Betty Mutei Kyallo is one of Kenya’s most popular female television journalists with a huge fan base. On Twitter, she has 496,000 followers, 727,000 on Instagram while her Facebook page boasts of 431,495 followers – and counting.
Many are attracted by her outgoing personality but others are believed to be keen on getting the latest on her dramatic and, sometimes, controversy-filled life. Unlike Radio Africa’s Caroline Mutoko, who used to stoke controversy while hosting the morning show at Kiss FM due to her acerbic tongue, Kyallo is seen as more of an attention seeker, or what many would simply call Drama Queen.
Kyallo, who holds a Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication) degree from Daystar University, started her career as an intern at KTN. The car lover later launched Auto World, a Sunday night programme that dealt with everything from car safety tips, to fuel tips, to car servicing. He is now one of KTN’s foremost anchors and hosts and the main feature at KTN News.
However, if fame has followed Kyallo as she rose through the ranks, so has cause célèbre. The latest is her beef with former best friend, Susan Kaittany, with whom they launched Posh Palace Hair Clinic and Spa but later went separate ways after a row, whose cause they are yet to reveal.
So vicious was the split that Kyallo got Kaittany arrested by Kilimani police after she refused to return her passport upon their return from a trip to Thailand. The two used to tour exotic destinations across the world together when they were extremely good friends.
Last Thursday, she opened her own salon, Flair by Betty, just opposite Posh Palace but generated fresh controversy by poaching 25 staffers from Kaittany, forcing her to close for a week and fly out to Singapore and Malaysia to cool off. She has since reopened the salon but with new employees and her fans would be keenly watching how the two compete against each other.
Her decision to snatch Kaittany’s workers irked some earning her the nickname “Petty Betty.”
However, Kyallo’s plunge into controversy first happened when she divorced her husband, NTV Investigative Editor Dennis Okari, six months after exchanging vows at an exclusive wedding ceremony at the Marula Manor in Karen, Nairobi, attended by 150 close friends and family. It caught the imagination of her fans who were also thrilled when the couple went for a “safari desert” honeymoon in Dubai.
Initially, the duo did not explain why their love affair went sour, leading to conclusion one might have cheated on the other. Kyallo has since explained she called off the marriage after Okari failed to show up for their traditional marriage at her parental home and switched off his phone.
“I needed to find out what time their entourage would arrive. But he did not pick up my call. I tried calling him again after an hour and once again it went unanswered,’ she recently told True Love magazine in an interview. “At 3pm, when we tried to call again, all their phones were off. By the time the sun was going down, it was obvious that I had been stood up on my traditional wedding.” She took custody of their daughter after the divorce.
Before then, the cheating tag had stuck especially after she started going out with Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho. Though the relationship started without ceremony, the rumuor mills were rife with stories of how Joho had secured an apartment for her at an upmarket Nairobi suburb and bought her a car. This was accentuated when they posted photos wearing similar shoes.
Last year, she paraded a Renault Megane, which is priced at Ksh4.4 million inclusive of Value Added Tax, sending tongues wagging. Kyallo also owns a Subaru WRX, which she once said is the perfect combination of comfort and speed. “Whenever I need that adrenaline rush, I drive to Mombasa or Narok just to flex my Subaru muscles,” she said in an interview.
Muslim men are allowed to marry up to four wives but during the True Love interview, Kyallo revealed she is no longer an item with the flamboyant governor, partly due to religious differences. “We had a culture clash and a religious clash. I also wanted to be a strong woman; I wanted to make something for myself and my daughter. I wanted to start a business because I am young and energetic. But he wanted someone who was chilled; there was conversation of me quitting my career and just staying at home. We did not see eye to eye on this.” she said.
She is currently single and is not ready to date again, saying leaving a relationship for a second time devastated her. “It was a painful discovery, and I knew it was going to hurt once again, but I had to walk. I left with what was mine and gave him what was his and we parted ways peacefully in December 2016,” she told True Love.
Kyallo says she no longer minds the publicity that has followed her TV career.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all the publicity or being a popular figure, because with the career that I chose,that is the price you pay.
“When I got a job at KTN and even before I went on air, my then managing editor, Katua Nzile, told me, ‘I hope you understand what this means, From now on you’ll not be able to wear slippers and go to the kiosk, you cannot be seen holding a beer bottle, you cannot be rowdy.’ Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all the publicity or being a popular figure, because with the career that I chose,that is the price you pay. It exposes your life a lot. Everything about you is out there,” she said in a separate interview.
“Even if you choose to really hide and live your life privately, sometimes it is not possible. That’s the price of fame. Sometimes you pay that price very harshly but sometimes it works for my brand. I own it. People feel they can connect with me, like they know me and feel warm towards me. It has its negativity but I choose to look at the positive side.”
Kyallo, who once aspired to be a nun but chose journalism instead, was born in 1989 in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County. She attended Olerai Primary School and Uhuru Gardens primary school for her primary education. She later joined Kangundo Girls High school for her secondary education.
She grew up in Ongata Rongai and Kahawa West and was raised by her mum. Even though her parents were separated, her father was still present in her life. She has an elder brother and two younger sisters.
Those who admire Kyallo’s beautiful face do not know that it was once seriously disfigured in an accident that nearly took her life. “While crossing the road from Railway Station to Gill House in Nairobi, on my way to meet up with a friend for lunch, I was hit by a Double M bus. I fell to the ground and I was dragged under. I was a mess,” she says. “I fell on my left side and injured half myself badly. I broke my left elbow and jaw; I fractured my collar bone and four ribs deflated my lungs and half of my face was grazed,” she revealed in a past interview.
“I could not walk, go to the toilet on my own and even do basic stuff. The skin on my face was grazed so badly I had no skin on the left side of my face. My jaw was unstable and when I tried to speak it would move. I was hospitalised for two months,” she added.
Rose from the ashes
The injuries she sustained from the accident were so serious her family were scared how she would react when she saw her face. “For a while, my brother and mother would not let me see my reflection because they knew how I would react. But during the hospitalisation period, one day I was being taken for an X-ray and I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I immediately sunk into depression. I felt like my life was over because I knew I could never be a news anchor,” she recalled .
After undergoing eight surgeries, she, however, finally left the hospital in October 2005. After a while, she returned to school to continue with her studies.