people often see the glamour and forget their backstories. Unknown to many fans are the long winding roads that bring their favourite actors to their screens.
Wa Kuraya’s path to the silver screen has been a lengthy one, and he has had to overcome numerous challenges to get to where he is now.
Born in Ndaragwa to a single mother, Wa Kuraya is a last born among 5 children. After clearing his secondary education at Ol Kalou Highschool, the popular actor sought business In Nairobi.
“I wanted to open a business back home, a barber shop, but I ended up working at a pharmacy in Nairobi for a very long time,” narrates the reserved actor.
Despite having a stable job at the pharmacy, Wa Kuraya had a proclivity for the arts: “I used to love performing poems. I wrote a few for the newspaper then, especially Taifa Leo. I also joined the legendary Wahome Mutahi (Whispers) and did a few performances. That made me quit my job at the pharmacy to begin acting. ”
The road, however, hit a very steep bump when he decided to change careers.
“I got an acting gig for one of Kenya’s largest banks. Sadly, they decided to pay me less than I expected and that made me bitter. That’s when I decided to quit acting,” tells Wa Kuraya.
Having quit both the pharmacy job and acting, how did he make ends meet?
“I decided to sell clothes to sustain me instead. I sold panties and socks. I also worked in house construction,” he recounts.
Even with both hustles, Wa Kuraya could not make enough money to pay rent for his Kayole house and he was evicted. Thankfully, he got assistance from his friends and family in Nairobi at the time.
The hassle of selling mitumba clothes left him distraught, and this made him reconsider his stand on acting.
River Road celebrity
Still working in house construction, Wa Kuraya went on to act in several clubs in river road.
“We acted with our construction clothes, people thought that was a trend we were starting but it was not. We acted with those clothes because we did not have a choice. I became a river road celeb,” recounts a smiling Wa Kuraya.
His family also helped him with the money to continue with his dream, and with time produced his own show, Tafadhali Tigera Hau.
The show was available in DVDs and VCDs and Wa Kuraya made a hefty sum from the show. Shortly after, opened a production shop on the same street.
“I was able to produce other Kikuyu shows and even produced music for gospel singers. This success allowed me to open three other shops.”
Just as things were looking up for him, his fortunes changed and his shops were reduced to nothing after a period of time.
Things got so bad, that he ended up on the streets: “I slept in the streets. I met several street families near National archives who shared their stories; Former engineers and pilots.”
Fed up with the squalor of street life, Wa Kuraya decided to give acting another shot.
Wa Kuraya walked into Fanaka Arts Theatre, and with time he begun landing roles. The most memorable character he played was Mundu Particular in a Kikuyu play.
As he was acting, he was recruited at a private security firm, Panza Protection, where he trained in cross-protective operations. Unknown to many, Wa Kuraya is a certified bodyguard.
Graduating to television
After making his name on the stage, how did he transition to the silver screen?
“I was introduced to the opportunity by a friend who hosted karaoke at a bar. She heard that the show was scouting for actors and she told me to try my chances,” says the talented thespian.
The auditions went well and he landed the Tahidi High role, which he has held for the past two years.
The two years of TV acting prepared him for the next stage of his TV career as a news anchor. When Wa Kuraya heard that Royal Media Services was opening a Kikuyu TV station, he decided to give it a try. Though the recruitment process was rigorous, the multitalented presenter sailed through.
Looking back, the jack-of-all-trades feels that his many experiences, both positive and negative, prepared him for his new job.
Ken says that his spirituality helped him navigate through the difficulties he faced in his journey: “I am very strong on prayer. You can mock anything but not my faith.”
If you are wondering what happened to his childhood dream of opening a barbershop in Ndaragua, it came to pass, but in Nairobi.
Life away from the spotlight
When he’s not on TV or running his business, what does he do?
“I relax in the house and read. I love reading, especially scripts. I watch a bit of TV, but you can never find me watching football. I hate football more than I hate the devil.” He intimates.
The hardship Wa Kuraya faced gave him a heart for giving back to the community, so he started a charity called Nafsi- Touch a Heart. The organization mainly works with children’s homes.
As we wind up the interview, I ask Wa Kuraya the question ladies are dying to know: is he in a relationship?
“Allow me not to talk about that because it might impact my ratings,” joked Wa Kuraya. “I will not talk about relationships, but all I can say is that I am a happy guy in life and a proud father of two.”
After much prodding, Wa Kuraya divulged that his past relationship experiences have left him jaded.
Though he remained tight-lipped about whether he is currently seeing someone, the multi-talented TV personality said that he cannot abide dishonest women.”
“I hate a lot of things but lying to me is the worst.”
Ken alongside his fellow anchor, Muthoni wa Mukiri, promises to continue offering value through the Inooro TV platform.