Vivian Wambui and Sam West come to the interview ready and raring to get started. They are dressed down and could easily pass for your ordinary Jane and Joe from next door. The only thing that might give away their identity is Vivian’s bright and bold hair colour, which has become her signature look. She has a way of wearing her hair in screaming colours and somewhat manage to pull off the look – a fete that few can manage to rock and still be considered professional. But she seemingly does it with unprecedented poise.
The couple was thrust into national limelight in 2017 when Sam proposed to Vivian on live television during the 10 over 10 show on Citizen TV. For the next year, the two didn’t know any peace. Media, friends, fans and family were always on their case on when they would officially marry.
With Sam’s deep pockets and Vivian’s popularity, many had already envisioned a wedding of pure opulence. Well, they married in March 2018 in a traditional ceremony.
“Proposing to Vivian was one of the biggest risks I have ever undertaken in my life. I didn’t know what to expect because we were on live TV. I was nervous and at some point my mouth went completely dry. But what can I say, I am a risk taker,” says Sam with a smile.
“We shall have a simple white wedding for now. Being constantly in the limelight, I feel that some bit of privacy and intimacy is good for us. I’m thinking more of a dinner with close friends and family. We will probably splurge during our fifth anniversary though,” notes Vivian.
It’s no secret that parenting a child ranks as one of the worlds hardest jobs. Being able to look past any personal issues and seeing the bigger picture is a critical factor in raising any child who happens to be at the centre of non-traditional parenting practices. Their marriage came with its own set of ‘baggage’ as each of them had a child from a previous relationship.
Vivian found herself a single mother while navigating the murky waters of becoming the strong woman she is today. After giving birth to Natalie Mambo in 2010, she made it her mandate and goal to chart a course for herself and daughter disregarding and defying the societal limitations on single parenthood. However, it was only recently that the public came to learn that Vivian is a mother.
After getting married to Sam, she found herself the mother of an adorable five-year-old boy – Ty West. She couldn’t resist his puppy eyes and free spirit. Natalie and Ty have taken a liking to each other. What’s more, they look so alike.
“Motherhood is a commitment. You have a responsibility towards that child. I do not raise Ty and Natalie as children but as adults. I believe that childhood experiences are what makes or breaks an individual hence I am always careful on what I expose them to,” she reveals.
“When I met Natalie, she was sweet and very loving. I had to be smart and take things slow,” brags Sam.
He suddenly leans forward and whispers that he is the good cop in the relationship. “I enjoy being with the kids and I love them to bits. I spoil them and that is why they like hanging out with me,” he says proudly. A comment that solicits a cheeky giggle from Vivian.
“I have to be a little firmer with them. We are living in a different generation. Nowadays children know their rights and are very confident. Ty has a strong character and always remembers everything you tell him. I am always careful with what I promise him,” she chuckles.
At nine-years old, Natalie is an avid reader just like her mother. She is always at the top position in class and is charting her own individual path as a dancer.
“Natalie is very smart. I try as much as I can to let her be her own genuine self. I sometimes get a little uncomfortable when fans want to take selfies when she is around because I want her to chart her own individual path without the influence of anybody, including myself,” Vivian says.
The duo is amongst the lucky few who have had drama-free break ups with their exes. As a matter of fact, they have very stable and mutually respectful relationships with their previous partners. They choose to focus more on the functionality of their family as opposed to ascribing to the traditional idea of what an ideal family should look like. They have fully embraced the idea of blended family which seems to be working for them. They also set and live by their own rules.
“We have never really had any confrontation with our exes because they moved on with their lives. They are involved with their children and they meet once in a while,” beams Vivian.
On whether they are ready to have more children of their own, the power couple are in agreement that children require prior planning to ensure they are well taken care of and live to their full potential.
“I want to have eight children,” laughs Sam.
“Don’t take this one seriously. He is a comedian,” says Vivian feigning shock.
“On a more serious note, we already have two children. I personally think that children require a lot of investment in terms of time, energy and attention. Parents have to be present and active and if they are not ready, they should just refrain from having children,” advises Vivian.
“Children are a gift from God. I agree with Vivian that children are a great responsibility and proper planning is required in order to raise children who will leave an impact in their generation. But it would be interesting to have a child that looks exactly like Vivian and I,” the standup comedian smiles as he stares intently at the love of his life.
Vivi, as she is known amongst her fans, is aggressively ambitious. She is not only a lyrical genius but also street smart – she knows how to appeal and remain relevant in the industry.
In the beginning, her music was a concoction of ideas from different sources. Straight up from her producer, other artists, song writers and herself. They would sit down, exchange ideas and come up with massive hits. She has, however, grown and polished her craft, especially under the management of Sam.
“I have had different people playing different roles in my journey. Working with Phil at Mainswitch Production was phenomenal. He taught me how to compose music. Jaguar was instrumental on teaching me about marketing and branding. As a media owner, Sam has given me important insights on media consumption,” says the Chum Chum hit maker who reveals that she is about to release a song in collaboration with The Kansoul.
“She is very focussed and clearly knows her vision. She isn’t afraid to get me back on track when I seem to veer off her vision,” chuckles Sam. “She is very thorough and detailed and unlike me, she is keener on the journey while I more of results oriented.”
Two individuals with strong characters seem like ripe ground for conflict and disagreements but the couple seems to understand each other and use their strengths to come up with an impregnable force that propels them to greater heights.
“People who are more keen on the results end up being risk takers and push things to the limit. They can easily overwork or disregard the process and the people involved just to get the result. This is now where her strength comes in, to balance the equation. She helps me see the entire process from a human perspective,” says the Hero FM CEO.
“Initially it was a little challenging for us to make decisions because we had varying opinions but with time we have learnt to compromise and work together. We always strive to approach matters bearing in mind the consequences as opposed to dwelling on individual feelings. Sam is a great manager and always challenges me to be better,” she reveals.
We pick their brain on the current state of music in the country. Both are of the opinion that the music industry has grown but the dynamics are changing pretty fast hence agree on the need to research more to keep abreast on the trends.
“I will be dropping my first rap song soon. My fans should expect to see a bolder version of me. People are used to seeing a very sweet Vivian which I don’t refute, but I’m experimenting more this year. We are really trying to work on a different feel and vibe that triggers our audience,” she beams.
A comment that gets the attention of Sam, who vigorously nods his head in approval. “She is phenomenal in that song. She is singing about me, you will enjoy it,” he smiles goofily. Vivian rolls her eyes as we all burst into fits of laughter.
The State House Girls alumni, however, feels there’s more that can be done for the industry. She doesn’t hesitate to call out the discrepancies between Kenyan celebrities, who in her opinion, should support each other more. She also singles out the solo mentality as one of the challenges boggling the industry.
“I tend to think we should support each other more. Nigeria and Tanzania have a number of strong celebrities at the top while Kenya has few. This works for them as the different strengths all merge into one bloc becoming an infallible force that sweeps entire markets. Those riding solo need to understand that we all need each other to take our industry to the next level,” she advises.
As a producer and owner of Hero FM, Sam agrees the local scene has improved but he also has his concerns in terms of content. He is of the opinion that some artists are producing simplistic music which hinders creativity. This, in turn, lowers the global competitiveness of the local music.
“The public that is consuming this simplistic music is very stressed. That is why we have a lot of depression cases in Kenya and high rate of murder and suicide. Right now people just want to be happy. The simpler the song, the more hits it gets. If we were a happier nation, we would be keen on content,” he notes, concern written all over his face.
The partners are, however, hopeful that mentorship and patience will go a long way in salvaging the challenges in the industry. A product of mentorship herself, the sassy singer stresses the importance of mentorship in all spheres of life not just in the music scene. She advises upcoming and young artists to be willing to learn from the veterans while at the same time calling upon established artists to lend their support in order to have a stronger industry.
“I feel like there needs to be integration from the top downwards. As the younger generation, we might feel like we know everything but we need to find ways to interact with the veterans to tap into their wisdom,” says Vivian who adds that a song – Cheza Chini – which she has collaborated with Naiboi and Savara of Sauti Sol is in the offing. The song holds the promise of being a hit if the vocals behind it is anything to go by.
Letting go of fear
With the same energy and creativity from the raw and riveting performance in Charm, a song she collaborated with Uganda’s Chameleon, and with a hair dye line that is on the offing, Vivian is taking risks like never before.
“I love experimenting with my look especially on my hair colour. I am excited to be working on a hair dye line which I hope will be launched by the end of this year. It is something that I want to pursue to also boost my brand,” she says excitedly.
She reveals that she wears her hair in different colours so as to express her uniqueness and boldness. She is of the opinion that fear robs one of their true identity and purpose, something she knows only too well as she had to battle stifling fear to be who she is today. Reading books has been her channel of choice in abating fear. That is why she launched a book club which provides a safe space for readers to face their fears head on. She realised that most people lack that sense of community where they can share their experiences and get some form of accountability in their quest to battle fear or make changes in their lives.
“Fear affects even the best of us. It packages itself in the constant excuses we make for not doing things we love. In our book club, we have given fear a persona. Yes, we acknowledge her presence but we do not allow her to make any decision no matter how small,” reveals the sultry singer.
Together with Sam, they founded Moran House, an initiative that seeks to empower the youth through summits in universities which challenge the students to bring out their ideas without fear. The fully-fledged production wing specialises on audio, video and content production. They also recently ventured into stand-up comedy to provide a platform for comedians who do not make it to Churchill Show. Sam pours his strong business acumen, motivational speaking skills and sense of humor onto the initiative, which is his passion and purpose.
“Moran House was founded in 2017 with an aim of raising up a generation of bold and fearless youth. The youth are our future and we need to invest in them for a better tomorrow. We are just starting out and keep morphing into something bigger by the day,” reveals the astute businessman.
There is no limit to what the couple wants to achieve. As they continue learning from and understanding each other’s dreams and aspirations, they can only look to the future with hope as they conquer new territory and empower their generation, one youth at a time.