Citizen Television news anchor Lillian Muli has a warm personality.
She keeps a small circle of friends because life has taught her to – that never trust everyone who smiles at you – and showers you with praises.
In a candid interview with EDAILY Lillian Muli shared exclusive details about her life in media, her life as a mother and her life as a daughter.
Below is the full transcript of the interview:
EDAILY: Which child are you in the hierarchy of siblings – and where did you grow up?
LILLIAN MULI: I am the second born in a family of three siblings, actually sandwiched between two brothers Chris and John. I grew up right here in Nairobi, different places. My childhood was very nice. I played the usual games of the 80s and early 90s.
EDAILY: You played games of the 80s…’Kwani’ how old are you?
LILLIAN MULI: (Bursts into thunderous laughter). We are not having an age conversation, you know? But I am in my early thirties. Very early!
EDAILY: What do you miss most about your childhood?
LILLIAN MULI: I miss the fact that we were all friends. Basically because we were all neighbours and class system wasn’t pronounced. There was nothing like Lillian Muli is a celeb… I don’t like the term ‘celebrity’ by the way. We were just all kids growing up. Now as we’ve grown up, people have defined each other. For me, because I started working when I was pretty young, I lost many friends along the way – because all that ‘celebrity’ tag which I do not understand where it comes from, a lot of people thought I was a different creature.
The ones who stuck around are few. I miss the days when everyone could eat at everyone’s house, everybody could play with everybody. Today, the clique system is pronounced! Where people hang out with certain people, people don’t like other people. I just wish we never had to grow out of our younger selves.
EDAILY: Which schools did you go to?
LILLIAN MULI: I attended Lavington Primary School, and then I went to Msongari for my O-levels. From there, I transitioned to do a Cambridge course at a college called Arboretum and then pursued a Bachelor’s Degree course at Daystar University.
EDAILY: Having interacted with you before, and knowing you to a particular degree, you come across as someone who might have had a phase of life when you were a tomboy. Is it true?
LILLIAN MULI: Oh My Goodness, Yes! (Pauses). Actually you are right. Because of growing up with boys, and in an environment where boys were the populous gender, I developed tomboy tendencies. You’ll be shocked I only started wearing dresses when I joined KTN. My first suit, the first suit I ever wore was at KTN. Growing up, I was always a pants girl. I wore shorts, I played soccer, I rode bikes. So – for me – this whole girly feel and look has not been a part of me for the longest time. If you’d remember my early days at KTN, I had a very small haircut – because I was not this girly person.
EDAILY: What do you miss most about your tomboy self?
LILLIAN MULI: I miss comfort! I am more comfortable in trousers. If only I could wear trousers every other day, I would be happier. But again, given the nature of my job, I cannot. The viewer seemingly is more comfortable with a feminine look on a woman anchor. I miss being able to rock my pair of jeans. Things like manicure and pedicure I came to know about them when I joined the media. They have never been a part of me. I am the kind of girl who will wake up and go lipstick, mascara and that’s it! I am not into make-up and foundation things.
EDAILY: You have talked passionately about missing a childhood where society was closely knitted. You have emphasised on the need for integration. Are you instilling those values, which you believe in, in your son?
LILLIAN MULI: If you have noticed my son is nowhere on social media. I have kept him very private because my choice to be in the public should not trickle down to him. The other day I was having a conversation on whether I should…coz he is a soccer captain…(Laughs out loud). I was having a conversation about whether I should lock his hair.
In his school there are no restrictive regulations on how a pupil’s hair should be done. I thought about it, and I was like: ‘We should not define who our children should be before they get to an age where they can decide what they want’. I like to keep my family very private, especially my son. The values I am instilling in him is that I just want him to grow up like a normal kid. And not when he goes somewhere, people are like: ‘That is Lillian Muli’s son!’ Or not when people say hurting things about me, like they have previously done; that will affect my son. He wants to be a footballer (Laughs). He is into Arsenal FC.
EDAILY: What does your son mean to you?
LILLIAN MULI: My son… (Takes a deep breath, directs her eyes toward the roof). He is a pure definition of… (I see raw emotion, pure love in her eyes). He is a pure definition of what love is. For me, I think when I had him I changed in a lot of ways. My focus shifted. Previous decisions that I made – that were arrived at primarily based on me – stopped. It is all about him now. I love that I am starting to listen to him. He is 6-years-old, and if he tells me: ‘Mum, I love soccer’ then I have to wake up early on Saturdays to go to Ligi Ndogo – and I do it diligently! He is a disciplined child. He knows what he wants, and unlike me, he is extroverted. He is everyone’s friend where we live. The parents at my place know me because of Josh. People think I am extroverted but I am not.
EDAILY: Some sections claim Lillian Muli is snobbish. Do you think you are?
LILLIAN MULI: (Laughs). Nooo! Aaah… Case in point, my brothers and I are one year apart. We grew up like triplets. So for me, I have always kept a small circle. My best friends for the longest time are my brothers. Even as I grew up I have always kept a small circle of people. But when I joined the media, I was very naïve at the time – and at that time, we did not have mentors or people to walk with us and tell us: ‘Avoid hanging out in such places, avoid talking to certain people about your personal issues’. So, at the time I joined the media, I started getting a bigger circle of friends. But I ended up talking to the wrong people, misquoted sometimes by friends, sometimes I would say things and they would end up on blogs.
That experience taught me a lesson – to retreat into my own shell. And I realised that when you keep a small circle, particularly when you are in the limelight, it is easier to pinpoint where things you said are coming from or who your real friend is. You’d realise a lot of people would want to be close to you for different reasons – some are opportunists, others just want you for latest gossip. So, when I narrowed my circle to very few people that just became me. I am pleasant, I am gonna say hi to you. But…I don’t know if it is subconscious, but I keep people at a distance – by choice! I don’t want to get hurt, I don’t want people to misquote me.
My older colleague once told me: ‘Do you realise that a lot of things that even end up out there in the gutter, maybe some are exaggerated, come from your own mouth? Coz you are the one who probably tells that story to someone’. Honestly, I have three close friends, whom I will say are my truest friends: one is my mum, two a crony named Esther, who is a banker, and the third one is called Marriam, who lives in the United Kingdom – our friendship has spanned over 30 years.
Friendships are like plants, they are supposed to be nurtured.
EDAILY: Talking of your mum, what is that one attribute that you admire in her?
LILLIAN MULI: My mum…We lost our dad when my siblings and I had just joined university – that is in the year 2010. He died after being involved in a road accident. My mum, at the time was working for the United Nations. I think what I am most proud of is that ability of a woman to invest in her education and bettering herself and getting a high-profile job; and even side-hustles because she is into Real Estate business, she is a farmer…In short, she is a jack of all trades.
For us, at least financially, we never felt the gap of our dad passing on coz if it was school fees, mum always paid in time. I know a lot of families, you know, when the bread winner passes on, life changes. For us, I won’t say we were really rich per se, we were middle class, but were comfortable. I am so proud of my mum for that – coz our dad died when we were all in university. So, you can imagine the burden that was on her shoulders. She is a superwoman. Her name is Mwende.
And she is the first person…you know… guys don’t understand, TV can be crazy! I have had incidents where people have misquoted me or said mean stuff about me. It works me up. But my mother is the first person I would call and tell her what is weighing me down. And somehow, when you talk to a mother who saw you grow up in the media, she comforts you. To my mum, I am just her child. She doesn’t judge me. She has been my pillar!
EDAILY: Talking of being misquoted, people publishing false reports about you, what has been your lowest moment?
LILLIAN MULI: My lowest moment would be the incident where I was captured on video having a backlash at someone at a city restaurant. Why that was a low moment, although – yes – I spoke to a couple of mentors including some of my bosses at RMS, and they told me: ‘At least now you know that you are a person being watched, and whatever you do in public, you have to carry out yourself in a certain way’… It is unfortunate. Where somebody else would have a meltdown, my meltdown was recorded – and only one side of the story was told. I suppose because we are public figures – and much is expected of us, but my lowest moment at the time was just trending like for three days nonstop. I kept looking at Twitter and I was like that was real cyber-bullying! Oh my God! It was crazy!
There’s another friend of mine called Diana. She held my hand at the time. I could not eat, I could not sleep. That video leaked on a Monday… I remember Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday I could not eat or sleep as my name was a top trend on Twitter. And I remember on the particular Thursday, I was supposed to sit in for Anne Kiguta. And on that day Jubilee had an event, so I was told to come to work by 2pm. Keep in mind, I was still trending.
I went to work, I was fine. I had to come back for 9pm bulletin. Something very weird happened, my fever shot up to crazy levels. I was crying, in the house alone: sick but I had to go to work. I told God to give me the strength because everyone expected me not to do it, but I had to prove that I could. I came to read the bulletin, and my blouse was soaked. When I finished anchoring the bulletin I remember I went to a Nairobi hospital and the doctor wanted to admit me for anxiety attack. The doctor would ask me to take a rest from work, but I just had to continue grinding. Those are some of the sacrifices we make at work that people don’t get to know of.
The only thing that really, really helped me is our support system at RMS, starting from our Chairman S.K Macharia, Managing Director Wachira Waruru and Chief Operating Officer Farida Karoney… We are all human. I learnt valuable lessons; that I cannot afford to be seen in public with a skyrocketed temper again. Never!
EDAILY: Sometimes do you feel tabloids infringe on your private life?
LILLIAN MULI: Yes, and it annoys! It gets to a point where you ask yourself is this really what I signed for? – That I can’t just be out there like a normal girl in her thirties hanging out with her friends without people constantly looking in your direction. It gets a bit intrusive. However, I have to choose wisely where to hang out at.
EDAILY: What has been your career highlight(s) so far?
LILLIAN MULI: Mmmmh…There are many! When I came to Citizen TV, I met a brilliant team of creatives who I have learnt so much from. For instance, Slim Possible was my first emceeing experience. This is an audience, there is people – and the whole of Kenya and parts of the world is watching. That opened up a lot of emceeing opportunities for me. And I got an opportunity to interview Lupita Nyong’o, I got the opportunity to host an Olympic function in London, I have interviewed influential women. So many they are!
EDAILY: What advice can you give a young person who wants to pursue journalism as a career?
LILLIAN MULI: Journalism is not something that you can discover later in life. Journalism is innate. It is something that a lot of people who are in the media industry today were born with. You are either a good writer or a good public speaker. You can’t just wake up one day and see Michael Njenga on TV and say: ‘I want to be like him. He wears dapper outfits.’
If your prime motivation for joining the media is fame, money, flashiness, then you are in the wrong business. If you have to be a journalist at least you have to be a wide reader, you have to be a good writer. Those two cannot be compromised on. But a lot of people think these stuff come easy. And I think they have made our industry look very shallow because they have made it come across like it is all about fame, appearance and flamboyance.
EDAILY: Do you work out? If yes, how often?
LILLIAN MULI: (Laughs). I am back in the gym. A lot of people have been telling me that I have put on weight. So now I am really, really back. I have Easter goals – to have more toned arms and extremely flat tummy. And of course I am doing squats. I am also into Rhumba fitness. We just have to invest in healthy living.
EDAILY: You are elegant, modern and sophisticated. Look at your nails… Do you know how to cook?
LILLIAN MULI: I am not the best cook – but it is because I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. However, I can whip up a good seven-star breakfast made of fruits, fresh squeezed orange juice, pan cakes, sausages.