Youla Nzale, Citizen TV sign language interpreter, says she developed interest in sign language while still young. Photo / Courtesy

Little known TV girl Youla Nzale is multi-talented. At the 2019 devolution conference in Kirinyaga, she marveled Kenyans by how she knit President Kenyatta’s emotional speech into sign language. The Citizen TV prime time sign language interpreter loves not just any job but that which involves the active use of her hands.

After becoming an internet sensation in her skillful and emotional decoding of the President’s speech, she went underground saying she fears publicity. Business Today’s several weeks of attempts had her open up to an interview.

Youla admits that she never expected that the Kenyan social media masses would turn away from the President’s speech to discuss what she was passionately doing to help the deaf get the message.  “Sign language is nearly a simulation of when you are trying to make a child know or learn something new,” she says. “You make sure they understand well.”

She has been endeared to sign language ever since her childhood days. Youla says she learned signing from her neighbour’s isolated daughter who had hearing impairment. She later took a certificate course at the University of Nairobi to further master the art, never imagining it would turn into a profession.

Her plan was to learn sign language and use it to serve at a Nairobi church where all sermons are in sign language.

“I developed the desire to learn proper sign language as a young girl,” she says. “Our neighbour’s daughter in Mombasa was deaf. She had no one to play and interact with. I started spending time and playing with her since she had no friends.”

Youla Nzale runs a fashion business on the side.
Youla Nzale runs a fashion business on the side and produces wedding outfits like these above. Photo / Courtesy

That girl is the reason Youla loves signing. “I started learning from her and always wanted to be trained on sign language. I challenged myself to immediately study sign language after high school so that I’d also serve in church as well.”

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Away from her job, Youla is a self-made fashion designer who is cashing in on the skills she acquired from hours of watching and practising teachings in numerous YouTube channels. A year ago, she founded Rafiki Vaa and set up social media pages on which she markets her marchandise.

During her free time, Youla delves into cloth-making. Most of her clients, she says “make orders from referrals while a good number seek to buy from the posts on Rafiki Vaa Facebook and Instagram pages.”

This month, Rafiki Vaa opened the first physical store at Jericho market, along Jogoo Road and hopes to have another one in town at the end of the year.

Her best designs are mostly wedding gowns and outfits for such ceremonies. Her handmade wedding gowns go  for between Ksh35,000-60,000 depending on her client’s custom needs. “It takes me roughly a month to make a simple design of a wedding gown. I later sell them for at least Ksh35,000 but this varies from depending on the design.”

Cloth making is mostly part-time as she balances between the business and her role at on TV where she is a sign language interpreter for prime time news.

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