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Our interview with Bella (Queen Mwangi) of Aziza: “Acting is not all glitz and glamour”

Aziza actress Bella (real name Queen Mwangi). COURTESY

She is one of the reasons why viewers can’t have enough of the Aziza show that runs on Citizen TV every Wednesday.

Her demeanour of  a drama queen that likes picking fights with every other character makes people stay glued to follow up on what she will do next.

She plays the role of Bella — a girl who is hellbent on having revenge for her family after her father was killed and believes that the family of Malkia Fay should be made to pay for it. (Follow our coverage of Aziza here.)

Queen Mwangi has outdone herself as an actress. But who is she? Our critic DAVID MWENDA had a candid chat with her.

Is acting what you wanted to do when growing up?

Yes, I did.  Growing up, I was obsessed with watching whatever was airing. So, in high school when I got the opportunity to be in play and the feeling that came with it cemented my thoughts and l knew there and then that that’s what l wanted to do for the rest of my life.

What was your first play about?

It was one of those school plays that you compete from the district level to the nationals. I don’t really remember the story line, to be honest.

So, after high school you did plays and theatre before joining film. How did that shape your career?

Yes, immediately l was done with high school, I did a couple of stage plays at Little Theatre Club Mombasa. And it shaped me in the sense that I became disciplined and grounded in my work. The most important thing is that I developed respect for what l did because it wasn’t just fun and games despite the fact that I was doing what I love. I got to understand during those early times that my future depended on it and there was no room for mistakes.

Theatre is slowly growing in Kenya. What are some of the things that you have observed about the industry?

Generally or?

Generally, yes.

The Kenyan film industry has immense potential to be bigger than it is. I like to refer to it as the talent industry because no one asks you for your degree or diploma. It boils down to talent. The industry is well able to play a key role in employing more unemployed youths and contributing more to the Kenyan economy. But the problem is we (those in the industry) are the only ones helping it.

The government, for starters, doesn’t give a hoot about us. The general populations has fallen more and more in love with local productions and have become huge fans of our work so the clientele is there. So now, it’s up to us and the key players plus the government to work together and grow a more sustainable industry.

Are local media stations doing enough to help local productions?

Yes to some extent, I’m 50/50 on this, simply because they’re really trying to put more local content out there that viewers will enjoy. However, they have the potential to do way more than they are currently doing. That said, let me not take way from the huge steps they have taken to accommodate more local content.

Speaking of local productions, how did you get into your first local production?

It was back in 2013 and there was this ad about a production company needing actors and they were having auditions. I went and auditioned and l got a call back. I was shortlisted of this main role. It was a huge part and so I gave it my all and eventually l got the part. That is how l landed my first film role. The show was known as Almasi and it aired on K24.

You played two people in the show Almasi. Did you at some point get confused? How were you able to balance?

Yes, I played two twin sisters, Nina and Lina. One was a villain and the other one was the complete opposite. I think the fact that they were so different helped because every time I had to remind myself how opposite the two were and it made my work easier.


Aziza actress Bella (real name Queen Mwangi). COURTESY

Talk to us about other shows you have been in.

After Almasi, l went on to do Sumu which also aired on K24. This was in 2015. The show was very successful and it went on to do a five-times-a-week slot that is from Monday-Friday at 7.30pm. In this one I played Fiona, a girl torn between the love of her life and helping her mother get revenge on her ex-husband. 

Towards the end of Sumu, l got another production called Nira that aired on Maisha Magic East where I played a major role of a girl called Maria, a househelp who works at a tycoon’s house and ends up falling in love with the first son, the heir to the throne.

After Nira came Aziza that airs on Citizen TV where l play Bella — a girl who is hellbent on getting revenge on a family that is responsible for her father’s death. It continues to air every Wednesdays at 7.30pm.

Fromthe four productions, what have you been able to learn about yourself as an actor?

I have learnt that growth is inevitable. You keep on growing your character, season in season out.

Let’s talk about Aziza. You play a role of a bitter, vengeful woman. But will Bella be able to get her revenge?

(Laughs) Good question. So far, we are making strides with the help of my sister Camilla but I don’t know what the future holds. We will just have to wait and see.

Your sister Camilla is proving to be the more vengeful. Will you be able to control her?

We will have to wait and see. The story only gets better and juicer from here.

What is one thing that is similar between Bella and Queen?

We’re both go-getters and we love the finer things in life, if you know what I mean.

(Laughs)I know what you mean. I read another interview you did where you mentioned Ken Ambani as one of your role models. What is the one thing you have learnt from him? And are there any plans to work with him?

I worked with Ken Ambani when we did Sumu and he was phenomenal. He’s very professional and outgoing. He set really high standards and I try to apply those qualities in my own career.

High standards such as?

The way he carried himself on set, how he interacted with the crew and other cast members and his overall discipline

Let me bring you back to a discussion on the film industry in Kenya. You mention poor engagement with government and stakeholders in Kenya. What, in your opinion, would make them change their mindset and involve themselves more into the industry?

I don’t really think there’s anything in particular. They just need to make a choice of supporting the industry more than they currently are because the industry has shown its potential already. It’s all about making that choice to invest in us more and create more opportunities for film makers because at the end of the day, it all trickles down even to those who are not directly involved.

Alright. What would you tell a young Queen Mwangi when she was starting out in acting?

I would tell her to have a tough skin because nothing about our industry is easy. Get the job done and get out. Simple.

So, what is next for Queen Mwangi?

I have been thinking about branching out; expanding the brand. I’m currently working on it; so l don’t want to give too much away. But l will say good things are cooking. It only gets better from here.

Thanks for the interview. Any final words for guys out there who want to join acting?

Join it because you truly love it and it’s a passion for you; not because you want to be famous and you think it’s all glitz and glam because it’s not. There’s a lot of sweat and tears behind it all.

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