Caroline Mutuko – Radio fearless queen of radio

Arguably the most influential female media personality of our time, Caroline Mutoko cut her teeth on Capital FM’s Rush Hour before exploding to national fame with her hugely popular The Big Breakfast on Kiss 100 FM. Known for speaking her mind even if her opinions are unpopular, Mutoko was appointed Chair of Kenya Tourist Development Authority in 2012.

Caroline Mutoko has been known as the Queen of Radio for almost two decades. She has used her voice for change, something many thought impossible. She is outspoken and candid about her struggles, which has endeared her to her listeners.

Mutoko’s parents believed in giving their children a good education. The media personality attended Loreto Convent Valley Road for her primary and secondary education. For Mutoko, school was more than just books; it was a launching pad to realising her dreams and potential.

She confesses to being timid and self-conscious as a young girl; nevertheless, she always worked hard.

The University of Nairobi graduate is the first born in a family of four children: her late sister Regina (famous for hosting the ‘Omo Pick a Box’ show on KBC in the 1990s), her sister Lucy and her brother John.

I simply talk about what people are thinking. I start conversations and I share my opinion

After high school, Mutoko got her first job at Kirinyaga Works, an office supplies and stationary business on Baricho Road in Nairobi. Her first job entailed delivering invoices and cheques, answering calls and running errands.

She also did a stint working as a waitress at Trattoria, a well-patronised Italian restaurant in Nairobi’s central business district. She later worked for a magazine publishing house where she learned about the magazine business and worked on her first magazine cover story, and subsequently joined Commercial Bank of Africa as a teller. She worked there for two years before stumbling into radio.

“For four and a half years, I ‘directed traffic’ at Capital FM. I would load music into the system and voice the classified ads. I had dreams to have my own prime time show,” she recalls. The opportunity came when Kiss FM opened its doors to her. “And The Big Breakfast was born,” she says.

Mutoko was a radio sensation for over 12 years and was nicknamed the Queen of Radio. Those who have followed her vibrant career as a radio presenter will have noted that it is no easy road for any woman. She has encountered very opinionated people along the way who say a lot of negative things. How did she survive in this industry? “You have to be steadfast and resilient,” she says. Mutoko urges people to define themselves or people will define them. “When you stop listening to yourself, you will be easily destroyed. I wake up every morning and ask myself: ‘Who am I? How can I be true to what I live for?’” she says.

In 2014, she was appointed Radio Africa’s Chief Operating Officer in charge of all operations – radio, TV (Kiss TV) and print (The Star). After a spectacular run, Mutoko was happy to leave the airwaves behind to make her mark on the corporate scene.

“The industry needs to revamp. I worry sometimes that as media we fail in our mandate. We think that our job is to regurgitate news; agenda setting is our job,” she states, adding that mainstream media is losing out to social media sites like Twitter and to the blogs. “We have lost our power to shape the agenda.” She cannot reiterate enough that for traditional media to survive, it needs to evolve.

Mutoko’s main source of inspiration is her mother. “She is the village girl that had me at 21 years old. Look at how she has raised us! How did she manage without a college education and the opportunities we have now?”

Mutoko’s mother went back to school at the age of 50 and is now the proud holder of a diploma, higher diploma and a degree.

In 2008, Mutoko was feted by the Danish government and awarded the Millennium Torch Award for her contribution towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. But her proudest achievement is adopting Nduku, her daughter.

She has never shied away from venturing into uncharted waters or rocking the boat. “I am not controversial,” she says. “I simply talk about what people are thinking. I start conversations and I share my opinion. People need to face reality. I just give them a boost by opening the gates of dialogue.”

A typical day for Mutoko starts with a prayer and some cuddle time with Nduku before she prepares to leave for work. Her work days – usually filled with meetings – end at 4pm, after which she spends time with her daughter. When she’s in family mode, she doesn’t answer her phone.

“You have one life to live. Plan it on one page. Plan your work diary and home diary. There is no such thing as work-life balance. With multi-tasking, one doesn’t do things well,” Mutoko says. Sometimes, she takes Nduku to work with her so that they can spend more time together. On such days, the nanny comes along as well.

Words of Wisdom

  • “We are here for a reason. Find your reason and add value to the world.”
  • “Learn to take things in your stride. Every situation is teaching you something.”
  • “Listen! Something phenomenal happens when you listen.”
  • “Everything is a journey.”
  • “If you are not enjoying it, don’t do it.”

For leisure, Mutoko likes to read and watch movies and documentaries. She also enjoys a restful sleep and the company of good friends.

To give back to the community, she supports a school in Mathare, paying school fees and buying books for 30 of its pupils. Mutoko also supports the cancer ward at Kenyatta National Hospital. She takes her responsibility to mentor very seriously, and will often be found speaking to young girls in high school and university.

In 2013, she participated as a counsellor in the One Young World Summit organised by One Young World, a UK-based non-governmental organisation that brings together bright young people from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change.

For there to be true meaning and fulfilment in life, Mutoko says, “I believe that you need to be the answer to somebody’s prayer.”

She currently runs a YouTube channel where she speaks candidly about issues affecting the nation.

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