Stunning GRACE MSALAME On motherhood, blended families, quiting media job and her new venture

If ever there was a media personality who has evolved in front of the very eyes of Kenyans, it is the stunning Grace Msalame. From a teenage talk show host to an award winning media manager and brand ambassador, Grace has proven her run in the industry is no fluke. The shy and soft-spoken beauty says motherhood remains her greatest role yet. In this Mother’s Day edition of Parents, Grace gets up close and candid with ESTHER AKELLO on motherhood, relationships, blended families and her call to ministry.

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When former TV presenter and Radio Africa’s Bamba TV’s contents and acquisition manager, Grace Msalame, took to social media on April 1 to congratulate the father of her children, Paul Ndichu, on his nuptials (yes to another woman), the Kenyan cyber sphere went into a tailspin of sorts. To some, it sounded like an April fool’s day prank. Grace affirms it was not.

“My children’s father and I have been co-parenting since their birth. The dynamics of co-parenting when you are both single are straightforward. But this changes when a spouse comes into play. Having a significant other means interactions with our children now comes in threes. Seeing him happy makes me happy and vise versa because we mutually wish that for each other, so we look at it as a blessing,” says Grace.

Making it work…
At a time when women are still perceived and declared as their own worst enemies, Grace’s move to make peace and even invite a new mother into her daughters’ lives is nothing short of…well graceful. Many applauded the 30-year-old’s action as mature. Some die-hard critics however were not convinced, predicting it was likely to back fire. Always the optimist, Grace is a big believer in making things work especially where her six-year-old twin daughters, Zawadi and Raha Mwaura, are concerned.

“Our kind of parenting is fairly new and we are learning as we go along. Evaline, my children’s father’s wife is a lovely woman. It’s taken the grace of God and strength to reach this point. We talk quite a bit and are working on a friendship. She is a good person at heart, which I see through how well she treats and copes with my girls. They like her a lot. One day when I’m ready – whenever that will be – I will be in hers and Paul’s shoes. When the time comes, I will introduce another person into the mix, who, most probably, will come with kids. With that reality in mind, we need to be accepting and open with each other,” explains Grace, who encourages parents to put their children’s needs first.

“Being a parent is about sacrifice. My children only know one man – their father and love him deeply just as he loves them. All parties involved focus on edifying that relationship. At the end of the day it’s worth remembering you will be in each other’s lives forever. So you would rather be friends, or at the least have coping mechanisms to enable you have a peaceful life. Always keep your end of the bargain, whether separated, divorced or a single mum. If your children’s father wants to be actively involved in their lives, you have an obligation to facilitate it. If you agree to pick the kids at a certain time, stick to it. It is those “little” details that can affect the children negatively or positively. You need to create a system that works and ensure to maintain healthy boundaries,” says Grace.

Grace confirms making the public declaration to embrace her blended family situation was organic. “After meeting with Evaline, I started warming up to the idea. However, the tabloids had run away with the story, thriving on speculation and conjecture so I decided that for a change, if people were going to talk about my life, then the narrative would be under my own terms,” she says.

Looking back at her life, Grace says conceiving her children, Zawadi (Swahili for gift) and Raha (Swahili for joy), whom she fondly refers to as ‘my gift and my joy’ gave her a lifeline.

“My gift and my joy came at a dark time in my life. My dad had just passed on and then I discovered I was pregnant. At first I was scared but when I saw the scan that confirmed I was carrying twins, a wave of peace washed over me. To receive such a blessing and in a double portion seemed like a sure sign that God had a plan for me and that he was holding us with a firm grip! I think my kids saved me,” Grace explains adding that, her inspiration was from the book of Psalms 127:3 which say children are a gift from God and a reward.

She picked Zawadi and Raha’s names eight months into her pregnancy and settled on Swahili names to give them a sense of heritage. They do however have other names, Zawadi’s being Toni, named after Grace’s late dad Tony Msalame, while Raha’s is Jasmine, after Grace’s favourite flower.

The twins are like night and day when it comes to their personalities and preferences, “Zawadi is the first born by a minute and more daring when it comes to trying out new things. She’s also perceptive and incredibly intelligent both intellectually and emotionally. Raha is warm and the life of the party. She tends to be less daring but follows her sister’s lead. She also never forgets anything and is very particular,” Grace says of her girls.

Understanding and accepting that the girls have their differences just as much as similarities and supporting their individual strengths is key. She has learnt to navigate these distinctions and cheekily says the girls keep her on her toes. She can never get away with hugging one, one minute longer than the other and competition between them can sometimes get very fierce.

Finding a balance between playing the ‘good’ cop and ‘bad’ cop as a single mum can be challenging, “God is faithful and he gets me through those overwhelming moments. The reality is half the time you are pulling at your hairs wondering what to do. It does, in fact, take a village, as they say, to raise children and my support system is everything. From their nanny to my mother and sister who have walked the journey with me since my pregnancy,” says Grace.

She urges mothers to ask for help when they need it and to be more loving and open towards their nannies especially if they get along with their little ones.

When it comes to parenting Grace is the quintessential mother bear. Vey protective. “I’m the type of mum that hoards. I’m with my children all the time. I drop them to school and then I’m back home a maximum three hours after they are home from school. We do homework, bond, read bedtime stories, pray, then sleep,” she says.

While she is the first to admit that she loves to dote on her girls, she says her primary role is to be a good parent. Grace says she hopes to raise God-fearing women, who always know and believe that they are enough and capable of accomplishing whatever they set their mind towards.

“I pray for them to be achievers but I pray even more for them to always remember that love is the answer. To show kindness to all and no matter what anyone does to them, to respond with the love of Christ,” she expounds.

That is not to say she has everything figured out. Grace is aware life is full of pitfalls and like every mother worries that she might drop the ball at some point. “You never want to see your children suffering when, maybe, you could have done something to prevent it but missed it. That scares me. However, I’m keen on teaching them that life will give you detours but wallowing in misery and self-pity will not help. Sow seeds that will reap that that which you want – and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over,” she emphasises.

Bold new beginnings…
If you thought her mama bear personality is reserved just for her family, then you’re wrong. Grace is also very fiercely guarded about the goings-on in her love life. She shyly confirms that she is in fact in a relationship and has been for a while. While (understandably) she’s not willing to go deep into the details, she says she is in a happy place, unlike what popular belief espouses, that if it doesn’t hurt, then it isn’t love.

“I’ve been in a committed relationship for years now with a man who has been very patient with me. Maybe someday we’ll take the leap but for now, my focus is on the kids who are already in another transition,” says Grace, adding it’s cliché and rather unfortunate that todate, a woman cannot simply be seen to be successful on her own terms and through sheer hard work. A trait she says she owes her late father who taught her the value of hard work.

Having hit the airwaves at the age of 19, Grace knows only too well the power of putting in the time and effort. She has not only hosted several shows but has directed, produced and conceptualised shows for various media houses she has worked for. If that isn’t proof enough, then her Top 40 under 40 award in 2016 under the media category was validation that she has the grit it takes to fly in an industry that can sometimes be harsh on its female drivers.

She has also collaborated with local and international brands and NGO’s to raise their profiles and issue awareness. They include, Mac through Nkemi Consulting, Adara Cosmetics, Luminarc, Pepsodent, PG Always, PG Fabrics, AmaDiva Hair, Beauty Palour and Smile Train – an NGO assisting children with cleft lip palates.

Perhaps her biggest and most popular brand awareness gig and which most of her fans identify her with, is her clothing line collaboration with fashion house Vivo Activewear. However early in 2016, Grace took a break from the role.

“My partnership with Vivo Activewear took off very organically. I’ll forever be grateful to Wandia Gichuru for taking a chance on me to market her brand and making clothes for women like me. Even though at the moment our engagement is on break, I will always wear Vivo,” she says.

Putting Vivo Activewear on break wasn’t Grace’s only big career move. In April 2017, after an almost seven-year stint with Radio Africa, as a presenter, host, producer, director and finally Bamba TV’s contents and acquisitions manager, Grace handed in her resignation letter.

“I have always been keen on living my 30’s intentionally. I’m in a season where I can’t quiet the nudge to do more, be more, and give more. Even though my journey with Radio Africa has ended, for now at least, I must thank them for the many opportunities of growth, their unwavering support and most of all, I’m forever grateful for the many times they pushed me to reach for more. In so many ways they have prepared me for the path ahead,” Grace says.

To those who’ve been following Grace’s journey keenly, the answer has always been within her blog. Grace’s new mantle is in ministry: a journey that she articulates has been a long time coming.

Having gotten saved at the age of seven, Grace is the first to admit that her journey with God has not been without its fair measure of falters. However, in 2015, the ground shifted.

“In December 2015, I got the nudge to get my walk right and I just felt the need to do more. Over time, it became clear to me it’s time I allowed my work to become my ministry. Initially, I wasn’t sure what that meant or looked like exactly, but when I started blogging, it was clear from the word go, that space was for God’s glory,” says Grace, adding that her writing is not limited to her blog.

She hopes to write several books in the future although currently, her primary focus is on her ‘My Story’ series, highlighting the stories of success and failures of inspirational people, locally and internationally and how they can steer one into their purpose.
That is not to mean that Grace will not continue with her partnerships. Infact she is looking forward to enhancing them with the hope that they will have even bigger positive social impact in communities saying,“ I’m learning to ask myself the all-important question – where am I the answer?”

To flag off her new journey beginning this month, Grace has partnered with NGO, Practical Action, which provides energy-related solutions within communities and especially women.

“I’m partnering with Practical Action to create awareness about briquettes, a cheaper and safer substitute to charcoal. The briquettes are made by women so they are not only a safe option, but offer women with little otherwise, a chance to sustain their families,” she expounds, saying she hopes many households will get to experience the benefits of alternative energy.

Stepping into ministry has not been an easy decision as Grace confesses. As
an introvert who is guarded when it comes to her personal space, Grace admits she let many an opportunity pass her by.

“I’ve finally, allowed myself to take more speaking engagements,” she says, adding that her first ministry related event was in February 2017, where she sat in a panel alongside popular US Christian pastoral couple and purity advocates, Heather and Cornelius Lindsey, during their maiden visit to the country.

“We run away from being bold for fear of judgment, or vulnerability, so we don’t dare greatly. I’m learning that just showing up is infact what living is all about. I didn’t realise how instrumental my journey was to some people until when at some point was being fielded more questions than the international guests. I even felt embarrassed,” she says.

So will Grace come back to the mainstream airwaves? She hasn’t entirely dismissed the idea.

“I want to try new things, challenge myself and most of all operate from my optimum which can only happen if I’m living in my purpose. I’m also realising how powerful the digital space is so I want to focus more on that and create content for clients and interested followers. I may make a return to the screens at some point but the jury is still out on that for now,” she concludes.

More about Grace…
She’s an avid reader, currently reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and Brave New Woman by Pam Farrel.
She loves music. Her go-to artistes are Tasha Cobbs, Casey Joy and even Drake and WizzKid.
Her favourite food is prawns although she has a weakness for roasted maize.
She counts Sarah Jakes, daughter to renowned pastor T.D Jakes, as an inspiration.

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