Tabitha Tongoi: Authenticity matters

Who is your natural hair inspiration and who are your top five YouTubers?

Well, I started out watching Black Onyx, she doesn’t post much anymore as she has her own business now but I used to adore her. She taught me so much about styling particularly.

I’m subscribed to so many Youtube channels though it’s hard to just pick one since I follow so many. I really liked Bronze Goddess, The African Export, Curly Nikki and Naptural85 as well. I really watch a lot of their content, I’d have to say my favourites are all of them.

Top 5 YouTubers would include:

How do you deal with questions and comments about your hair in the workplace?

Funny enough, the two jobs I got in Australia, I got because of the blog so they already knew that I’m a hair blogger.

It’s been more of admiration and curiosity than commentary. They want to know what exactly a hair blogger does. I’ve never had to comply by any standards on my looks and haven’t received any negative comments either.

What has been the most challenging part for you as a social media personality?

I think the main challenge has been having a base. I’ve been floating around countries while doing this blog, which has gotten a good following in various continents but I think people underestimate the importance of being owned by your country and your space.

The minute I landed here in Kenya a few weeks ago, I received such a warm embrace and it’s something I never received anywhere else because outside there, no one knows me as such. You have to make a name for yourself there, brands don’t know you so you have to introduce yourself and show that you are relevant.

When you have a base though, opportunities just come and people embrace you as their own. So it’s really been hard for me being a somewhat floating blogger with no base as such. When you think of people like Patricia Bright who is a UK blogger, Jackie Aina is African American but when it comes to me –people get confused with my living in Australia, but I’m Kenyan but used to live in the US…? So that’s been hard for me in terms of establishing a supportive network, I’ve had to work a lot harder to make my voice heard.

I’ve also been wondering if this is the path I should take. I have a great education background and could take very many different career paths. I usually wonder with all the time and energy I put into this, what would my alternative career have been? I struggle with that a lot in terms of figuring out my long term plan because I can’t still be instafabulous at say 60 years old! There isn’t a job trajectory or job security with this path I’m taking and the lack of longevity scares me.

What would you advise someone who is in your shoes – someone that has a full time job but also has a passion to tell stories and create content to share with the world. Is it worth it to give up the 9-5 and take up this idea full on, what steps would you recommend for her to take while figuring this out?

The one thing I have learnt and learnt the hard way is that things take time. It takes time to have a relevant voice and you have to be ready to work for it.

There has been plenty of times where I’ve woken up at 4am, worked on the blog till about 7am, rushed to work, got home at 6, took a nap, worked on the blog again till midnight… for the longest time I have pulled all-nighters at least once a week. My 9-5 job is very demanding and I want to excel in that as well so the only free time I have is either before and after work and weekends.

The one thing I have learnt and learnt the hard way is that things take time @CravingYellow Click To Tweet

You’ll know it’s something you want to pursue if you are willing to do all it takes to get it done and no one is pressurizing you. I love my full-time job, I make a great living off of it so me doing this on the side is not even about monetary gain. I still give all my energy to the blog because it’s the fire within me, this is what I love to do.

There’s no rush to your success. I fully trust my journey and therefore I take calculated risks. Pacing yourself is also very important -cover your basic needs. You can’t be chasing Instagram likes and you don’t have a roof over your head or a savings plan. See things in a long-term view, have an execution plan, be self-disciplined and have self-drive.

I’d also add, have a great support system. My best friend has known me since I was 8 years old and is my number one supporter, she and my family keep me grounded. Lastly, remember to have a life outside of all this. Have a place to go and recharge when you feel burned out so that you have the best focus when you get back on track.

You can’t be chasing Instagram likes and you don’t have a roof over your head or a savings plan Click To Tweet

Would you ever relocate back to Kenya?

Australia is really close to my heart because my sister lives there as well with her husband and my nieces and nephews. I really love my nieces and nephews so I’m caught between wanting to see them grow up and moving back.

Australia has also taught me so much about myself; I got my first real job out of school there, got my first house there, paid my first rent there so Australia is basically where I became an adult. I’m trying to see how to make it work -be it coming to Kenya for a few months, then Australia for another couple of months, ideally I’d want an in between for the foreseeable future.

What is your mantra in life?

My mantra in life has always been to be useful and to give. The thing that always drives me is that I’m always looking to inspire and encourage others.

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About Diana Odero

Diana Odero is a contributing writer and editor for SLA. She is a journalist, a travel lover and an avid reader. She writes on all things culture and lifestyle and is passionate about seeing her fellow women succeed. She runs a personal blog and when she's not busy typing away or checking into a new destination, she can be found indulging in one of her favourite pastimes - baking cupcakes.

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