Seeing her on the screen, one cannot tell the drama that has played out in Betty’s personal life. She is ever smiling, her poise, eloquence and positive energy outweighing the spectacle from past relationships gone awry. Not because she is hiding it or faking it, no. Anyone with an Internet connection can dig up that bit of her life. However, she has chosen to let the past be just that. She is now focussed on her new show, her business and being a great mother to her daughter.
After a successful eight-year stint at one of Kenya’s major media houses and an upward career trajectory, one would wonder why she jumped ship to another station, or as she referred to it on the last day on air at KTN, ‘uncharted waters.’
“I felt that I had accomplished what I was meant to at KTN. I had built a career and a name for myself. I had started a show format that was new in the Kenyan media scene when I ventured into the world of interactive news but after four-and-a-half years of Friday Briefing, I needed something different and more challenging,” she explains.
Her decision to leave KTN took many by surprise. She made the announcement on air on August 3, 2018, leaving room for speculations on where she was headed. Even more surprising to most people was when she revealed that she would be joining the K24 news team.
“It was a tough transition because I had not known any home apart from KTN, having grown from an intern to running my own show, but I also felt that I had been doing the same thing for so long,” she reveals.
Having amassed fans on social media, as well as a number of naysayers, her decision was the talk of town with some netizens opining that her move would hurt the brand she had built over the years or the following she had created for Friday Briefing. They also did not shy away from making it known to her.
“I had my own fears as well. I wondered whether I was making the right decision. Everyone around me questioned the move but I had really thought about what different thing I would bring to K24 and how much of a challenge it would be. I loved every aspect of it,” she says of her new show The Weekend With Betty at MediaMax-owned K24.
That, however, does not mean that it was all smooth sailing. She admits that she was apprehensive about joining a new team, which she reveals was part of the reason for the teary goodbye during her last Friday Briefing at KICC.
“I also had jitters saying goodbye to a team I had worked with for ages; the same way a bride would feel about leaving the home she’s known for so many years. KTN was my family. And anyway, goodbyes are never easy,” she says wistfully.
It’s been several weeks since the debut of her new show and Betty has no regrets. “It has honestly been fantastic! When I got there, I thought ‘my goodness, why was I even crying? Look at all these wonderful people that I’m meeting!’ It was amazing,” she enthuses, adding, “Everyone at K24 was so hands on deck to make sure the show was a success, which I truly appreciated.”
With her fears assuaged, she is focussed on enjoying this chapter of her life, especially with regards to her new show, which she co-produces. Having made Friday Briefing into what it was, she stays motivated by the challenge to create something new that will keep people glued to their TV screens.
She admits that although her show is yet to enjoy the following that she had on her previous show, she is appreciating the considerable success thus far. This, she says, is as a result of the brand she had created.
“I was lucky that Betty Kyallo had become a brand of its own and one which I truly believe in. KTN was a stepping-stone for me but I managed to make more out of it. I realised that if I didn’t believe in myself, no one would,” says the sassy anchor who is an alumni of Daystar University.
It is this brand, she says, that has helped her with the new direction she has decided to take with regards to both her professional and personal life. Being aggressive and passionate in her pursuits and living life unapologetically and authentically, as she says, is what espouses ‘Brand BK.’
“I believe if you work hard and really believe in yourself, it will work out; and that’s what my brand is about, among many other things. It’s also dope and super fun,” she says chuckling.
Betty the astute businesswoman…
Aside from her on-screen job, Betty runs her business, Flair By Betty – a high-end beauty parlour. Its inception in early 2018 was marred with controversy due to her exit from another beauty parlour that had been a partnership between her and her then best friend, and her decision to establish her own.
“Starting out on my own was not easy. The previous business was a partnership where things did not work out, just like anything in life. I realised that the best thing to do then was to pick myself up as fast as possible and move,” she says, adding, “I needed to do it as fast as possible because most of the time we get stuck in sadness, in bad relationships and in the hangovers after bad relationships. I did not want that. Fine, it is okay to take time to heal but the faster you put yourself back together, the better.”
This thought drove her to start looking for locations and capital for her new venture. “I am not afraid of saying that I got asset financing from a local institution but I also used a good chunk of my savings to start the business. It was a big risk, because part of those savings were meant for my daughter, but it was definitely worth it,” she says.
She credits her mother for giving her the push to set up the business, especially in the location that it is based now, the FCB Mihrab, which has been termed an ‘architectural marvel.’
“I honestly did not think I could afford it but my mother really urged me to just go in and confidently ask about the cost of having my business there. If it were out of reach, at least I had tried. Whenever I passed by the building while it was still under construction, I often wondered about the people who would set up their business there. I would then get filled with admiration and respect for them. Little did I know that one hiccup along the way would land me there,” she says incredulously.
She was also not prepared for the work that setting up her salon business would entail, especially as concerns construction work. She, however, says she picked up on a few lessons that if she were to do it again, it would be much easier.
In April 2018, Flair by Betty opened its doors to the public and to her the journey has been amazing. “We have seen so much growth and I am very appreciative of my team for their commitment and expertise because that’s what has made us grow,” she shares.
Family, friends, boyfriends…and trolls
Even with the conviction that she needed to pick up the pieces and move on, which she has, the fact that she had been in partnership with her best friend, whom she is no longer on good terms with, was still a heavy blow.
“Breaking up with a best friend, who is like your sister, is not easy. It’s unfortunate that it happened but that’s how life is; nothing is set in stone. It was so heartbreaking to the point that I have very few close friends now – about three – and it’s intentional,” Betty reveals.
Betty or just simply B (to her friends and family) reveals that the parting, although bitter, was a lesson on the value of family.
“I had to work on my relationship with my family because when things went south, they were my first rescue team. I had to particularly work on my relationship with my sister, Mercy Kyallo, as we had drifted apart and now nothing can come between us. I came to realise that I took sibling relationship so casually yet they literally rescued me from depression or anything that resulted from the break-up,” says the second-born of four siblings.
Her mother, especially, has been a strong pillar in her life to the extent that she defends her daughter against trolls on social media. “I have a very supportive and fierce family. My mum just goes ham on people who leave mean comments that I have to tell her to calm down,” says Betty who has over one million followers on social media.
Her past experiences, however, have made her develop thick skin such that she merely shrugs off mean comments. “When someone writes something nasty about me, I don’t really blame them. I know that they are coming from a perception of me that they have been fed by blogs, so I don’t pay too much attention to it. I don’t entertain negative energy and that’s my way of protecting myself from all the negativity,” she says.
While the relationship with her family has been a relatively smooth ride, the dating scene has been a different kettle of fish altogether, and with good reason. After two of her relationships ended publicly, something she is keen to leave in the past, she is presently taking things very slow.
“I have met so many nice guys but I’m still hesitant because of my past experiences. Even when I meet someone new who seems nice, I am always walking on eggshells. That said, I know nice guys exist,” says Betty, adding, “I am being intentionally patient just to get someone who I feel is ideal for me.”
So just how does the ideal man look like to Betty?
She describes her ideal man as kind, respectful and loving, which are some of the main qualities that are endearing to her. “It goes beyond the big cars or money and comes down to the little things like being kind to the waiter or to children. I love love so I would want someone who truly loves me back and sends me flowers to the office or buys me cake; for me, it’s just the simplest things that make me pay attention,” she says.
Aside from that, she decidedly does not want to date anyone in the limelight unless those circumstances change after they are together. Most important on her checklist, however, is a man who will respect that she has a past and have the capacity to be a great dad to her four-year-old daughter, Ivanna, as she has no qualms about being in a blended family.
Betty’s greatest joy is her daughter Ivanna whom she describes as ‘a little me,’ as she has certain traits that are very similar to hers. For starters, they share a love for dancing and dressing up.
“It’s so special seeing her grow into this girly girl and I pray for her to be intelligent, warm, kind and successful,” says Betty, who has held two of Ivanna’s birthdays at children’s homes to teach her on impacting lives positively.
Running a business, working in the media and motherhood might seem like quite the juggle but according to her, prioritising is key, as she is passionate about all of them. “If you are passionate about something, you’ll find a way to make time. I love my job, I love my business and I love Ivanna so I make sure I spend quality time with her every day, attend to the salon, go to work and sometimes go out dancing after she’s gone to bed,” she explains.
As Ivanna grows up, Betty is prepared to have candid conversations with her. “Once she’s more grown, I am going to sit her down and explain about my past because if I don’t she will hear it from someone else. I want to be her first point of contact no matter how uncomfortable the conversations are,” says Betty.
Betty, who is a single parent, readily admits that it is not easy but she ensures that her daughter is surrounded by her family. Her words of encouragement to single parents? “Your kids will grow up. Don’t take it as a burden, keep going. Things will look up despite the uncertainties.”
One thing she is certain of, however, is her desire for a daughter to grow into her own person. “I want her to run this world and blossom. I don’t want to curtail her growth in any way because of my past. She deserves the absolute best because she is a superstar,” she gushes revealing that her daughter is set to be a brand ambassador for an international clothing line in the course of the year.
As the New Year begins, Betty is only too eager to see what 2019 holds for her. She has set the ball rolling in some aspects of her life such as her new show and going to the gym, which she started in late 2018. In true Brand BK fashion, she is not stopping soon. Even though her business is just three months’ shy of its anniversary, Betty is already planning on replicating the parlour in other parts of the country and if all goes well, open two more parlours in 2019.
“It’s like my mind is on steroids and I’m always thinking about the next thing,” says the anchor and businesswoman who additionally plans to launch a lip line with her sister Mercy this year.
For her, this year truly represents new beginnings and the one thing she is keen on, is doing her part and waiting on God’s time.
“I think I have the gift of recalibration, so if things don’t work out, I will adjust. You can’t take this life too seriously. Even the people I admire like Oprah and Beyoncé may have bigger problems. My goal is to enjoy life. Even on my bad days, I slay,” she says emphatically.