When Terence’s videos impersonating women’s mannerisms went viral, they opened up a world of new opportunities for the comedian and ‘Kamami’ became a household name. As his numbers shot up on social media, it also opened him and his family to the scrutiny of social media users. While some of the scrutiny were well-meaning plain old curiosity, some of it was grossly ill-intentioned. It would unearth several things that only people in his circle knew. However, Terence is not shy of sharing details about his past, if only to encourage others.
Life has not dealt Lawrence Macharia, alias Terence Creative, the easiest of hands. At nine years old, his mother died and he, together with his two siblings and several cousins, had to stay with their grandmother who sold chang’aa to eke a living. Their father was not in the picture.
Living in Mlango Kubwa, a low-income settlement in Nairobi, this was all too much to bear for little Terence that he started contemplating suicide. “After my mum died, life became hard. I felt like I wanted to die although I took a different route, which unfortunately was drugs,” he shares.
At his young age, he started abusing any drug that he could find. As life got harder, he decided to take to the streets to beg. “I would go to school then go to the streets to beg afterwards. I had to come up with stories that would get me sympathy but after a while I started snatching handbags and side mirrors and even peddled drugs,” he recalls.
His saving grace came in form of his brother who had been taken in by Muli’s Children’s Home. He informed his guardians about Terence and they took him in, rehabilitated him and sent him back to school.
After high school, he joined Kenya National Theatre performing set books among other odd jobs before he got a chance to co-host a comedy show on TV. Soon after, he became a creative developer on comedy shows such as Jalang’o with the Money and Churchill Show where he still works.
It was at Churchill Show that he met Milly Chebby in 2013 when she joined the team as a backstage manager. “I was new on the set and he was kind enough to show me the ropes and we quickly became friends,” Milly lets on.
At the time, Milly was working for the Office of the Prime Minister. Keen to pursue her passion in the creative industry, she juggled both until 2015 when she decided to work with the Churchill Show as a fulltime producer.
At the time, Terence was coming off another relationship. “For the first two years of our relationship, we were shaky because I wasn’t sure if he was just testing the waters then go back to his previous six-year relationship, considering there were kids involved. That has to be the most confusing point of our relationship because I had one foot in and one out of the door just in case,” shares Milly.
For Terence, his childhood played a big role in his uncertainty. “I grew up as an orphan so I was fearful about how my kids would feel if I pursued another relationship. We had to talk to the kids every now and then to try to get them to understand that I was still their dad, despite not being with their mother,” he says of his now eight and 11-year old daughters.
While rumour mills have it that Terence has neglected his children, the couple is quick to clarify that they are in a better place now with regard to co-parenting. “It wasn’t easy initially as there was so much pull and push. This is a whole new concept for me but I am easing into it,” Milly explains.
By mid-2014, they couple was in agreement that they were in the relationship for the long haul. But something else plagued their relationship. Terence had not been able to kick his smoking and gambling addictions. On smoking, he would smoke a minimum of two packets of cigarettes and a maximum of three per day.
Their relationship bore the brunt of Terence’s addictions. “I never ever came to terms with the smoking. I fought it and we used to argue every time I would see him pull out a cigarette,” Milly shares.
His other Achilles Heel – gambling – would often see him spend his time in casinos after work, sometimes going for three days before he showed up at home. When tough love didn’t work to dissuade him from his habits, Milly resorted to playing good cop.
“I’d keep telling him that I hoped when we got kids, he would not be smoking or spending his time in a club when they needed him, or gambling money for their future. Even then, it was not easy to convince him,” she reveals.
Despite being fully aware of the strain it put on his relationship, kicking a habit that had been part of him for years was no mean feat.
“With addiction, unless you decide to quit or something drastic happens, it’s very hard to stop. Of course, I wanted to quit; I’d always pray that I would wake up one day and not feel the urge to smoke or go to the casino. I wanted to enjoy having fresh breath and my money intact,” explains Terence, reminiscing on his struggle.
His gambling cost him dearly. At one point he lost slightly over one million shillings and things hit the proverbial fan. With time and many loses, gambling lost its allure and up to this day he keeps a personal promise to never work with any gambling brands as he knows all too well its consequences.
“It was really hard kicking the habits. With gambling, casinos are open 24/7 and they give you drinks and food. I had become such a return client that the staff knew me and would let me in at any time. With smoking, it is so much easier to carry 40 cigarettes than 40 bottles. My smoking persisted a little longer,” he explains.
The result of these addictions was constant arguments with Milly. On her part she felt that he was not willing to quit while Terence felt she did not understand that it was an addiction. Aside from that, their intimacy took a hit.
“When you are a smoker, that stench is always hovering around you. I noticed how uncomfortable the people I worked with felt and that was what my wife had to deal with every day. We couldn’t even kiss,” he reveals.
Nonetheless, he finally managed to kick the habit.
“I actually noticed three days after he quit as it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen him go to the balcony to smoke. I’d bought him nicotine gums to help him stop smoking but he never touched them,” she says.
“I didn’t tell her I’d stopped smoking because every time I told her, she would laugh in disbelief and I would go back to smoking. One day I just decided to stop smoking so I bought the nicotine gum myself and after a few days I summoned all the willpower and just decided to stop taking the gum altogether,” says the comedian whose nickname was christened by his mother based on a show that had one Terence Hill.
Although the withdrawal symptoms were out of this world, he stuck to his guns and as it stands, it has been close to two years since his last smoke, which was on October 23, 2017. It was also flipping the bird on some of his peers who would sometimes treat him with contempt as they joked that he would probably take cigarettes in place of the money they owed him.
“Sometimes I wonder how I managed to stay put during all that because my friends and family would urge me to leave him. I would cry about it to my friends but they had told me so many times to leave and I couldn’t. It got to a point where I kept my problems to myself because I had heard enough of ‘I told you so’. I think I fell so hard for him that I overlooked everything. He can be so sweet sometimes and our relationship was easygoing; we had a foundation of friendship,” says Milly smiling wryly.
After about two years of dating, the two officiated their relationship in March 2017. And although they have managed to get through some big hurdles in their marriage, another issue that they have had to deal with is rumours with the most recent one being of a break up.
However, they are categorical that it is just a rumour and although they may have issues, like other couples do, those ups and downs do not warrant a split. So how do they deal with the rumour mills?
“Of late so much has been said and sometimes these things get to you that if you are not careful, you start questioning your partner. We try as much as possible not to let what people say come between us. We see what they write and we often discuss openly so that we are both on the same page,” Milly states in response to online blogs that claimed there was another woman in the picture.
“And people read too much on the things we post. Being a celebrity, I have fans with whom I take pictures with. When we share these photos online, they become fodder for bloggers who will write anything for hits,” adds Terence.
The couple assures their fans that divorce is not in the picture for them and asks them to treat the rumour with the contempt it deserves.
The highlight of their marriage is their daughter, Milla Netai Mwihaki, whose name is derived from their names. This is all with good reason because their journey into parenthood has not been easy.
For starters, the couple had to deal with a miscarriage just before they got their daughter and their demeanor visibly changes as they recount that time.
“I was okay with waiting to have kids since Terence already had two children, but when I got pregnant, we were excited. I had been spotting but when we went for the seven-week check-up, everything was fine,” narrates 32-year-old Milly.
At 13 weeks, she started spotting again and on going to the hospital, they received the heartbreaking news that they had lost the baby. Naturally, it was a big blow to the couple with Milly admitting that she ‘almost lost it’ but thankfully, Terence was there all through.
“I would see how she reacted when she saw other pregnant women or women carrying babies and it gutted me, but I knew I had to be stronger,” he says somberly.
Two months later, Milly conceived again but after the miscarriage, news that they would be parents again was met with excitement and apprehension in equal measure.
“I was pregnant pretty much the whole of 2018 but with Milla, it was a tough pregnancy because I had morning sickness the whole time,” shares the mother of one.
As if they had not been dealt with a big blow, two weeks after Milla was born, they noticed a mysterious swelling on the left side of her abdomen which set off a series of tests to ascertain what it was. As if that wasn’t scary enough, they were informed that the mass had to be surgically removed. Milla was thus scheduled to undergo surgery at six weeks.
For any parent, it would be a harrowing experience and it was no different for them. Terence had to support his wife who was also suffering from post-partum depression as well as battle his own fears about the life of their daughter.
“She was born on the first of February but I usually feel like her birthday was in April because we could only heave a sigh of relief after the surgery,” says Milly, adding that they were even more relieved when tests conducted on the mass came out negative for cancer.
Being in the limelight as brand influencers, the two have been sharing their journey on social media and just recently introduced Milla to the world. While Terence was excited to share with the world, Milly was apprehensive.
“I was ready to show her to the world from day one. I was happy and I wanted to share our joy but then again with our lifestyle, putting her out there meant exposing her to all kinds of people. I understood Milly’s fears because she came when both our brands were growing and exposed her to the world,” says 33-year-old Terence.
With their fears somewhat quashed, the couple has chosen to share their parenting experiences, including their blended family set up, with the world and as it stands, Milla is a celebrity in her own right.
Besides working together since 2013, which, according to them has infinitely more advantages than disadvantages, the two are currently pursuing other passions.
While Terence has the Sasa Kamami banter, Milly’s passions lie in the kitchen. Through her YouTube channels Ordinary Kitchen and Raising Milla, she talks all-things food, family and parenting to her ever-growing audience.
Even with that, they are keen on helping each other grow and supporting each other in whichever way they can.
“She is my springboard and first critique for my comedy material. When it’s about parenting on her YouTube channel, we do it together and when she cooks, I get to sample,” shares Terence smiling cheekily.
“He is also my director and since he is in the creative industry, he helps me with how to best deliver my content because when I started my channel, the plan was just to share my recipes before we realised there were opportunities,” chimes in Milly.
As Milly plans on growing her channel, Terence has his sights set on a political seat in 2022.
“My plan is to transform the streets and slum areas because I know how much talent is out there that can be tapped to change people’s lives. We need to show those kids how they can maximise their talents,” he states.
As a parting shot, the couple, share that they are looking forward to growing their brands even further and most importantly, inspire other people.