Born Bernard Kamulu, Bena Wa Malines is a name that has taken the Kenyan internet by storm. He has become a household name with over 7 million views and 3 million likes on TikTok.
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His videos, inspired by daily interactions, have left Kenyans in stitches.
Bena is the eldest son of a family of seven children. He attended Muhoho High School in Gatundu and is pursuing a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at Mount Kenya University.
In an interview with this writer, however, Bena revealed that his journey to becoming a successful content creator was challenging.
Bena discovered his passion for acting in primary school after he performed a narrative. He realized that art was his calling and decided to pursue it further.
He disclosed that he started performing comedy while he was still in high school, although he did not take it seriously.
"My journey in comedy started way back in high school but was not as serious as it is now," he said.
Before his rise on TikTok, Bena worked as a matatu conductor to earn a living. However, his vision for creating authentic content and everyday life experience motivated him to pursue his passion.
“Life before TikTok was so hard. Nilikuwa nafanya kazi kwa matatu kama conductor coz hiyo time nilikuwa nimekosa fee kidogo nikarudi home.
"(Life before TikTok was so hard. I worked as a tout in a matatu while I was home due to lack of school fees)," he said.
His famous name Bena Wa Malines was inspired by the raps and poetry he did in 2019. He, however, said that the name was a transition from Bena wa Mistari, which he dropped because he wanted to maintain originality.
“Back in 2019 niilikuwa nafanya poetry na rap. Nilikua najiita Bena wa Mistari but nikaona niifanye kizungu kidogo coz kulikuwa na Kevo wa Mistari.
"(Back in 2019, I was a rapper and poet. I grew up calling myself Bena wa Mistari, but I decided to make it a little whiter for authenticity and also because there was Kevo wa Mistari in the industry)," Bena said.
Breakthrough on TikTok
The 22-year-old comedian became famous in 2022 when one of his funny videos went viral.
Bena said this was the first video uploaded on his official TikTok account. He disclosed that his initial content was uploaded on someone else's account since he did not have a platform then.
“Nilianza kufanya Tik Tok last year kitu June, after ile video ya unanikunja njuu why iliblow. Lakini hapo mbeleni kulikuwa na ile ya usinishike mapanja.
“Hiyo ndio ilikua ya kwanza kublow but sasa hikua kwa account yangu. Ilikua tu kwa account ya msee random alipost ikatrend.
“(I started doing comedy last year around June, after one video, unanikunja njuu why blew online. It was the first one to blow and it was not even in my account),” he stated.
After seeing the comments on the video, he felt motivated to create his channel and give his fans more doses of comedy.
"I went through the comments za huyo msee alinipost nikaona wasee wanasema huyu msee anafaa afungue channel yake. So ndio nikaona nifungue yangu kujibu hizo maswali.
"(I went through the comments on that video and saw people asking several questions, including why I had not put up my channel. So, I decided to put up one to answer those questions)," he said.
Bena says his mimicry of a Kamba accent has made him stand out from other content creators in Kenya. His signature skinny look, red bandana, and vest have also contributed to his recognition.
His famous quotes, "Ukipata chance ya kutesa, tesa", "Life is short" and "Pulaia maisa mehn", has resonated with his fans.
TikTok Influencer of the Year Award
In October 15, 2022, Bena Wa Malines scooped the TikTok Influencer of the Year Award at Pulse Influencer Awards 2022.
According to him, the award has motivated him to move further in his content creation to win other more prominent recognition in the industry.
"Nilifeel fiti. At least iliniprove uko do kitu una do na uipende na uipush with consistency, uniqueness na creativity inaeza pay na pia inaeza award.
"Sasa inanimotivate na aim for higher… by next year nafaa kuwa na a bigger award na pia nafaa kuwa nimereach higher level.
(I felt nice. At least it proved to me that if you are good at something and you love it, and put it up with consistency, uniqueness and creativity, it pays and also awards... by next year, I should have a more prominent award, and I should also have reached a higher level)," Bena stated.
Moreover, Bena revealed that the platform has opened up some deals. He has started receiving calls from several potential clients, which shows his growing popularity.
Bena's long-term projection is to open his own production company.
He believes in being diverse and not limiting himself to being a comedian or content creator. He aims to create more extended skits that can be included in theatre or other platforms.
For Bena, teamwork is everything! He credits his team's support and believes content creators need help to do everything.
He aims to spread laughter and positivity, reminding people to enjoy life and make others happy.
Bena Wa Malines inspires many Kenyans, proving that one can pursue their passion regardless of background.
With his talent and determination, there is no doubt that he will continue to captivate his audience and spread joy across Kenya.
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