Moreen Naibei was in nursery school and living with her family in Huruma estate, Nairobi, when her journey to stardom started.
It was in 1995 and a neighbour and family friend Kibwana Onguso, who happened to be a television producer, was looking for a child actor to audition for a role in a TV show whose script was in progress.
As it turned out, the confident girl was the perfect choice for the show.
Naibei made her TV debut on the show Tausi as Lindi, a sweet girl who loses her parents and ends up living with her aunt, Rhoda, who soon morphs into a monster. She turns Lindi’s life into a hellish experience.
Finding her circumstances unbearable, Lindi flees home and finds refuge on the streets. She is adopted by a street gang led by a charismatic figure named Master Sugu.
Until Naibei got onto the scene, there had not been a child actor with an established role on local television. Viewers immediately identified with the character she played, after being incensed by Auntie Rhoda’s cruelty.
They were impressed by the young girl’s on-screen presence.
“It was fun, and a little scary. I was very young,” said Naibei, now in her late twenties and living in Mombasa, where she has been based for the last 10 years.
She is the Coast regional manager in charge of licensing for the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK).
“The last time I gave a public interview was in 2006,” said Naibei.
After Tausi wrapped up in 2000, having done a successful five-year run during which it became the most watched show on national television, the cast moved on to other shows and pursuits.
For a brief period, Naibei acted in Kisulisuli, a TV show that aired on KBC TV. She, however, quit acting after she joined high school.
“People still recognised me as Lindi from Tausi,” she said. “But I didn’t want the celebrity status.”
The years after high school were quiet for Naibei. She moved to Mombasa in 2008 and, save for a few people who somehow still recognise her face from the TV days, led a quiet life and worked her way up at the MCSK.
She has bloomed into a gorgeous young woman who values her privacy.
The Internet age was a few years away when Naibei quit acting. Had her acting days coincided with the explosion of the Internet and smartphones, the circumstances would be different.
One only needs to visit the Facebook timelines of, say, Baha of the popular show Machachari or any other actor who grew up in the limelight to understand the scope and demands of fandom.
“There is a lot of talent and the exposure is good,” she said of the glut of child actors today. “One just needs to strike some balance.”
To many people, Naibei will always be Lindi, even as that little girl remains in frozen moments in the Tausi montage and bits of clips on the Internet.
But she might appear on the screen one more time. She has a radio voice and I suggest she might put it to good use.
“We will see,” she said laughing.
Onguso, her old producer, forever ‘Uncle Kibwana’ to Naibei, is working on a script and has in mind a role for the young woman.
“I want her to feature in a prominent role,” said Onguso. “I will be in talks with her about it.”
Onguso is fond of her protégé and the person she has become.
Several members of the Tausi cast have died in the years following the end of the show. Among them is Derrick Amunga, who played Sugu, the leader of the street gang that gave Lindi a home. Amunga died after he was hit by a speeding car near Kinoo on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Though Naibei had not been in constant contact with many of the Tausi actors, Amunga’s death struck hard.
“I learnt about it and I was terribly sad,” she said. “In Tausi, we were not just co-actors. We were a family. I was the youngest actor.”