Known for her sharp, witty personality through her social media channels, Joy Kendi is now sharing centre stage with some of Africa’s biggest content creators, travelling the world and collaborating with the most affluent brands. This digital content creator talks about her rise through social media, the exploitation it comes with and how she’s made it work for her living in Kenya.
Going unnoticed is not in Joy Kendi’s repertoire. The 31-year-old Fashion and Lifestyle content creator walks into the Quills restaurant at the InterContinental hotel in Sandton, in her short ash-blonde hair, wearing a printed luxury caftan, and mirrored aviators – she practically gleams in the morning light. It’s hard to say if the other patrons recognize her as the Instagram content creator with over 185K followers, the fierce Lifestyle Youtuber getting over 180K views, or the equally imposing brand ambassador to the most elite brands such as Ciroc and Mac, or are just struck by the beauty and how she carries herself, but all eyes are on her.
Though she mostly dwells in Nairobi, Kenya, Joy Kendi has a crew in Johannesburg (mostly fashion folks) who can be called on when she wants to go to an event or even do an impromptu photoshoot. “I have been shooting the whole day with Cedric (@everydaypeoplestories) and now he’s editing the pictures for my Instagram and blog before we attend tonight’s shows (AFI Fashion Week),” Joy says as she introduces me to someone who’s not a stranger in the local creative scene – Cedrick Nzaka. He is editing the photographs he had been taking on the day with Joy as his muse while we get into the interview.
“I personally hate being called an influencer because I feel the word ‘influencer’ has been made dirty over time…”
Joy has built her creative career from the ground up, constantly teaching herself along the way to allow for continuous growth in her profession. She runs things on her own terms earning her global recognition and long-term brand ambassadorships and her story below tells us that this journey is only the beginning of far greater things to come.
She talks about the influence the USA had on her becoming a blogger and later a content creator, her move from Michigan back to Kenya and making it work in a country that believes in a 9-5 style of work. Aside from her commanding social media influence and fashion sense, she’s also a feted writer with a passion for storytelling. Most of her work lives on her blog, www.justjoykendi.co.ke.
HOW SHE STARTED
Joy reminisces about how it all began to where she is now. She tells me that she started working with brands without getting paid and later became the most trusted content creator in Kenya. “I remember the first ever brand I worked with after moving back home from America.” She shares with a big smile on her face. “A few years ago, a local brand in Kenya opened a small shop where they sold high-end good quality make-up that no one had access to buying”. Kendi says “They sent me a few lipsticks and I was so excited to finally be collaborating with big brands – I was not getting paid at the time.”
She started getting paid for her digital creativity in 2016, after 7 years of content creation. “I think because I am from Kenya, I only got noticed by brands at a later stage compared to content creators in South Africa and other countries. I believe content creation became something you could make money off quiet a while ago.”
Joy adds that she had to put her business woman hat on in order to sustain her work relationship with the brands that approached her – she believes in longer business collaborations. “I personally like long-term engagements contracts; I don’t like one ops. I would rather know that I will work with a brand for a year or even 2 years, that allows me to be flexible with my ideas.”
We continue our conversation and Joy mentions the level of exploitation she’s experienced – an issue that many content creators are faced with. She has had brands and some agencies rip her off what she deserved. “I have had to learn the hard way. I used book gigs and only find out at a later stage that a brand paid me so much yet the agency only gave me a few percentages of all the money I was supposed to get – so now I manage my own gigs.”
She does not believe in the term ‘influencer’ but refers to herself as a digital content creator. “I personally hate being called an influencer because the word influencer has been made dirty overtime”, she adds that “there is a lot more to content creation that being called an influencer. We curate, edit, set up meetings, approach brands, conceptualize ideas and execute those ideas – it is a lot of work”, she says, cracking jokes throughout the interview but I am not complaining as she still answers all the relevant questions.
She is evidently hard-wired to make people laugh: bristling with energy, hyper-engaged, determined to be authentic and squeeze every drop out of life. She mentions that making it on social media requires dedication and passion. “You have to take it serious, even though it may look silly sometimes. Social media requires you to be your authentic self, do not change your personality for likes and follows.”
I quickly tap into her future plans for the Joy Kendi brand and she is tight-lipped. “I don’t like to over think the future, as a 31-year-old, I think I have achieved a lot of things I have long dreamed of. My collaboration with Ciroc is one thing I am most proud of, it going strong and am looking forward to adding more brands and to more travelling.”