When we first featured Pierra Makena in 2016 in the Young Achievers column, she was reveling in the joys of youth. She was young, successful and happy-go-lucky. Nothing seemed to faze her. Her career was on a meteoric rise and the paparazzi followed every move she made.
She loved the attention then as it came with perks including marketing for her brand. But it also came with a downside such as lack of privacy. And that is how the whole of Kenya came to learn of her pregnancy and subsequent birth of her baby, Ricca Pokot. Then came the revelation that Pierra was raising her baby alone and bloggers had a field day.
“I never thought I had it in me to raise Ricca by myself, especially after all that I had been through – rejection, heartbreak and constant scrutiny by the media. I thought I would crumble and fall but I am really proud of where we are. I remember asking God to be the father of my child and so far He has done a good job,” she says with a smile.
The 37-year-old reveals how motherhood initially came with its own set of limitations. Being a risk taker and go-getter, she had to tone down and take a breather on her acting career and newly founded advertising and research company, C3, so as to focus on raising her daughter.
“Being a mother is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me but I wish someone had told me about how tough motherhood really is,” she chuckles and adds, “After Ricca was born, deejaying worked perfectly because I would perform at night when she was asleep and get back home early before she woke up.”
Her face glows when she talks about Ricca. She reveals they are inseparable and she has purposed to teach Ricca to be confident and respectful, traits that were evident during the cover shoot. When they are not busy swimming together, they are either binge watching cartoons, grabbing some lunch or just taking brisk walks to unwind.
“My daughter started swimming when she was six months old. She loves to sing and I have a strong feeling she will take after me. She also loves playing the piano. I love playing with her and we have our own special games which we both enjoy,” reveals Pierra.
Pierra clearly understands that being in the limelight has a direct impact on her daughter, especially in these days of Internet trolls and social media. It is interesting to learn that the two-and-a-half-year-old already knows one or two things about social media. Pierra understands that she will have to shield her baby from any negative posts and is taking a more proactive measure to ensure this. To this end, she has made it her priority to teach Ricca on who controversial bloggers and haters are so that she knows the truth from the onset.
“When she is old enough to understand these things, I will be the first one to tell her of any rumours even before it reaches her so that we can have a laugh about it together. I will teach her how to respond to news when she is young so that she doesn’t get shocked when she sees or hears anything negative,” she says with fixity of purpose.
Love, life and career…
While we were still talking matters family, we jump in on the opportunity to ask her about Ricca’s father. She is taken aback by our boldness and winces slightly. We can see that we have touched a raw nerve but we just had to ask.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about that for now. He remains Ricca’s father and an important part of her life. People close to me know her father and if you look at Ricca closely enough, you might just get a hint. But for now, please let’s leave it at that,” she says, shrugging her shoulders.
We let her be and continue on a similar line of thought and annoyingly probe on her love life. She is a little dicey on whether she is seeing anyone at the moment but hesitantly engages us.
“Well… I am going out on dates. I am not in any serious relationship. I am not there yet but that doesn’t mean that I will not settle in future. When the right person comes I am sure I will settle,” she grins. She adds that she is currently working on her career and businesses.
In as much as her deejay career is what many identify her with and is probably what kept her afloat during the birth of her baby, she blatantly reveals that she does it out of pure passion and as a side hustle. She is a staunch believer in education and multitasking as opposed to fully depending on deejaying.
“I have always been on fulltime employment and currently working at my own company which is my bread and butter. I am at a place where I choose where to perform because I have more control of my career. This creates demand and boosts my bargaining power as I am not desperate for gigs,” she winks.
With close to nine years and counting still in the industry, she must be doing something right. She advises upcoming female deejays to work on their brands first so as to remain relevant in the fast changing industry.
“Brands talk. It’s just not about the skill. Anybody can deejay. I usually tell female deejays to ask themselves why they are relevant and stop being dependent on deejaying as a career. You will end up compromising yourself such as taking up shady gigs because you are desperate. But the moment you have something else you are doing, people will need you and not the other way round, which is what you really want,” she advises.
Speaking of brands, Pierra is keen on rebranding this year. She is famously known for her signature afro look and insane mixing skills but she wants more. She wants to have a stronger identity.
“Deejays have become quite similar but I am trying to be different. I am looking for a witty signature look. Although I will not reveal the details now, I want it to be a surprise to my fans. But I guarantee them it will be epic,” she smiles as she leaves our ears tingling with curiosity.
Pierra reveals that working in a male-dominated industry morphed her into the tough woman she is today. Don’t be fooled by her beautiful frame, she is no walkover – she has learnt to stand up for herself and always ensure tight security especially when performing in new terrains.
“I always have to have two security guys in every gig I go to, whether provided by the club or myself. My small brother and personal assistant are always in every show to ensure I am safe,” she advises.
Is there a reason as to why she takes these extra security measures? As a female deejay, the industry is rife with instances of harassment and security breaches and she advises fellow deejays to always be on high alert. She recounts a chilling experience she had back in her younger days.
She had just finished an electrifying performance and was busy taking selfies and mingling with fans. That is when she noticed a man wearing a heavy jacket fast approaching her. Her instincts immediately screamed that something was wrong but she brushed them off. When the man got close to her, he opened his coat revealing a gun and signaled her to follow him outside.
“I pretended that I had not understood him and looked away. I knew that if I acknowledged him or tried to decode his signal, he would do something dangerous. I quickly made my way to the club bouncer who was nearest to me and stuck by him until I was safe. That is the day I learnt the importance of having tight security,” she says.
It is quite paradoxical that the turntable maestro, who sets clubs on fire with her out-of-this-world mixing skills, is not a fan of the club scene or the bottle either.
“I never go to clubs on my own. Unless I am going for work purposes or hanging out with my girls, I avoid them. Besides I do not drink,” she reveals.
In what seems like a split second, she momentarily gets lost in time. She nostalgically goes down memory lane and replays her most memorable event in her deejay career.
“The Nyama festival in Tanzania was epic,” she reveals, her eyes glowing with excitement. “When I was called, I didn’t even think it was a big deal. I was shocked to reach the venue to find over 25,000 revelers. I was the only female deejay but I killed the party. I had to deliver.”
Pierra is not about to hang her deejay gloves anytime soon. She still sees herself performing at big events like the Safaricom Jazz festival and her biggest dream of performing at Tomorrowland is still valid. The sassy mother is also making a comeback in the acting scene with two films which will air later on in the year.
“I have signed some few contracts for an upcoming drama series. One of them is Kenyan and the other is Ghanaian. The Kenyan series has a rich storyline which I absolutely love,” she says ecstatically.
No superwoman after all…
From the foregoing, it is easy to assume that Pierra has everything going for her. But as we came to learn, she is human after all.
“I got depressed after giving birth to Ricca. My current bank account was at zero. My company was young and wasn’t bringing in any money. I couldn’t deejay as much plus I had resigned from a well-paying job. I started surviving on my savings. I also didn’t want to call the baby daddy for support. I lost friends but I thank God for my family who supported me,” she recalls.
Making pivotal lifestyle adjustments is not always easy especially if, like Pierra, you have been on the limelight since teenagehood. One day she woke up and called a serious meeting with herself. She was done pity partying and wanted change. She threw all care to the wind; shook off what society would think about her and most importantly her own high expectations on herself and moved in with her sister. She could no longer afford living in her expensive apartment. Deep in her mind, she made it clear that, like a phoenix, she would rise again.
“Even when I hit rock bottom and during depressive episodes, I kept telling myself that I would rise again. I thank God for my family and a few friends who stuck with me during that period. If there was anything I learnt when things were not going straight in my life, is that I had to learn to rely on myself. I slowly learnt to be self-reliant which is a value that still keeps me going until now. When my baby was young and I couldn’t find someone to look after her, I carried her to work with me,” she says.
With her newfound sense of independence, the feisty actress divulges that her interest in helping people suffering from depression was sparked. She takes note on the role that social media plays in the increasing depression cases and urges people to be content with what they have. Together with her team, she has launched a campaign dubbed ‘Be You’ which aims at helping people, especially the youth, be their true authentic selves. The activations of the campaign will start in high schools and will also involve different celebrities to talk to the youth and share with them their real life experiences.
“I have learnt in life that apart from the eternal life that we have been promised, nothing lasts forever. Most of the posts on social media are frozen moments. It is sad that people believe such picture perfect moments and end up getting depressed or worse still, committing suicide when they do not live that life,” she laments.
Speaking of social media, Pierra has had her fair share of Internet trolls, which to her has had a counteractive impact. She reveals that she does not give them much thought. She is, however, open to positive criticism and especially from family, close friends, fans and mentors. She is always ready to take in their rebuke but never from random Internet strangers.
“To me it’s never a big deal. I actually have a laugh whenever I am trolled. I have come to realise that successful people never trash talk others but someone who does not value themselves will take up any opportunity to bring another down,” she beams.
The Pierra brand is a strong one and she quickly dispels misconceptions and rumors about depending on others or using her body to succeed in her career.
“It is sad that people do not believe that a woman can make it on her own. Nobody can claim my success and fame apart from God. I put in the work and He has been gracious enough to bless the works of my hands. For me, anything that compromises my dignity is a big no. As a woman, when you refuse to compromise, the same people asking you to lower your standard will always go behind your back and try to tarnish your name. They will, however, not mention how they tried to hit on you and you refused their advances,” she discloses with a sigh.
As she looks to the remaining months of 2019, she is hopeful that it will be a great year and looks forward to achieving her goals, rebranding herself and most importantly, being the best mother to her daughter.