Ever since the first episode dropped on February 23rd, the tag #RHONairobi has been trending not only on the Shomax site but on social media platforms like Twitter and Tik Tok every Thursday. The Real Housewives of Nairobi famously broke the streaming record for the most viewed show on the first day according to the company.
When the first episode of Real Housewives of Nairobi was published it was praised for its quality and very soon those that expected the worst were overrun by an outpouring of positivity. Other Kenyan reality shows like Nairobi Diaries and Eric Omondi’s Wife Materiel have not received as much love and have even earned infamous ‘ratchet’ tags. This word refers to shows that fans find classless because they employ outrageous stunts like nudity, extreme verbal abuse, or violence to stand out. Some fans initially feared that RHON would follow the same path, but they were soon proven wrong. Why then does this show inspire confidence and has a loyal fanbase in just its first season?
Authenticity and Relatability.
Global superstars like the Kardashians or the Brady’s may inspire very little followership in Kenya. They live and operate in spaces that most Kenyan people have never heard of, let alone been to. The cultural understanding of how these characters act in some situations is very limited and based on broad assumptions. However, this all changes when the audience are watching Kenyan and African characters operate in places they have heard of and have a more proper idea of what those places look like. The cultural context of the characters (even the none African ones) is understood. The fact that Sonal and Lisa are able to speak Swahili fluently, having lived in Kenya for so many years, made the viewers feel at home with them.
The show was also able to portray genuine human moments with the cast not afraid to be vulnerable in front of the cameras. We got to witness Minne deal with the death of her father-in-law and Sonal opened up about her mental health struggles and how people have weaponized it against her. Viewers got to see the housewives face relationship, career, business, and family challenges. These are things that every person can relate to.
It goes without saying that if you make local shows, the locals are able to see themselves on screen and feel represented. The world of reality TV is associated with glitz, glamor, and opulence. In a country with a colonial history, our psyche relates these things with whiteness and a form of racial hierarchy. Even at the peak of some international reality TV shows these notions were subconsciously reinforced. However, with this new wave of local reality, we are able to see ourselves in beautiful spaces. These images are powerful because art can also be aspirational. Imagine all the little kids seeing someone like themselves in these spaces and how it makes them dream bigger.
Casting Of Strong Personalities
Six ladies feature on the show and every last one of them has a strong personality. RHON gives us access to the lives of some of the biggest Kenyan stars. Vera Sidika is an accomplished socialite in her own right and so is Minne Kariuki with acting. They had their fanbases before the show started. Sonal Maherali and Susan Kaittany are also well known despite the fact that they exclusively deal with high-end fashion clients.
The showrunners also showed that they want a great cast when they replaced a Dr. Maria with Dr.C (Cathrine). Dr.Maria who was a no-show for most part of the episodes when she was still a cast member. And whilst we cannot know what went on behind the scenes and the reasons behind her exit, from a purely entertainment point of view, we can say the replacement paid off. Dr.C, the owner of Samantha Bridal Magazine-a household publication in matters fashion- was a more present and thoroughly entertaining character. The genius of the show was working with established and accomplished creatives who people wanted to know more about instead of pushing relatively unknown socialites who end up pulling un-classy stunts for shock value and to stand out.
Drama is at the center of the show, and the cast members do not shy away from throwing shade and engaging in conflicts. The Real Housewives of Nairobi promised and delivered an entertaining and exciting show. Minne quickly became a fan favorite when the show started for her witty remarks loaded with sarcasm. This often saw her rub the cast members the wrong way and her battle with Susan was one of the best plot points in the first season. Lisa also earned respect and ridicule in equal measure by going after vast mates in underhanded machiavellian ways. For example, she purposely misspelled Dr.Maria’s name as Dr Maina in a gift to punish her for failing to attend her event. Vera (in)famously hiring donkeys to troll Sonal is also another memorable moment from the season.
The show is produced by Eugene Mbugua’s company D&R Studios. The cinematographer has years of experience and a good working relationship with Showmax Kenya. He has made shows like Concert Nyumbani, Foods of Kenya, Get In the Kitchen, Stori Yangu, and Our Perfect Wedding which have been aired on local stations; NTV KTN and K24. It is worth noting that RHON is not the first reality program he has published on Showmax, as he famously worked on Sol Family, a series on Sauti Sol and their company Sol Generation. The visuals on RHON are crisp and clear, captured perfectly and professionally in a way that is competitive in international markets. This quality does not go unappreciated by viewers, as the series has been praised by some fans from other countries in the continent as being better than its Durban or Abuja counterparts. The team of directors really outdid themselves in shooting outdoor scenes like Lisa’s safari rally event and Susan’s coastal trip.
Lavish Lifestyles & Culture
The show follows a group of influential and successful women who live lavish lifestyles in Nairobi, Kenya. The extravagant lifestyles of the cast members are a significant attraction for viewers. Watching how the characters interact in obvious and subtle ways is also a great way to learn culture and etiquette and to pick up on social cues. Housewives organize various events in different locations. As the show goes on, one notices that depending on the time, place, and objective, certain things are required of the host and visitors. For example, when Vera organizes a party and fails to welcome the other ladies, it becomes a point of contention. Similarly, when Lisa invites the group to watch a safari rally in Machakos, Minne’s and Vera’s fashion choices are scrutinized. These instances show viewers what is acceptable when, where, and why.