The African media and entertainment landscape has seen significant changes over the past couple of years. We’ve witnessed the accomplishments of African influential female voices in the industry who have not only shattered the glass ceiling but paved the way for other women to pursue their dreams against all odds.
One individual that has mastered the art of consistency and is determined to see all her dreams unfold, is Ugandan TV host, businesswoman, entertainer, influencer and model, Sheilah Gashumba.
Sheilah was literally raised on television, having graced the screens at the tender age of 10 as a news anchor and reporter for a kiddie’s news show, growing into the industry throughout her teenage years as a brand ambassador for various brands, covering prestigious events – including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which was presided over by The Queen of England, in Kampala, Uganda. Today, Sheila continues to reach commendable milestones in the industry.
She was recently in South Africa to shoot a brand-new TV show that will grace our screens soon. We got in conversation with the media personality about her life in the limelight, being raised by an influential social entrepreneur and human rights activist and venturing into business.
This is how the conversation went…
Q. Before we delve into this conversation, there’s always an interesting story parents share about how you were named. How did the name Sheilah Gashumba come about? Is it your birth name?
My original name is Sheilaheart Carol Nyinabashumba, but when I joined TV at the age of 10, I had to cut my name short because it was too long for TV, so I adopted my dad’s name Gashumba and made it Sheilah Carol Gashumba.
Q. I understand you are originally from Rwanda. How did you end up living and building your career in Uganda?
Yes, my origins are from Rwanda, but because of the genocide, my great grandmother, and grandparents were forced to move and settle in Uganda. Thus, me being born and raised in Uganda.
Q. One area of the African upbringing that we are still grappling with is the presence of the father figure in a girl child’s life. You were raised by your father, and you talk a lot about the role he played in your upbringing and career. What impact has your relationship with him made in building the Sheilah Gashumba we know today?
Oh yes! My father raised me from the age of 8, and he gave me the entire world from going to the best international schools, to dropping me to all my TV gigs from the age of 10 years. He also affirmed me with daily inspiration and motivation. I would not be SHEILAH GASHUMBA if it weren’t for him. He believed in me before I was even mature enough to understand the kind of space I was in, and he always pushed me to be the best; that’s why failing isn’t an option in my life, and up until today, he is one call away.
Q. You started out in the entertainment industry through television. What was that journey like and why had you taken a break from it?
I started working on TV at the age of 10, reading Kids News on WBS TV. I grew up on tv screens. I loved the challenge and growth, which I enjoyed while working in television despite the low salaries in Uganda for the medium. In 2019 I took a break as I knew no broadcaster valued my skills and expertise as an award-winning presenter. I was bringing so much to the table, and I wasn’t being paid enough for it.
Q. A lot of young women will relate to starting off their dream career with an expectation for growth and earning what they deserve. But unfortunately, especially in the entertainment industry, there’s a lot of exploitation that happens. You’ve been quite vocal about addressing issues of ill-treatment by media organisations. Was this personal to you? What led to this?
I’m very fortunate to come from a financially stable background, but only 5% of people like me are in the East African TV industry. It breaks my heart to see people working passionately and yet receive the equivalence of peanuts as salaries. They want to live a TV presenter’s dream or hope that things will get better. There is nothing as sad as being famous and broke. In this new era, so many people in the media space are well paid, but companies in Uganda still want to exploit talent.
Q. You’ve also been open about your personal life and relationships. How do you handle the pressure that comes with being in the limelight as far as this is concerned? What has been the upside and downside?
I was raised in the public eye on tv since I was ten years old, and my father, Frank Gashumba also a public figure. My life, in one way or another, ends up in the limelight. That’s all I know, and I’m okay with it. I have also made peace with the fact that not everyone loves what you do. The only significant breakdown was that my last relationship that lasted three years took me longer to end because I was afraid of how the public would receive the news.
Q. As someone who loves music (with your favourite being Afrobeat and Amapiano – as mentioned in one of your YouTube videos), you ventured into PR for artists on an international scale. How did this business venture come about?
I’m a music lover, and I worked on the most prominent music tv show NTV THE BEAT, in Uganda. That is how I met my manager, Rosie Motene from Waka Talent Agency. She was the head of production and programming for NTV at the time. I have also covered music awards like BET AWARDS, MTV Base, and Channel O. I discovered many connections in the music business with artists and record labels and artist management, thus starting PR for artists. Travelling a lot also helps me meet different influencers to execute this job.
Q. In the African continent, we’ve started appreciating our craft in the entertainment scene. For example, the Afrobeat genre is a favourite for a lot of people. Do you think there’s a need for more collaborations in the industry in general – from musical platforms to television and radio as well?
Yes, Africa is one, and as Africans, we are so talented. Collaborations will make us more substantial and more robust globally and within Africa, as different countries have different target audiences and are unique in their way.
Q. The influencer marketing scene has also grown rapidly throughout the years. What is your key messaging as an influencer and how do you align your brand partnerships with what you stand for?
As an influencer, I am specific about the brands that I work with. I reject many gigs because they don’t match my brand. I love to influence brands naturally, as that way, it is more organic and relatable.
Q. You were recently in South Africa for a shoot for an upcoming TV show. Can you share a sneak peek of what we can expect?
I filmed for the Honey Channel. A show called HOUSE OF CHEFS with Chef Siba as a judge. The reality show is exhilarating. I enjoyed the drama and watching people compete while doing what they love. In true dramatic style, there were many tears, tension, and fights. Authentic entertainment at its best, I can’t wait for the show.