Lulu Hassan is more than a prime time Swahili news anchor on Citizen TV, Kenya’s most watched TV station.
The multi-talented journalist also has a knack for business, and in an era where multiple income streams have become oh-so important, she represents many Kenyans including those in media who outside of their day jobs pursue various ventures.
Lulu, alongside her husband Rashid Abdallah who is also a Citizen TV anchor, has built a content empire with a catalogue that includes many of Kenya’s top rated TV series. Shows by their production company Jiffy Pictures have been licensed and commissioned by everyone from Royal Media Services (RMS) to DSTV’s Maisha Magic and streaming services.
Imagine if the producers of HBO’s record-breaking Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, also helmed live news bulletins on CNN every day.
Well, that’s the case in Kenya where some of the biggest TV dramas in recent years including Maria, Maza, Huba, Kovu and Zora are written and produced by the couple.
The fanatical following that their shows have drawn, particularly Maria and Zora, exemplify their contribution to Kenya’s TV industry and entertainment in general. To do it all while being known for something else entirely makes the feat even more impressive.
Lulu revealed how she got into media almost by a******t. While on the phone as a receptionist at a Mombasa-based computers shop, a young Lulu Hassan was complemented by a gentleman who complemented her voice and asked her if she ever thought about being on TV or radio.
While they never met, it planted a seed in her mind and 20-year old Lulu ended up applying for a role as a part-time English newscaster at Radio Salaam. She got the gig and enrolled in media school around the same time.
“In one of the papers I saw they were advertising for TV presenters, news anchors and radio presenters, I applied but back then I hadn’t studied journalism (but) I said let me try,” she told Hot 96 in a recent interview.
She later heard of an opportunity at KTN after two Swahili anchors went on maternity leave, applied, and ended up getting the job after a screen test. Her career on TV saw her eventually move to RMS-owned Citizen.
At Citizen, she had a stints hosting highly-rated shows alongside current State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena, a former Citizen TV anchor. Nowadays, she finds herself on-screen alongside her anchor husband Rashid.
The influences from the Coast, where Lulu grew up, are apparent in the shows they have helmed.