There is no doubt that the Kenyan film industry is thriving with spikes of creativity from the writers, producers directors, and editors not forgetting actors. Its consistency of different production of movies shows, and commercials is what is aiding in the promotion of creativity among filmmakers and discovering new talents. It is also allowing more innovative ways of showcasing their art on mainstream media including local television stations and mobile applications such as Netflix, Showmax, and Viusasa.
In the segment ARTIST TO WATCH we feature Vanessa Okeyo, a talented actress who has featured in a couple of films including the recent teen drama ‘Paa’ season 2 that premiered on Citizen Tv on 7th January this year.
WHO IS VANESSA OKEYO?
Vanessa Okeyo is an actor, a commercial model, a mental health advocate, human rights activist and a travel junkie.
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO ACTING WHEN DID IT ALL BEGIN?
I have always loved anything related to entertainment and media. My biggest dream was to one day get to see myself on TV either through acting or presenting. My journey to acting has been all about going for auditions hoping that one day I will land a role. I started acting officially last year after landing my first role as a supporting actor. I loved it since it gave me the drive of wanting to be more.
WHAT FILMS HAVE YOU FEATURED IN AND WHAT WERE THEY ABOUT?
I have been in three films. ‘Mino’ being the first one where I played the role of a character named Tandu. The film is about a lady who is being forced to get married to the king’s son. Tandu goes to a left-handed warrior who’s considered to be a curse and asks him to marry her against everyone’s will. The two get banished because the marriage is said to be impure.
My second film was a teen TV drama ‘Paa’ season 2 that premiered on Citizen television on 7th January this year. I played the main character Sam who is a self-driven and focused girl. Samantha says no to sex to her boyfriend who is pressuring her to have sex against her principles. She refuses and proves to be true to herself and what she believes in.
‘Paa’ tells young girls that they can say no to things they believe they are wrong and put themselves first.
Recently I also appeared on the Showmax original ‘Single Kiasi’ where I am playing the role Philomena who is Sintamei’s assistant.
YOU REALLY OUTDID YOURSELF IN ‘PAA’, HOW DO YOU SECURE THESE GIGS?
I go for auditions, make sure I know my strong parts and weak ones, look for monologues that suit that, rehearse, then go out there and outdo myself then leave the rest to God.
YOU BEING A MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE, HOW HAS THAT AIDED YOUR DECISION MAKING IN YOUR CAREER?
Mental health has been a struggle even before I started acting. I was a mental health advocate before everything. I think people talk about celebrities and mental health just because they are in the limelight but deep down every individual goes through it. One of the reasons I got here is to get exposure and work with agencies hopefully get to the UN and be one of the many that advocate for mental health and human rights while being an actress.
YOU ARE ALSO A COMMERCIAL MODEL! WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE INTERESTED TO DO COMMERCIALS?
All my life I have been told “try modeling”, “try acting”, and “try being on TV” I think this is something I showed interest in unknowingly. I have been to one advert which was all about Itel and my biggest highlight while on it was meeting the great King Kaka. The idea is to do what I love, to get exposure, and get to work with agencies that are about what I stand for which is basically mental health and human rights.
HOW HAS IT BEEN BALANCING BOTH THE LIMELIGHT AND YOUR NORMAL LIFE?
Quite easy, you can say it’s something I was ready for. The stars really aligned for me and God came through hard!
WERE YOUR PARENTS ALWAYS SUPPORTIVE OF YOU CHOOSING ACTING AS YOUR CAREER PATH?
They are extremely supportive. I remember when I told them about my first gig, they were not shocked. I think they expected it and advised me to stay true to myself by sticking to my morals.
WE’RE CURIOUS, WHO DO YOU LOOK UPTO?
I look up to myself a lot. I have a vision of who I want to become in the next few years and that challenges me to give my best and work hard.
IN YEARS’ TIME, WHERE DOES VANESSA SEE HERSELF?
To be honest, I see myself on a Hollywood red carpet and having a film or series with Lupita, getting nominated, and winning an Emmy but mostly having worked with Lupita.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO ANY ASPIRING ACTOR?
Go for it. The minute the thought is in your mind, take action.
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