By Olushola Ricketts
At first glance, top Kenya diva and Chocolate City musician, Victoria Kimani, seems nothing more than a sex symbol. But her musical talent is equally endearing. The singer whose parents are missionaries tells OLUSHOLA RICKETTS why her style is different.
What are you passionate about?
I don’t want to call myself a feminist, but I always stand up for my girls and sisters. Recently in Kenya, they were stripping women who they presumed were indecently dressed. But when I looked at these women they were not even indecent and I became very vocal with the campaign, My Dress, My Choice. This all boils down to sexism and poverty because these are people who are not educated. An innocent woman tries to go to work and you strip her naked on the street. So, this has been a lifestyle for me and I am very involved with it. I call it a lifestyle because my parents are pastors and run an orphanage home for 14 years now. When any of the children gets to 18-year-old, they go to college. I grew up in the atmosphere where I met a lot of girls who were victims of rape or their mothers went into prostitution. Also, my mother used to take me along with her while she goes to women’s prisons to preach. I didn’t have any sister; I only have two elder brothers and I had always wanted to have sisters.
What influenced your choice of Nigeria as home?
Before I signed to Chocolate City, I knew I wanted to come back home. When I say home I mean Africa. I knew that if I went to Kenya it could be cool, but everyone knows right now that Nigeria is like Hollywood when it comes to entertainment in general. So, I said I needed to start from here because there are so many talented people in this industry and the youth are so much interested in music. A statistic came out recently that said 55 per cent of the youth in Kenya were interested in music while it was about 72 per cent in Nigeria. I needed to go back home (she was singing in the United States of America) and become a pan-African artiste, someone who moves around the continent. That was the vision and I think it is truth that there is life and death in the power of the tongue. Whatever you want in life you should say it and it would come to pass. Almost three years later, I could say that I am getting closer to my goals even though there is still a lot of work to do.
Do you know you are viewed largely as a sex symbol in Nigeria?
Unfortunately, I don’t think that is a bad thing and I think I am aware of that too. I am very proud of the side of me that wants to be a feminist because I shouldn’t be apologetic for embracing what is mine. I can wear something that covers me up and I could choose to wear other things to flaunt what God gave me. I don’t even look at it as an expression because this is me. So, if someone looks at it and say I am a sex symbol or it sells sex, I think the person needs to be examined because I didn’t make myself the way I am. It also depends on who is talking. If you ask someone who is extremely religious or you ask my mother what she thinks of an image, she would say the person is completely naked even when the person is not while some people would say it is totally fine.
For the mission work, we came to Nigeria in 1999 and we left in 2001. We stayed in Benin City for two years and I attended the New Covenant Christian Academy which was attached to the church. I was already a very eccentric child and there was the school hairstyle and shoes. But I was coming from a state where kids were allowed to express themselves with their sense of fashion or makeup. When I got to Benin it was like a culture shock. They told me I would have to follow the school hairstyle, which they changed weekly or I would have to cut my hair really low. Then, my hair was one of the main ways I expressed myself. My mother taught me how to braid at a younger age, so I was always braiding my own hair or helping my friends out. As a missionary’s child in Nigeria, I was still expressive when it came to who I am. I had a nose ring and I pierced my ears two or three different places and I didn’t do the school hairstyle thing. I don’t think wearing a wig or different hairstyle means I am a sex symbol. I think that when people are so used to a uniform or a specific way of living, they are quick to judge. I wasn’t trying to be sexy; I just didn’t like how I looked with braids or short cut. My parents always knew that this is a very eccentric child and they just have to deal with it.
So, they didn’t have issues with those independent choices you made?
I think they liked it because I was expressing myself through the arts. I was also into painting and I liked to sing around the house. My father was a musician before he became a pastor. He used to sing in the bars and he was a hotshot in the ‘70s. So, they knew they gave birth to an attitude person and I don’t remember my lifestyle being an issue in the family. At a point when I wanted to pierce my nose, I did it myself. I was too young and in America at a time you have to be 18-year-old to do certain things or you would need to go with your parents. It was ridiculous and probably the stupidest thing I have ever done. I showed my dad and he liked it, though I expected him to beat me real good. When that happened I imagined how much I could get away with things. Even when I pierced my tongue he didn’t really say anything, but I tried to hide that away from them at home. I don’t think that bothers him much like when I do something bad or have a bad performance in school. My parents understand the difference between a good kid who is a little bit weird and one who is all over the place doing crazy things.
How did your parents feel when they saw your musical videos, especially Show?
I don’t think they’ve seen Show.When my father saw the first video I did, the first thing he talked about was the nice quality. There was a part where he could see a little bit of bombom, but I stopped the video before it got to that point. So, I don’t think he has seen anything bad. My father is cool and he is a funny man even as a pastor. Most times when he is preaching he makes people laugh.
Why didn’t you go into gospel music?
My mother always asked me: “Vicky I know you are good with your music, but it would be better if you do gospel.” When I started writing poetry, it was about how I felt then. I felt lonely and scared. I love worship music and l listen to it when I’m sleeping because I like to awake up with a positive vibe. I just never saw myself as a gospel artiste.
Do you intend to do Kenyan music?
I cannot call it Kenyan music because it doesn’t necessarily have a sound like Nigerian music. The music has always been very diverse because we have different kind of artistes. Though it doesn’t have a sound, there is a language that differentiates it from other countries. You should expect me to release a completely Swahili sound, but I am afraid because I don’t know if it would be accepted in Nigeria. I have some records at the moment that have Swahili sound; I don’t know if I could really call them Kenyan sounds.
Are you in a relationship?
I won’t answer that because I feel it would be the headline of this interview by the time it comes out. But I am single.
How do you view fashion?
I work with different stylists, but sometimes I style myself. If somebody brings me what I don’t feel matches my body or looks good on me, I won’t wear it because it is not like I must wear it. I like to try different things even if it doesn’t work sometimes. My fashion could be eccentric, but my lifestyle is extremely boring. I may look wild and crazy to people, but that is not my lifestyle. I think I am a very disciplined and focused person. I wake up in the morning, I work out, I cook my own food, I go to the studio, I go for interviews, I go for rehearsals and I go home to sleep. I don’t really like partying, though people won’t believe that.