A few weeks ago, a TikTok video of Azziad hit the streets of social media and we all fell in love with her beautiful smile. Azziad is a young, beautiful, bubbly creator with the most natural and infectious smile. She danced to the beat of “Utawezana” by Femi one and Mejja. It didn’t take long for the video to be shared across all platforms, making Azziad an instant sensation.
With almost a quarter-million followers on TikTok and 1.8 million likes, we spoke to Azziad about the role her parents have played in her creative journey, her dreams to go to Hollywood one day and finding a balance between school and social media. Having experienced social media trolling, she shares her experiences and urges people to be nice and share love with all who need it.
Who is Azziad?
My name is Azziad Nasenya. I am a student at Kenya Institute of Mass communication where I am currently pursuing broadcast journalism. I am also an actress and content creator on social media. I am a versatile person; I love to try out new things and seek out different experiences.
Where were you born and how was your childhood?
I was born in Mumias, got raised there until I was in class three. We moved to Nairobi, and I continued with my primary school education. I went to high school in St Claire’s Bungoma county. After high school, I joined journalism school and that is where I am at right now. My childhood was really fun, I miss being playful and not having as many responsibilities as I have now.
When did you discover you had an interest in acting and performing?
I started doing plays when I was in class three. Around the same period, I also used to dance at school, from an early age I have always been interested in the arts and pretty much anything that is creative. In high school, I participated in drama and music festivals. I presented solo verses and performed in plays, sometimes up to the national level.
Between acting, singing and dancing, which is your favourite thing to do?
Acting is without a doubt the thing I enjoy doing most. I feel like through acting I am in a position to express any feelings I might have. For dancing, I just do it for fun, it is acting that I would want to pursue professionally as a career.
Talk to us about social media, which is your favourite platform?
Tiktok is by far my most favourite platform, I actually joined last year, and I have been creating content ever since. Tiktok is mostly about creating videos in a fun way and being an actor, that is what I enjoy the most. I am on other platforms as well, but I am pretty much the same in all of them. I like to always be myself whenever I am on social media so it doesn’t matter where you follow me, I will still give you the same vibe.
Is it easy or hard to constantly have to create content?
I would say both; it is easy and hard at the same time. Some days, ideas will flow effortlessly, and I hardly have to struggle with creating. Other days I might experience a creative block where I can’t seem to put a single clip together. I lip-sync a lot on my videos so sometimes I will just look at what is trending and have a place to start. All in all, it is always fun.
When making the “Utawezana” video, did you have any expectations of it blowing up or was it just another ordinary video?
It was just an ordinary post. Just me doing what I love and enjoy. The night I posted it, lots of people texted me and told me that the video was being posted all over. Some of my videos have gone viral in the past so I didn’t think much about it. The next morning, however, my friends sent me screenshots of how I was trending on twitter, I am hardly on twitter, so it came as a surprise that the video was being shared that widely.
The utawezana video might have received a lot of publicity but it is actually not my most viewed video. In terms of likes and viewership, it is nowhere near some of my other videos on TikTok. In the past, I have hit over 4million views, 3million, whereas the utawezana clip has just a million views.
Millions of people are watching, do you ever feel any pressure?
I hardly feel any pressure, to be honest. I have always been my truest self of social media, so I never strive to become anything other than that. I only create based on how I feel at that moment and the message I want to communicate. I also do not post for the likes, I only do it for fun, to create and interact with my viewers.
With all this viewership, have you received opportunities to progress your career?
Yes definitely, there are a lot of good opportunities that have been presented to us. My management and I are reviewing these opportunities without haste, just trying to decide what is best for me at this time.
How do your parents feel about you being on social media?
My parents are very supportive of me and the creative work I do on social media. They understand me and know that it is God who blessed me with all these wonderful talents. I value their support immensely, and on my side, I try my best to create a good balance between school and social media. Most of my classes are in the evening so that also gives me plenty of time to do my creative work during the day.
Having management helps me a lot to ease the load of work that I have to do. I receive a lot of guidance from my management about contracts and pursuing opportunities. They do all the planning and all I have to do is show up on time.
Take us through the bullying that followed the viral video, how did that make you feel?
The first five hours after my video hit Twitter, the feedback was all positive until one person went to my past and dug up my old pictures from when I finished high school. They started making memes about how I looked and as always, some people were greatly amused by this. This definitely affected me at first because all these people didn’t know me, but they were already throwing me under the bus.
The real test came when my number was leaked on social media and people started calling me. I received thousands of WhatsApp messages; my phone just kept on buzzing the entire time. It was a really crazy time but after all the trolling, some influential people on twitter ran the #IstandWithAzziadChallenge and that was really comforting to know that there are people out there who were really supportive of me.
Did either Mejja or Femi One reach out?
Femi One reached out, said that she wanted to give me a t-shirt, she actually sent me a gift hamper.
How was the experience of working with Flaqo?
It was really nice working with Flaqo, as I said before, I enjoy venturing out into new things. It was actually my first time doing comedy and I liked it. The video with Flaqo took quite long to record and put together. For Tiktok, it takes me a fraction of that time to create and post. I learnt a lot from that collaboration. I hope to do more collaborations with different creators in future. It was fun.
What is next for Azziad?
I intend to continue creating content on TikTok and finish school. In February I landed a leading role in an upcoming show, the show will be for one of the best production houses in Kenya, I am working with my theatre team on a play, so as soon as we resume to normalcy, I will be appearing on the stage. Also, one of the biggest theatre groups in Kenya has asked me to be in one of their shows, I am pretty excited about that. I also have a couple of endorsements that have come through, we will learn more about them with time. I have some work scheduled in Uganda as well, they have shown me so much love and I hope to travel there soon.
What are your dreams?
Once I am done with school, I hope to get a job as a television anchor, it has always been a dream of mine to be on the screen. Ultimately, I would like to go to Hollywood and further my acting career.
Any final thoughts?
People should just learn to be nice. It doesn’t hurt to be kind to the next person. Before you type hurtful things targeting someone you don’t even know, stop and think for a second how it would feel if it was you on the receiving.