Diana Marua, a reality star with a TV program under her belt and now singing, is on the fast track to regional glory. She discusses her hard childhood, being in the spotlight, and how she became Mrs. Bahati.

You’ve probably seen hundreds of photos of Diana Marua in form-fitting gowns, clutching her lover, Gospel singer Bahati, with her head thrown back and a smile for the camera, or playing with her baby, Heaven. Perhaps you’ve just seen her on NTV’s hit show, Being Bahati, which airs every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. The show, which has been airing for nine months and is now in its third season, was nominated for Best TV Show in Kenya at the Kalasha Awards three months after its premiere.

Hundreds of images of Diana Marua in form-fitting gowns, hugging her partner,  singer Bahati, with her head thrown back and a smile for the camera, or playing with her baby, Heaven, are surely familiar to you. Maybe you’ve seen her on NTV’s popular show, Being Bahati, which airs every Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Three months after its premiere, the show, which has been airing for nine months and is now in its third season, was nominated for Best TV Show in Kenya at the Kalasha Awards.

Diana Marua during the launch of her music career.

This forceful but soft-spoken go-getter is hated and loved in equal measure, whether it’s for marrying a younger man, a viral breakup video, coping with a baby mama, or simply being herself. Fans and critics alike have been screaming for her to receive her own show, with half a million followers on Instagram.

‘I’m working on a project.’ I had intended for it to be a vlog, but it now makes more sense to have it shown on a large television network. I’ve been getting a lot of questions regarding marriage, motherhood, and being a wife in front of the world. Between sips of lemonade, she reveals, “I think a program will be the greatest way to attempt and answer these concerns.”

Diana and her husband, Kevin Bahati, have figured out the truth about reality television. With 2.5 million viewers tuning in to their latest viral episode, ‘Diana’s migration to Italy,’ they are unquestionably laying the groundwork for a popular East African reality TV show.

‘We frequently found ourselves included in blogs, so we felt that if our life piqued people’s attention, why not create a reality show?’ she says of their decision to get into television.

Diana is more than her contentious TV character and negotiating bargains to stay on the air. As she takes off her shoes and leans in to answer my queries, I catch a glimpse of her other side. When Diana speaks, you realize your preconceptions about her are just that: preconceptions. She is a chatty, cheerful, and honest woman, not the self-obsessed cruel person that the blogs portray her to be.

‘When people see me on TV, they assume they know who I am. Only 10% of what they know is accurate… Some of what I do or say may appear to be cruel or spiteful, but it’s all scripted,’ she explains.

Diana Marua was born 30 years ago to a Luo father and a Kikuyu mother. Her father worked at a city private hospital, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Her parents met through her mother’s friend’s sister, and they married and settled in Komarock estate, where Diana and her two sisters grew up.

‘It wasn’t fun growing up. I used to be a pretty quiet child. ‘I used to sit in the corners and watch the other kids play,’ Diana recalls.

‘My mother abandoned me when I was six years old. ‘I don’t remember much about her from back then, except that she used to love watching The Bold and the Beautiful soap opera, and I used to plait her hair while she watched it,’ she says thoughtfully as she turns away.

‘I don’t think my mother was ever happy.’ She used to cry and shika tama (be pensive) a lot, I recall. It was a difficult situation at home. My father was a very violent man. I recall one time when he arrived home late and enraged, and began pelting my mother with punches while she was breastfeeding my younger sister. Diana recalls, “When she departed, I was pleased for her.”

When Diana’s mother left, life took a turn for the worst for Diana and her two sisters. Her dictatorial father became enraged with them. ‘When she departed, things got a lot worse.’ Looking back, I believe my father was resentful. If he was having difficulties at work, he would come home and vent his frustrations on us. He was a stickler for detail. I’d be in big trouble if he spotted a grain of rice on the floor or a misaligned picture frame on the wall. He never kept the domestic managers he hired, and by the time I got to upper primary, I had taken over the workload.’

At times, the workload proved to be too much. ‘I was a student at New Light Academy at the time, and upper primary kids were dismissed at 8:00 p.m. I’d rush home, cook, and clean our uniforms before waiting for my father, who normally arrived about 10:00 p.m. I’d serve him, brush his shoes, clean up after myself, and the earliest I’d fall asleep fatigued would be at 11:00 p.m.,’ she continues.

This schedule had an impact on her schoolwork, and she would often arrive at school without having completed her homework, resulting in punishment for the’stick thin’ girl in class. The toughest aspect, according to Diana, was not the workload. It was a thrashing. ‘He used to beat us up so badly that we’d end up with discolored stripes all over our bodies.’ He beats you up like a thief,’ says Anakuchapa.

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