Sheila Munyiva made world headlines after her role as Ziki in the very first Kenyan feature film to be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival: Rafiki by Wanuti Kahiu . Starring together with Samantha Mugatsiashe , they received standing ovations and well deserved international recognition..
The crux of the film challenges societal convention,tackling taboo subjects.Rafiki was applauded internationally but banned locally in Kenya's web of colonial-era law structures in a paradigm of homophobia that condemned the film for promoting lesbianism.
Tell us what drives you? What is your true passion in life?
I am driven by making a difference. Growing up, I would look around and see so many things that I thought were unfair and that if done in a different way, things would be better.
As a child, there’s not much that I could have done but now as a young black woman, all the power rests in my hands and I can make a difference.
My true passion in life is acting, activism and filmmaking. These three to me are very closely related and are mediums that allow you to truly make a difference.
How did you find your passion and how old were you?
I found my passion for activism when I was really young. I was the girl who spoke up every time I saw an injustice happen and I was the girl who encouraged others to speak up and allow no one to put them down. My passion for acting and filmmaking came about when I was 18 years old.
A friend of mine invited me to go on set as an extra for a TV series and when I walked on set, I was in awe. At that moment, a switch turned in my brain and I realized this was what I needed to do. I went back to college the next day and changed my course from Mass Communication (at the time, I was studying to be a news anchor) to TV and Video Production.
The fact that I closely get to work with people. I love to study people to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy and how I can help.
What drove you to make money from your passions?
I realized that I could make money from the industry and that I could support myself and my grandmother. Being an orphan in Kenya is not easy so when I realized I was able to make ends meets from my passions, I was driven to do more.
When was the first time you were paid for your passion?
The first time I got paid for my passion was the first time I went on the set that changed the course of my career. I remember I was given fare money and a packet of chips and that to me was everything.
What kept you going when you thought about giving up?
I kept going because I realized how far I had come. My life has been full of ups and downs and every time I thought about giving up, I saw the little me and how far she had come and I knew I couldn’t let her down.
What motivates you every day to be even more successful?
I am motivated by my progress and growth, I am motivated by incredible women like my mother and grandmother, Sir Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was one the president of Libya, Nomzamo Mbatha a great woman, actor and speaker and my friend Moana Luu who is the head of Essence magazine.
What do you have to say to all of the people who doubted you?
Looking back, I realize it might have appeared that the odds were indeed against me, but that was no reason to talk down and discourage me. What if you dimmed my light? There would be no Sheila Munyiva.
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