Akili Dada Alumna Sharon Ng’anga is not your typical 21 year old. She’s an up and coming media personality who has managed to navigate the complex and often demanding media space, using her mass media platform to challenge the way young people think and view popular culture. Through her program she critiques trends and fads as well as highlights stories of young people who are doing impactful work across different sectors. We caught up with Sharon to get a glimpse of her day-to-day life, her passions and her vision for the future.
AD: Briefly describe your show (Chartlist) and what you do now?
Sharon: The Chartlist is a music/entertainment show that focuses on educating and informing the audience on trends surrounding the youth, their origin and consequences while entertaining the audience to keep them engaged. It airs every day at 5.30pm on TV Cosmopolitan (TVC). On Saturday, I have a youth co-host to highlight their contribution to society in their capacities i.e. if they are musicians/designers/YouTubers/photographers. The guests are usually selected based on their positive impact in society.
AD: What was your motivation to use your show to educate and inform the youth?
Sharon: Media has been my life-long passion. Once I was granted the opportunity to have my own show, I saw a huge platform I could use to trigger the interest of youth to better their lives. In a world where vices are celebrated, I wanted to be that presenter to show that what’s really important is a positive change and impact. Also, the fact that no other entertainment show focuses on education – I saw an opportunity gap to fill.
AD: What makes you get up in the morning?
Sharon: Every single tweet and message a fan or viewer sends me. At the beginning, I concentrated a lot on how I looked, talked and the content of the show but as time progressed I realized that it wasn’t about me or the special effects. It’s all about those few youth who shift their mindset and are inspired to challenge themselves to do more.
AD: You still want to pursue your education – why is that very important for you?
Sharon: Currently, I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in Economics and Statistics at the University of Nairobi. Totally different from media, but in time I would like to pursue a degree in Journalism because I feel that no one should be content with themselves if they have the opportunity to further themselves in life. I want to learn more around the world in order to understand more issues facing different communities. My education will also help better my scope of topics and how I tackle them in order to help my audiences.
AD: How have the mentorship relationships you have built helped you navigate the media world?
Sharon: I have had the opportunity of being mentored by a range of amazing personalities, especially in the media industry, which has helped to give me clarity on what the media industry entails and whether it is truly my passion.
Aside from that, my mentors have guided me on the values I should keep close to me such as hard work, lots of research, patience, humility, perseverance… among many more that I practice daily in order to have a great show. It is also mandatory that I interact with a lot of people across all types of backgrounds – the mentorship helped me to understand how to carry myself in the office and interact with different personalities.
Most importantly, the early nurturing I received triggered my interest in something worthwhile that I could preoccupy my mind with and research rather than partying and engaging in self-destructive behavior most teenagers engage in. My mentors really encouraged me to go after my dreams and to be outstanding in every project I undertook.
AD: What are the challenges you face as a young woman in the media?
Sharon: First of all, being very young in the industry and female is extremely challenging. Most people do not take me seriously as they stereotype me to be just like any other teenager who is only interested in hanging out with friends and partying or just doesn’t understand ‘grown-up’ issues. I’m normally able to counteract that by doing my research well, reading widely and not giving into the stereotypes.
The other issue is very old men making advances at me which I believe every woman faces in whatever field they are in. Some go even to the extent of threatening you if you do not give in to their advances, but I would like all girls to know that they have a choice and should not allow themselves to be coerced into such relations. Uphold your values and work hard because your big break will come through at the right time.
Men are extremely aggressive when it comes to taking up opportunities, so I always have to be at my best and whenever intimidated, I fake the courage because the world will not stop rotating just to wait for you to get ready. Grab every chance you are granted.
AD: What are your values? And why do they matter to you?
Sharon: Hard and smart work, resilience, humility and passion.
I believe that everyone should have a cause they are working towards. Mine revolves around empowering the youth and the girl child while providing education and equality to serve my purpose and cause. I build each day through the immense love and passion I have for both and believe I would not be able to if I did not take keen interest in them. Put this together with lots of hours of research while networking smartly to build a community that will help me make the world better and you have an unstoppable lady. I might face lot of challenges but I have had to grow a thick skin in order to push on and realize my dreams and I always keep in mind where I have come from. I never let the opened doors get to my head because I am no better than others out there.
AD: What’s the one thing you want to be known for?
Sharon: I want to be a gateway of opportunities for young girls and boys, who just like me, come from difficult backgrounds, but have dreams to better themselves, their families and communities at large. Be it through my education segments, mentorship or just doing the extraordinary in my field of career and daily life.