When you’re looking to make money from writing you’re usually chasing shadows. You will knock on doors and they will tell you write for us and you will get exposure. Others will tell you, your work is good, lakini hata hatujui wewe ni nani. Then there’s that pesky mosquito sound that is always buzzing, Biko, Biko, Biko. “Why don’t you write a little bit like biko?” “Have you read Biko, he wouldn’t phrase this sentence like this.” I suppose the man has paid his dues but read something else besides Biko for God’s sake: try a different meal, you will always sing Ugali, Ugali, Ugali till you’ve tried Chapti, no offence to the chocolate man with the forehead.
I was pretty fortunate after I resigned my 8-5 to land a script writing gig for a kids animation show when I was still pretty green. We did about fifteen scenes and the cheque came even before the script was developed into a storyboard, but that’s as far as it went. I shelved the script, I still believe it’s pretty good and I have a mind to dust it off, spruce it up and roll the dice again. You never know, it might be the Game of thrones of animation (RR probably just chewed his hat)—
After the animation script I landed a gig with Afrofinity which is still ongoing. This really boyish woman called Tonia ringed me after I pitched her a story idea and I met her without really knowing who she was and as it happens she’s a top honcho at Microsoft.
She had short hair and wore blue jeans that filled her buxom frame, a purple top that hid her heavy breasts and to polish of the look, a bourgeois rock hang on her neck. She sat down and asked me about my story. I went to start and she stopped me, “Of course I’m not expecting you to start from the day you were born,” she chirruped and we laughed and I wondered what sold me out as a dullard, was it the fact that I was wearing a white muscle shirt even though I’m built like a bag of bones?
I told her I just resigned my job because it was suffocating me and I have this itch to write that just won’t go away. And she stared at me for a second and asked me if it was ok to smoke. And I knew I was in trouble if that was the reaction my writing provoked. She put her cigarette afire then stared at me for a second as if gauging whether I had the mettle to make a career in writing then she took three puffs and the dense smoke stood like a chivalrous lover and kissed the air intimately. I was waiting for her to tell me something like, ‘you need exposure first, hata hatukujui’ or the final nail on the coffin which is always a song about Biko. But she stared at me for some time and asked me what inspires me to write and I told her the urge to tell stories.
She turned her head and the stone on her neck caught light and for a moment it shone bright as a comet. She then tapped her cigarette on the ash tray and shifted her weight on her seat before the waiter interrupted us with the menus. “What will you have?” He chimed and I frowned because this question always injures me when I’m out with a honcho because I want to order chicken and fries but I have to order coffee because etiquette commands it. “White coffee,” I yowled as I watched her unfold her MacBook.
“I’m starting an online hair store and I think you will be perfect to come in and wax lyrical on a man’s perspective on women’s hair. Something fun and spicy. Like a conversation you have with your pals over a beer.” She took another puff from her cigarette then stabbed it out and started moving the thingamajigs on the table that the waiter had brought.
“You see this phone,” she lifted her iPhone 6 and I almost swiped my galaxy grand duos off the table. “I bought this for around 80K.”—She spoke in that weng that Breuburn and Banda School folk have. (Make no mistake, there’s a big difference between a Banda school weng and a weng that a Gikambura girl acquires when she’s trying to impress.)—“You enter the apple store and the fantastic customer service you get there makes the phone feel worth the price, but not with hair and why not, I ask?”
I stare at her refraining myself from speaking just to fill the air with words but to speak only when I have something to contribute of which I had none at the moment.
“I travel a lot and it’s so hard to find good hair, especially for black women. I was in the states the other day (She says it as if she had just gone to Kinoo to tend to her cows) and I wanted good hair because I was looking to have a fresh style and I had to disappear into the bowels of Chinatown only to come across a crass seller, never mind I had to part with 70K for my trouble.” She sighs as if taking in all the hair stress she’s had to go through ever since she was a little girl.
“I want to change all that, I want to give people an experience. I want to create a space where you can come and find stylists, products and good hair with an array of prices from expensive to affordable. And I want it to be content centered so let’s speak price. How much will you charge me for an article?”
I’m not a greedy person, I quote according to value and I think that’s something a lot of artists have to learn, to know their value. “That’s fine,” she says after I quote my price as if it is nothing. “And I hope you take criticisms well because I’m not big on flattery especially when the work is lacking.” I tell her diamonds can never be diamonds without the pressure. No, I don’t tell her that because I’m a wuss and I love a paycheck like everyone else does. I tell her criticisms is the only way we can learn and get better. She tells me she will launch in a month and forwards me a plethora of contracts which I can only hope were not selling my kidneys to India because they were written in law jargon which is very problematic to read.
After a month lapsed I typed afrofinity.com into my browser and I had to take a seat to soak in the spectacular fashion the site was done. I scrolled through the women’s section trying to look for something I could get memsahib then I wondered if there was a memsahib to begin with? I clicked the men’s section and looked wide eyed at the array of beard products on display but then I touched my smooth chin and woke up from the painful dream.
I let the pressure of running a column on the site flood me and sat there wondering what I would write for my first article. I shifted uneasily on my seat and let the man’s perspective on hair column swirl and swoosh on my head; I wondered if I would do the column justice, whether I would bring out the fascinating and intricate creatures that women are. I wondered what type of hair my words would wear. Would they wear weaves, braids or a kink? I then closed my eyes and prayed to the gods of the chocolate man that my words never have a bad hair day.
Hey there, we don’t (yet) have the budget to buy space on prime time TV or full page ads in the Daily Nation, so your shares are what help us get discovered. Feel free to whisper us to a friend and leave a comment.