By Mukurima X Muriuki
What is your name?
My name is Miriam Lulu Chemmoss
- What is your country of origin? Give me a brief background about life growing up
I grew up in both Kenya and Tanzania. My late father was Kenyan. He was in the military which required us to move around the country a lot. My biological mother is part Tanzanian, part Scottish. She worked in the hotel industry and also travelled widely. Sadly though, my parents were separated early in my life, and I would be mainly be brought up by dad in Kenya. When I finished high School in 1996, I went to Tanzania to get to know my mom and you know, the other side of family. I stayed there until 1998 when I got an opportunity to attend college in America.
- Which school(s) did you attend and any notable challenge(s)?
As a result of the frequent moving, I attended many schools, both day and boarding schools, but finished at The Kenya High School in Nairobi. I received full college scholarship from a liberal arts school, Waldorf in Forest City Iowa while I was in Tanzania in 1998. The challenges of my schooling years were mainly those of colonial nature. Ideas, methods, ways, and beliefs that continue to take us away from our true nature as Africans. Violence in the name of discipline is one issue I would like to bring to people’s awareness. Learning would have been even more fulfilling for me minus the physical abuse. This is a subject of interest to me. College in the US was a very different experience. I was in a liberal environment that nurtured my artistic and intellectual abilities. However, being a minority in the school was challenging but very helpful in learning about the American society.
- What inspired your young life?
I have an amazingly diverse family that is very large and interesting in a very non-conventional way. I used to joke to my friends that I had 3 mothers, 3 different religions and 3 realities to deal with when I went home. I had to find a way to fuse all the national, religious, racial, cultural differences within my immediate and extended family. Immersing myself in Art, Music, and Performance became my outlet for all the challenges that came with my young life.
- How did you end up as a model?
I actually don’t consider myself a model as such. I am a performing artist and actress who gets modeling work. I never went out of my way to get modeling work. The agents that I signed up with were able to find me work for all my abilities and skills.
- Did you always dream of becoming a performing artist?
Not when I was growing up in Kenya or Tanzania for sure. My dad hoped I’d go into Law, while teachers and friends saw me taking a corporate route. I wanted more than anything else to be a storyteller, a writer, speaker and a musician and one who would inspire many people using my creativity.
- What do you think about the place of girl-child in society?
When I was growing up in Kenya, the plight of the girl child was something we learned to embrace and become aware of, especially all the ways in which she is limited. We’ve come a long way. There is still so much sexism in our society, be it in Africa or America or elsewhere. I realized recently that the only way this plight can disappear is, if we empower ALL children equally and teach them to create a different society than the one we grew up in. The boy-child suffers if the girl-child is suffering.
- Where do you currently reside?
Like my early years, I’ve spent most of time here in the US between two cities; New York City and Washington, DC (DMV area). I lived in NYC for 10 years till 2014 when I settled back to the DMV area.
- What do you think is the place of Kenya in world map?
My late dad used to say that Kenya would be the poster child for Africa’s future as a place of possibilities and potential. Today, those words ring so true. I don’t have to explain much to non-Africans where Kenya is anymore. When say, I am using a taxi in New York and I make it known I am from Kenya, it’s no longer just a country where we have the greatest athletes or a country that has amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery, but a country of optimistic, innovative, confident people. And of course, there’s always the mention of Barack Obama. 🙂
- What is the biggest challenge facing Kenyans in Diaspora?
I would humbly observe that Kenyans in the Diaspora lack the unity and cooperation I see in other communities from other African Countries. It is not that we are incapable of doing it; living abroad has its challenges. For example, America is a place that truly favors individualism and competition. I find that Africans are naturally inclined to cooperation and rely on the power of the community as opposed to individual focus only. If we can find a way to keep our ‘Africanness’ while living abroad, I know that we can accomplish some incredible things. I see how West Africans live here and it’s very encouraging.
- How can America help bright kids in forgotten corners of a country like Kenya?
I’m not about waiting for other people to come and do what we ourselves can do. Before we ask the Americans to come and rescue our bright, forgotten kids, let us all tackle our own problems. Things are not perfect here and there are bright and forgotten kids in America who need help too. Let us solve our own problems. We can learn what America is good at and emulate or borrow ideas.
- You recently got a baby girl and you say now it’s time to work back to fitness. What does that mean to you?
I spent all my efforts and focus on pursuing my career most of my 20’s and 30’s and when I finally decided to have a child last year; so, actually I am a late bloomer in this department.
I was in a great place, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I had developed a lot of self-discipline working for myself and going against the grain so fitness is just a part of my lifestyle, not something that I have to think much about. It has always been a priority for me. I feel so much better when I’m moving and pushing my body beyond my daily limits. Yes, I love motherhood. I love the challenges that come with it, I have grown and stretched in ways that would never have happened prior to my daughter, Imara being born. I joke that if I had known all these years how fulfilling it would be, I’d have had done it earlier and maybe had 4 kids by now. I love the idea of nurturing a little human from the beginning to enable her to reach her potential. With fitness and all other personal goals, I have found that having a structured, disciplined life leads to fast results. Time management and consistency is everything.
- Is the journey to this fitness an end in itself and is this fulfilling for all women?
I live and let live. I truly understand how hard it can be to juggle so many things in these interesting times we live in. If one is content with the way they are, then you let them be. If they’re not happy and are really seeking something else, then I can tell them that in this day and age, so many things are possible. You don’t have to have a gym membership to work out. You don’t need a personal trainer to get in shape. You don’t have to starve yourself or give up anything other than old ideas. I work out wherever I am. I have apps on my phone for fitness, I use YouTube, DVDs, stairs in my building, trails, bikes…if you want it badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Consistency is everything.
- Any parting shot?
Haven’t I said enough? 🙂
Lol! I’d like to say thank you to you for sharing your blog with your audience and for giving me an opportunity to share my story with others. I loved reading through all the various topics here.
I’m currently launching a single called, “Starting Over”, a song on how to embrace change and start afresh. The song will be available in global digital and retail stores on May 6th, 2016. It is available now on Mdundo.com for Kenyan listeners.
Thanks, Mukurima! Keep up the great work and thanks for reaching out to me. Blessings!
Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/
Official Site: http://www.miriamchemmoss.com