Kenya’s Taste Makers: Online Media Stories

The Reason Behind the Rise of “Socialites” In Kenya

Let’s talk about the shift that happened right underneath our noses while we were busy sharing memes. A reality that has been created by the headlines that we spread without giving a second thought. The power of media has never been in question. However,what do we do when media now includes the nimble internet? Who is taking note of the shift that has happened? Or the shift that continues to happen in the society thanks to the speed of media?

Shaping Modern Day Culture

Back in 2013 Ghafla magazine was rising into prominence and the home of gossip in Kenya. They stumbled upon an opportunity they chose to exploit to the fullest.

The scene: A voluptuous lady hungry for fame and unafraid of controversy enters the scene. She got featured on a controversial music video that was later banned.

The opportunity: Capitalize on the banned video, Kenyans love for gossip and scandal and create a protagonist that you love to hate.

The leverage: Every good story needs a villain. Thus, they pitted the socialites against each other but narrowed down distinct top two rivals.

The story: Vera Sidika was a video vixen on the rise that was hungry for any form of publicity. The banned video thrusted her well endowed behind into the lime light. Ghafla added a face and a name to her behind. Here are a few articles and snippets that show the gradual shift into covering socialites after the video was banned.

The series of headlines that launched Vera Sidika and her behind into household names

Thereafter, beat by beat coverage of her antics was meticulously documented by Ghafla. Other publications began to materialize out of the blues to capitalize on the apparent Kenyan hunger for Gossip. Thus the gutter press industry got bigger and bolder with the realization that they could get away with anything.

“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
Malcolm Gladwell,

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Tipping Point, described this very phenomena. There have always been ladies like Vera. Eager to be seen with celebrities and hungry for fame. That is not a new thing. What is new is the media attention they received. The thing about humans is that we subconsciously seek permission from others before we do something. Very few are brave enough to become pioneers. Therefore, when we see headlines about a particular brand of behavior, we subconsciously receive permission to partake of it. If they are doing it, why shouldn’t I?

The rise of the socialites & slay queens

As a result of this subconscious permission, a “Socialite Syndrome” has emerged. An entire generation of young girls who were growing up as the Kenyan socialites rose into prominence regard their lifestyle as normal. They don’t know any better. The stories shaped their online realities. This has led to a sadly common lifestyle choice among hundreds of girls. They feel that being a socialite is now a viable option as a means to an end. Girls trying to stir controversy to achieve their 5 seconds of fame, with the hope of landing the elusive big break.

You should however note that being a socialite is a respectable thing in other countries. Usually referring to a person well know in fashionable and high society, who loves to attend high end events and parties. In Kenya, it was twisted to infer to a lady of questionable morals who seeks attention by posting provocative photos of themselves on social media. Along with the term “slay Queen”, these terms have been used to shame a certain type of behavior and by extension police the behavior of women.

The headlines you share without a second thought today, will become the new normal tomorrow. Culture is what we do everyday, what we think and how we behave. Online media stories shape our thoughts. They tag at us to act and consequently influence how we live.

Is there another behavior shift you’ve noticed that can be traced back to online influences? Please share with me and let’s talk.

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