When Faith Muturi stepped down as host of award-winning gospel TV show Crossover 101 in July 2016, many people dismissed it as a need to nurture her young family. However, that is not the full story. As the multilayered personality explains, time was simply nigh to move on. The seasoned corporate training consultant and life skills trainer and mentor who is also passionate about changing corporate and society’s culture opened up to ESTHER AKELLO on her exit from the stage, marriage and prospects of parenthood.
Faith Muturi’s charisma is more than skin deep. With her wide, disarming smile and receptive personality, it seems everywhere she goes she illuminates and life returns the favour. Faith’s claim to fame is when she landed a job as co-host of the hit gospel music show, Crossover 101, alongside DJ Mo on NTV Kenya, catapulting her to instant, unprecedented fame.
“I needed a job to supplement my tuition fees as a management and psychology student at the United States International University (USIU) so I took to auditioning for TV casting calls. Many never turned out well and I was about to give up when a friend told me of yet another show, Crossover 101. She even went ahead and secured an appointment for me when I was too disinterested to bother. When I did finally go, turns out the auditions were over and a couple of candidates had already been shortlisted. But just for the heck of it, the casting team asked me to do a screen test. Immediately I was done, they asked me to report to the studio the very next day because I was going on air and not only that, I would battle it out for the viewers’ favourite choice with the other shortlisted candidates!” narrates the 32-year-old.
For someone who had never even watched Crossover 101, Faith had to work fast and smart. She confesses to calling friends in the middle of the night in an attempt to research about the show. In need of a catchy topic, she quickly spinned her presentation around the theme of forgiveness. Her quick thinking did not come up short; after a month-long wait, she was announced as the winner and the rest as they say, is history.
The curtain closes…
In retrospect, Faith says her journey into the limelight four years ago had been several years in preparation. Having come straight from high school in 2003, she became a volunteer with a youth oriented organisation – Youth for Christ.
“I was a full time volunteer and sun-up to sundown, Monday to Monday, we were in various schools around the country facilitating behavioural change programmes. We developed an 11-week life skills programme for teenagers, which I facilitated for four straight years,” says the Masters in organisational training holder.
So intense was the training that with time, Faith even learnt how to make student lesson plans. It is this ability to mingle and fully immerse herself into young people’s lives that she believes gave her an upper hand over her competitors, endearing her to her many fans and even leading to the show’s award-winning streak at the prestigious annual Groove Awards.
However, in July 2016, after four successful years, Faith announced she was leaving the show. This left many fans disappointed leading to speculation that her pregnancy was the cause. Other quarters were not so courteous and reported that she had been given the boot by her employer. She, however, asserts that her exit was based on a reason many people may not be willing to hear: it was simply time to leave.
“People have a need to justify every action and yet sometimes all there is to go with is one’s gut feeling. I simply realised it was time to leave. I was not joining another media house nor was I at loggerheads with my employer, or even thinking of running my own company. When you do not transition at the appointed time, then natural causes including getting fired, will force you to exit,” she offers.
So does that mean she does not miss the lights, cameras and actions?
“Leaving was both an easy and difficult decision. It’s easy to get accustomed to the limelight. I still get shocked sometimes when people recognise me, and I’ve taken to sending my husband shopping by himself just so things get done quickly or move along fast with minimal drama. While I will certainly miss some aspects of it, I was careful not to let it get into my head as it is fleeting,” she says.
Back to basics…
Exiting the stage however should not be mistaken with Faith resting on her laurels. Her reputation as a transformational organisation trainer, a feat she terms as her passion and first love, has grown exponentially.
To date, she has trained teams from the government sector including the Central Bank to multinational companies such as Coca Cola, the World Bank and the UN. She has also trained organisations in Europe. Key to transformational change, as she says, is an organisation’s culture.
“Every organisation, school, department and home has a culture and a way they run things. As a trainer, I examine what makes a company a brand, its evolution and how its culture influences its operations and more so the interdepartmental relationships. You can develop your brand and team all you want but with the wrong culture, you won’t get far. You have to start from the basics if you are to build a strong foundation and that boils down to what you value most as an organisation,” she articulates.
As Faith explains, while a corporate company’s culture may be motivated by profits leveraged on excellent customer service, to quantify success in life is simply not a numbers game but more about how people treat each other.
“The problems facing Kenyans to a large extent cannot be summed up as financial, educational or even infrastructural. It boils down to our culture. You can have a superhighway but how are people driving on that highway? Why have our children taken to burning schools as a means of getting their issues addressed? It boils down to how our system works and on what and where we place our values,” she explains.
It is from this background that she partnered with a friend with a view to start her own company following more than a decade of working as a freelance consultant with other training companies.
“The beauty with partnering with other organisations is that I was always free to concentrate on training fully as opposed to dealing with budgets and logistics. However, there comes a time when one has to grow and I am looking forward to this new space I am entering into,” she says.
Her passion to influence culture is not limited to corporate brands. In 2006, Faith started Simama Trust, a mentorship organisation geared towards reaching out to young people especially those in marginalised areas such as informal settlements. However, it is not restricted to just such areas, as the organisation has conducted life-skills training in schools, community social halls and churches. As part of Simama Trust’s programme, Faith’s venture into any school is more than a simple do’s and don’ts manual; instead, it’s a full immersion into the culture of that school.
“We never go to a school for less than 11 weeks because I believe in mentorship and that means you have to walk the journey with someone to really understand their issues. As part of our programme, we enjoin the alumni of the institutions as part of our sustainability model. This is because from our observation, chances are the issues facing a particular school are rarely new. Often times, a school that was having drug problems 10 years ago, will probably still be facing the same problem today, the only difference is that there are new players in the game. However, when the students see someone who can relate to their challenges and has overcome them, they are able to side-step the pitfalls,”
she expounds on how the trust works adding, “We also advocate for old students to be incorporated in the school boards. Often times the board members are outsiders. An insider has a stake in the school and because they have a level of experience, can contribute towards uplifting the school.”
In 2015 alone, the trust was able to mentor close to 3,000 students. Simama Trust is purely voluntary based and while Faith says that funding is welcome, it is not a metric that she considers to be a hindrance to impact. “I get concerned with funding in projects because with many organisations, when there’s money, a project runs but when there’s no money, it halts. For me, that’s a wrong model. Many issues facing Kenya cannot simply be bought out by money but by inculcating a right attitude and again that boils down to values,” she says.
Marriage and parenthood…
In December 2015, Faith said ‘I do’ to her fiance, architect George Ngugi who she refers to as her pillar and her sounding board. The couple met at their church – Mavuno Downtown – in 2013 and tied the knot in a colourful wedding after three proposals in three different locations including Nairobi, Limuru and the Rift Valley.
“I am really enjoying being a wife. It’s been an amazing nine months. I knew marriage is a beautiful thing but I had my fears; some personal and some based on what people say such as ‘wait until you hit six months or until you get pregnant’ and see how things change. But I have stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are taking it one day at a time with God’s grace,” she says.
Speaking of taking it one day at a time, Faith proved that she puts her money where her mouth is when she revealed in an interview with a local daily that she and George took the decision to abstain from sex while dating, sparking a lot of buzz on social media. In line with her staunch Christian beliefs, the preachers’ daughter (both her parents are pastors), says that the stereotype that ‘cars need to be test-driven to check on their performance before they are bought’, referencing one of the common phrases people use to justify pre-marital sex, as rather unnecessary.
“Of course, different people will do things differently but for us waiting meant we had to find other ways to express our emotions and investment in our relationship. We also developed a vibrant dating culture because being together alone was a no-no. In retrospect, we developed rituals that we have carried into our marriage. We used to go for plays, walks and worked out together and we still do that. We are big on lifelong learning because if people pile degrees to increase their opportunities at success, how much more do we need to study on marriage, finances and parenting?”
She poses while rubbing her five-months-old baby bump before adding, “And in case anyone is wondering, our compatibility was not affected by the fact we abstained.” Expectant with their first child, parenthood is something the couple is looking forward to as Faith reveals, “I used to think women who incessantly talk about their children were exaggerating but now I know better. Aside from the usual hang-ups of pregnancy, becoming a parent is the best feeling ever. It’s so inspiring and motivates you to do anything for your child!” George chimes in saying, “We are looking forward to raising our family and have chosen to work around each other. For instance, we have one car and we pick and drop each other which means we have to align our schedules.
So each day we are in each other’s business, finding out what the other person is doing and that has also helped us to stay connected.” Of course, value-based parenting is at the top of the couple’s priority. “Values are a big deal to us because life happens. You can plan all you want and have all the hedge funds in the world but disasters still happen. What if the economy tanks and you lose all your investments?
There’s only so much you can give a child and only so far you can take them. Values will always override trends and education levels. Values are a constant, reliable compass that will always point your child in the right direction regardless of the circumstances they are facing,” the couple concludes.
Published in September 2016
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