An award winning blogger, a super mum, a human rights activist and one of the coolest people you can ever converse with or hang around, Grace Kerongo is no new name to anyone who loves reading juicy entertainment a gossip and news. Penning down articles that keep her readers glued to their screens.
With years of experience and expertise in the field, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) Journalism award winner and Chaguo La Teeniez award winner who also bagged a nomination in the highly contested best entertainment blog category in Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) Awards 2017, opened up to us in an interview about her journey to becoming the top name in the business.
Can you tell us about yourself- your childhood, schooling and career life?
I had a happy idlic childhood. I never grew up knowing what I wanted to do. I just enjoyed my childhood. It was when I was in campus that I wanted to get into media. Daily Nation’s Buzz had an advert for people to apply for a job as an editor for a week for the entertainment pullout.
I applied and wrote them a long ‘What you need to do to get more eye balls reading Buzz’.
What do you know? They selected me to be an editor for a week. That is when a learnt that a lot goes into getting content for just one page in the newspaper.
My week ended as an editor but being the hustler I was, I took numbers of most of the reporters and I made sure I kept sending them my badly written articles. Eventually two were published. Out of that interaction, one of them recommended me for a job with a teen magazine, Insyder.
When I joined Insyder I did not shy away from doing any story. Once I remember telling the editor, I’m going to get an interview with retired President Moi and ask him stuff that teenagers would love to know about him. The editor just nodded when I pitched the idea and said go ahead. I called the office for weeks. The first time I explained myself, the guy at the other end of the phone call couldn’t believe the balls of this chic asking to interview the most powerful man in Kenya. They gave me a run around till I decided that I had flogged the dead horse enough.
That was my outlook to everything I did. I thought of it and just went ahead and did it. If it hit the wall. Oh well, at least I tried. That doesn’t mean I still won’t ask for an interview when the chance presents itself. LOL.
What was your dream job growing up and tell us how did you first get into blogging?
I always wanted to run a magazine. A glossy magazine. Be that big boss like that lady from The Devil Wears Prada. And I did, with Insyder I always endeavoured to get the best unique and exclusive content. After that success, I moved to The Star, months into the new job, I was given another huge opportunity to take over from a media personality who was a goliath in my eyes, Wayua Muli. Her shoes were too huge to fill. But her mentorship, work ethic and guidance rubbed off on me and gave me a good basis.
How did get you into blogging?
While I was working at the insyder, I always trolled the net looking for Kenyan websites with current news. There were none. And most were being run by Kenyans in the diaspora. So here I was, I had access to Kenyan celebrities, photos and news content. One day I just Googled how to start a website and I got information about blogger and I signed up. The beauty of that was I did not need a techie to design the site nor did I need server space because I wanted to upload big huge photos of Kenyan celebrities online so that if anyone Googled Kenyan artistes there were good quality photos.
I did a lot of reading on seo, adsense, link backs, etc and applied that to my blog Hot Secrets.
To get traffic, I created a newsletter and spammed everyone who was on my mailing list. That did not stop there, I got emails of every influential media personalities and emailed them.
One agitated media guy emailed me back and told me, “Young girl, who told you I want to receive these emails.”
That is how I created the unsubscribe option in my email. Ki shingo upande. It has been a learning process. Still is.
Can you tell us some of your strengths that really helped you in the world of blogging?
The secret is fortitude. Just keep doing it. Don’t stop. And always be hungry. Do it like you are getting paid big bucks. Don’t worry about the money. It will come.
How would you describe your writing style?
Entertainment newsy. I don’t really know. I just write. If it is a funny morsel of gossip, it will be funny, if it is newsy newsy, it will read like serious news. I don’t really have a style.
A lot of Kenyans are getting into the blogging sphere with hopes of making quick cash, any tips for those interested in making money as writers?
Writing is paid in hugs. Loool. I kid. Don’t go into it for the money. Hakuna pesa hapo. Do it with a goal in mind. Yes, you can make money from subsequent activities on the side like being an influencer, adsense, sponsored content etc. But all that comes after you have been blogging/ vlogging for a while and you have made a name for yourself.
What was your greatest failure as a blogger and what did you learn from that?
Time. I have to make time for my blog. I get so wrapped up in my work I forget my baby. But to remedy that, I enlisted the help of a pal to ensure my blog is updated daily.
How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
Digital is where everyone worth their salt is at. I just want to conquer that space.
Who are some of your favorite bloggers and kindly explain why they are your favorites?
Oh gosh. The list is too long. I consume a lot of content. My email is full of google alerts on various topics and personalities. I don’t have favourites because I consume everyone and I endeavour to know all the players in the field.
Tell us about your proudest achievement as a writer?
There was this time, Danny Glover was in town. Now one knew. He was in the county for some serious NGO ish thing, I cannot remember very well what, but someone told me that he was at the reception area of a hotel. I went there, looked around and found him seated just talking to some guys he had had a seminar with. It looked like it was over so they were. Just chilling. I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked if I could interview him. He agreed. I was the only one with the interview.
So my biggest lesson has and will always be to always ask. I ask and ask and ask. That way, I never leave an interview wondering what the response would be if I had asked.
Blogging is perceived as one of the dullest jobs, can you tell us how do you motivate yourself to keep on blogging?
The numbers. We all blog for an audience. This audience rewards you immediately by either reading your blog or not. That is what the biggest motivation is to blogging.
Why do you write about entertainment and not any other topic?
That is what I know and love. I wouldn’t presume to write about sports or politics or even business. Entertainment is what I love and what lights a fire in my belly.
Any other things you do apart from being a writer?
I have this petition, I together with my pal, Chris Wekesa presented before the Senate early this year. It is a petition to get the county governments to provide breastfeeding zones for women who work in the informal sector. They don’t have the luxury to pay for a nanny or express their breast milk for baby to drink while they are hustling to eke out a living. So, this petition will hopefully be passed as a bill and those mothers will get a chance to breastfeed their child in a safe environment where they can also leave their kids as they go back to work. I really hope gava (government) sees the sense in this because, if they can provide smoking zones why not provide breastfeeding zones for mothers?
Currently, with the help of one of our lawyer pals we are penning the petition into a bill which we will present after the new crop of MPs are sworn into parliament. We want to present it as a private citizen bill.