Joining politics has crossed my mind, but I’m focused on my brand now — Betty Kyallo

KTN presenter Betty Kyallo Betty Kyallo stands outside her Flair by Betty salon in Kilimani on Friday last week
KTN presenter Betty Kyallo Betty Kyallo stands outside her Flair by Betty salon in Kilimani on Friday last week

Not so long ago, KTN presenter Betty Kyallo opened a high-end salon, Flair by Betty, at the iconic FCB Mihrab along Lenana Road in Kilimani. The business is the talk of the town, and in an interview with Sasa, she talked about her business, family and career.

Regarding the location of her business, Betty says: “I went to a few buildings around Kilimani and settled on FCB Mihrab because it was new, and I didn’t want one that had already been used. I fell in love with the building and I was like, that’s where I want my business to be. I also wanted a central place both for my staff and clients.”

Betty says being a TV girl, she doesn’t see herself as a celebrity and works hard to achieve her goals. “Normally I finish my work at KTN and go to my second job, which is Flair. KTN has become a hobby, which I really love to do and Flair is my baby and special to me and so far it’s doing fine.”

Flair is about two months old, and she says the reception has been “fantastic”. “I thank God for the hard work I’ve put in. Apart from giving birth to my daughter Ivanna, I don’t think there’s any other thing I have put more effort in like Flair by Betty. It’s where my heart and all investments are. Because of the passion and dedication that the team at Flair has put in, it’s been a fantastic start, and I thank God.

Regarding the perception that Flair is for the who is who, Betty says: “It’s not a celebrity salon. It’s open to everyone, and we made it feel like home once you visit.”

Betty is planning to replicate Flair by Betty in different parts of the country. “That’s the growth I’m seeing in the next few years for my brand. Soon they will be launching one in one of the cities,” she says.

“What I have learnt about my entrepreneur journey is you have to take small bits of this thing. I believe in starting small and growing organically, and then we see where the brand goes.”

Apart from the beauty industry, Betty is set to join teaching and will soon be tutoring young college students. “Having been in the media industry for seven years, we had the best role models at KTN, who were able to impact us in different ways, and one of the ways that I can give back to the society is at least mentor the younger generation, who look up to me, and I decided I’m going into teaching. We are working on a college for journalism, something which is amazing and I’m happy to be part of it,” she says.

“It’s something I’m going to do very soon. To me it’s not going to be a theory but practicals, what I have experienced in the journalism field. I’ve been doing marketing but for now, I have taken a step back and want to focus on building my brand. I want when people see me, they see Flair by Betty and not Brand A, B or C.”

UNEASY BEGINNINGS

The journalist says her journey hasn’t been easy, and the first day on screen, she was nervous. “I remember I was sweating and also conscious of the big scar on the neck. If my bosses see my scar, maybe they will say I’m not good for TV. I was like, oh my goodness, let me hide it. The first time I went on air, I wore a high-collar shirt to hide the scar. I did that for such a long time but slowly by slowly, I started feeling comfortable in my skin,” she says.

Betty, who has risen the ranks to become one of the most-sought-after media personalities in the country, says she rarely watches her herself on TV when she gets home.

“I don’t like watching myself because I’m always critical. ‘Betty that angle you were sitting wasn’t nice, you should have sat better.’ At times, I watch myself to see the areas I can improve on. I also don’t like to hear my voice on TV or on radio, not because it’s bad but because I find it weird,” she says.

She admits she’s not perfect and at times she gets embarrassed on air. “Sports names, especially from Germany, give me a headache. My brother used to call me and tell me, ‘Unatuaibisha. Ni nini hiyo umesema on TV? It’s not pronounced that way.’ I had to take time and learn how to pronounce sports personalities’ names correctly.”

Betty and her brother Brian Msafiri are very tight.

“When growing up, he was like our father. He was strict and very tough with us. I used to fear him more than I would fear my mother. But the things he did for us gave us great personalities and characters. His ‘ruling’ really helped us, especially in our careers, and I thank him a lot for what he did when we were younger,” Betty says.

The presenter says being a businesswoman, career woman and mother is at times tough, but she manages. “It’s been amazing and I take everything with grace. Being a mother is amazing, and I would wish it to any woman to be one. At times, kids are stubborn, but they do a lot of therapy for us. When I go home to my daughter Ivanna, I feel great.”

Betty’s daughter turned four years yesterday, and Betty says this time round, she will take her somewhere else compared to last year, where they visited a children’s home in Kayole.

Betty and Bonoko visit children’s homes for charity, and she says that’s why she chose to celebrate her daughter’s third birthday with needy children. “I want to teach her how to give back to the society,” she says.

CO-PARENTING OR NOT?

Asked if she’s co-parenting with her husband, she says: “I would really like to keep that very private. Maybe sooner or later, I will be able to talk about it, but for now, I would just rather not and keep it off the media.”

With 764k followers on Instagram, many are convinced that she can run for a seat come the next general election. So, is Betty planning to venture into politics?

“It is something that has crossed my mind a number of times, and the thing is we have quite a number of young leaders now who are in Parliament. And I just want to see whether the promises they made to young people, they will deliver or not. I’m really looking at the young politicians, the likes of Babu Owino, Jaguar and Caleb Hamisi, and I just hope that they can deliver to some extent. If they can, then I will know there’s hope for other people like me, who would want to represent young people or Kenyan women in another platform. It’s not alien to me but I’m waiting to see.”

Betty has always kept her private life under wraps, and she says she’s single now, despite rumours that she’s hitched.

“I have met amazing people, but I want to package myself as a businesswoman, a mum and a potential partner in life. So that when I decide to get married again or start dating somebody, I’m bringing something to the table,” she says.

Adding: “And because of that packaging, I’m taking some time off. I have met quite a number of amazing people out there, but nachukua vitu pole pole. I take every day at a time, there’s no hurry. Niko tu sawa. Very single.”

Betty advises single women who are between 30-35 years old to take their time. “There’s no pressure. Just do things when you find that person who completes you.”

She is an easy target for trolls, but she has developed a thick skin for critics. “I stopped being angry at haters because everybody is dealing with some sort of thing in their lives. There’s no one who’s perfect, even me. People look at me and say, ‘Betty I want to be happy like you’, but they don’t know the struggles we go through. Even the richest of the richest is struggling with something. And therefore, I just decide to ignore trolls. When I see something positive, I react to it and take it in. But anything that’s negative, supposed to downgrade me or demoralise me, I feel zero. It doesn’t get to me. I don’t believe in hating other people.”

TALK SHOW DREAMS

Betty admits being single is not easy, and she has learnt a lot. “It’s hard because at times, your child falls sick at night and you only have yourself and you to take the child to the hospital. It’s always better at least if you have somebody at least to help you. It’s not easy but at the same time, we land in different situations in this life. Sometimes you are a single parent, sometimes you might have your husband there, but they don’t help. Maybe they don’t come or you don’t go to see them. So I don’t see that being a single mother is a special thing, it’s like a responsibility because you have to balance between being a mother and a father, which is almost impossible. And if I am a woman, there’s nowhere I am going to fit into a father for my child but it’s doable. Having the right attitude is what we need. Everything you do, you should be able to move mountains.”

While growing up, Betty says Oprah Winfrey was and still is her role model. She says she’s planning on having her own talk show. “I always wanted to have a talk show like Oprah, but I don’t know if I’m going to give everybody a car. Her difficult childhood story and how she was able to beat the odds and become the top black woman in television inspired me.”

Asked what she would recommend Margaret Kenyatta and Ida Odinga to try at Flair by Betty, she says: “I would recommend them to have a facial, have a head wash by our professional dressers. And for Uhuru, we would give him the best barber to give him that great haircut.”

“Not easy starting a business. Flair is one of the hardest things I have ever done. For any entrepreneur, funds is the hardest thing in this country. I had made some savings with my sacco but it wasn’t enough to start Flair. I went to my bank and took a loan after we agreed on how much I was going to pay every month. I want to encourage anyone out there with a fantastic idea not to sit on it because of lack of funds, but visit their banks and apply for loans.”

Asked to describe Flair by Betty in two words, she says: “Simply Amazing!”