By Mukurima X Muriuki
As the sun sets in Santa Monica and a rather notorious traffic jams many of the streets, the magnificence beauty of the Santa Monica Pier becomes a soothing and consoling view.
The West of the Pier seems like it has been stitched with a silver line. It’s stunning. The sound of vehicles hooting and others screeching to a halt is simultaneously amplified by the sound of seagulls squawking and squabbling for morsels provided by a little boy, who looks every bit a rascal, and whose mom cannot control his joy drawn from knowing he has conquered the heart of the birds!
As I walk towards our rendezvous, I sense a tap on my shoulder. At first I flinch and reach for my wallet. It so happened that at that exact moment my mind was somewhere in downtown Nairobi. At night. I am only human and there is only a certain way you can react in such a circumstance. I manage to come back to reality, soon enough to turn my head and see a lady with the neck of a crested crane. It is Christine Wawira.
I cannot help but note her pencil-thin eyebrows that ease down gently to her black, beetle’s-leg eyelashes. Her linear nose and sorbet-pink lips for sure compliment her Amazonian figure that sits well on her almost wafer-thin body, which again reveals a decanter shaped waist. Her complexion has this impeccable glow which convinces me she must have bathed with soap made from a Musambya leaf only found in my village.
After a warm embrace and exchange of pleasantries, we walk to walk to this lounge where we make ourselves comfortable and then delve into the business of the day.
This is Christine’s story:
Q: What name do you go by?
A: My name is Christine Wawira Njagi. Professionally I’m known as Christine Wawira.
Q: Where were you born and raised?
A: I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and raised in London, Georgia, Arizona and California.
Q: There was a time you went by the name Naila Pierce. What happened?
A: Naila Pierce was a name I came up with because I felt like my Kenyan name was too hard to pronounce so I was trying to fit in. When I first moved to L.A. I went to get my head shots printed, I got to talking with the owner and I told him I’m from Kenya. He was surprised because the name Naila Pierce was not Kenyan at all. I told him it was a stage name and he told me I should reconsider that.
He told me I should keep my Kenyan name and be proud of my heritage and that when people from my country start to see my name, they will feel a sense of pride and support me. It took me 3 months to finally drop the name but when I did, it opened so many doors for me. I all of a sudden stood out from the sea of actors out here just because of my name. I tell everyone here that I’m from Kenya! I’m very proud to be representing my country in Hollywood
Q: Tell me about your childhood:
A: I lived in Eastleigh with my mom and dad. My dad was born in Embu! I have vague memories of primary school. Playing with my friends and learning how to braid with blades of grass. I remember my school uniform, walking to school with the house help. Sometimes I would be late or my school uniform would be dirty or I’d have dirt under my fingernails and I remember the headmaster would be waiting with a rubber whip.
I remember being hit with rulers on my hands if my test scores were low. I remember riding the matatu with my mom and one time the bus was so crowded that I had to be taken out through the window. I remember going to church all the time and having overnight prayer meetings at our house because my dad was a pastor.
I recall a lot of my childhood in Kenya. Our house had roaches and I remember turning on the lights at night and watching them scatter everywhere. I hated those things. One time, a roach managed to get in my clothes and I ran around screaming and ripped my clothes off. I still hate those things!
Q: What did you enjoy the most in school?
A: I’ve always enjoyed school because I loved learning new things and I got to see my friends. My favorite subjects were English, Theatre, French, Social Studies and Humanities. I hated math so I never did my best in any of my math classes. But now I realize math was hard for me because that’s what I told myself so it became my reality. I got married at 20 and had my first child a few months after so I never got to finish college. I started college for medical specialties but it was only to make my parents happy. I always wanted to be an actress and didn’t want to go to college for something I didn’t love. So after my second child was born, I just never went back to school.. I don’t think it’s for everyone and that’s okay.
Q: When did you migrate from Kenya?
A: I left Kenya in 1994 and migrated to London. Then from UK I moved to America in 1999.
Q: What did you want to be when you are young? Is that dream still valid
A: I wanted to be an actress when I was young. That dream is still valid!
Q: What do you currently do?
A: I am an actress
Q: What are some of the highlights in your career? Who have you met? What challenges do you face?
A: I have been working on my craft for 15 years. I started in theatre and moved to film and television in 2013. I became a member of the Screen Actors Guild in the summer of 2016. I have met so many of my idols. Viola Davis, Andrew Garfield, Mel Gibson, Kevin Hart, Matt Bomer, Kaley Cuoco, Malcolm McDowell to name a few. The list is so long!
It’s been amazing meeting people that I admire and look up to. And they all tell me to keep going! It’s inspiring. The biggest challenge I face is that I’m a mother to two beautiful children but they don’t live with me at the moment because I have to be 100% focused on my career. I miss them a lot and I feel like a terrible mom at times and I’m really hard on myself but I can’t give up on what I came here to do. I do this for them. To show them that they should also follow their dreams and to give them a good life. It’s a hard sacrifice to make but I believe in myself so much that I know I’ll be able to move them to L.A soon.
Q: What are your views about Africans in Diaspora?
A: Africans in Diaspora need to support each other more. Believe in each other and stop bringing each other down. Let’s support our entrepreneurs. Young and old. Encourage one another. We need to continue to open our minds to infinite possibilities.
Q: Have you ever been racially profiled?
I have experienced a little racism like being followed inside a store. Perhaps in the context of how other people would look at me when I was in an inter-racial relationship. At that time people would give us bad looks and make rude comments.
Q: What inspired your short hair look?
A: My friend Brandon is a very talented body painter and he asked me to model for him. I had worked with him before and this time I wanted to do something completely different. So on a whim, I decided to shave my head. I figured if I hated it I’d just keep wearing wigs. I ended up loving it and after posting pictures, my new look was very well received.
I remember when I first saw Lupita Nyongo and her short hair, I swore to myself I would never ever cut my hair and wear it like that. I thought she was so brave. I grew up wearing wigs and weaves. Ever since I was young my Barbies had long straight hair so I think that stayed with me and I never embraced myself for who I was. Growing up kids would make fun of my forehead so I would hide behind hair.
Cutting my hair was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. I decided to then dye it blonde after working on Amber Rose’s talk show and meeting her. Seeing her in person made me want to dye my hair too. So I did and I love it! It makes me stand out everywhere I go these days!
Q: What’s going on with your career at the moment?
A: I just got signed by my manager Chris Roe. He found me at the Amazon Studios after party at the Golden Globes. My friend Luiggi and I actually weren’t supposed to be there but we got dressed up, showed up and managed to talk our way in. We got to the dance floor and Matt Damon and his wife were dancing right next to us and Ben Affleck was just chilling on the couch a few feet away.
There were so many celebrities that night and we made it a point to mingle! We went to talk to Malcolm McDowell and his manager noticed me because of my hair and later approached me that night. He gave me his contact info and told me to email him. I got a meeting with him and a few weeks later he signed me! I’ve been going out for auditions and I’m just waiting for that breakout role to happen! I know it’ll happen very soon! It’s been a great year so far.
Q: Talk about the birth of your son.
A: My first child who is now 7 was born in a hospital and I had an epidural. I started meeting women who were having natural births in the water and at home. I thought it was absurd that in this day and age, women were choosing to go through all of that. But I also became fascinated with the idea. My best friend at the time told me about a class called hypnobabies. Hypnotherapy for child birth. She said some women were having natural pain free births with this class. She had a peaceful birth after taking the class and after seeing her experience, I took on the challenge. I was almost in my 3rd trimester with my son when I started the class. It was a 6 week class that changed my life.
I was taught that we can reprogram our minds and control pain levels with our thoughts. I was very blessed to have a peaceful pain free, drug free water birth with my son who is now 5. I did not know that this was possible and when it happened to me, I realized that our minds are very powerful. The woman who inspired me to do this is Ricki Lake. She made a documentary called The Business of Being Born and she gave birth to her son on camera in her bathtub in her apartment. I had the pleasure of attending her birthday party last year and I got to tell her that she changed my life and inspired me. It brought tears to her eyes.
Q: How is Dating in Los Angeles? Any tips?
A: Well I’m a pretty private person when it comes to my love life. I’m not in any rush to be in a relationship because I have to focus on my career and that comes first always. Being in a serious relationship for me right now is a huge distraction so I don’t take anything too seriously. It’s nice to go on dates here and there with no expectations. I tried the dating apps and everyone on there just wants to hook up so I took a break from those.
Q: Parting shot?
A: Just know that we create our reality with our thoughts. Everything that has happened to me in Hollywood, even meeting my manager the way I did, was all created in my mind years ago. The law of attraction is real and our minds are very powerful. Always keep a positive attitude and keep dreaming big!! Don’t limit yourself at all!