EXCLUSIVE! Classic 105’s MAINA KAGENI finally comes out: I am GAY
In an exclusive interview with Identity Kenya, Kageni, who hosts the Maina In The Morning show on Classic 105 FM said he came out to allay rumors that have plagued him for years.
‘It is a decision I have thought about through and through; but I think there comes a time when a man has to face the truth and let people know who he really is; I cannot continue living a lie,’ he said.
Kageni, who said he knew he was gay since his teenage years, said that he was forced to remain in the closet due to the nature of his work in the media fraternity.
‘Its not easy being openly gay when you are in the media. I have had stints on both radio and TV but none of them would allow one to be openly gay. I had to hide it because I feared I might lose my job.’
Kageni, together with his co-host, Mwalimu Kingangi (Daniel Ndambuki) are the most tuned in radio hosts in the country, according to surveys.
Maina has for years been rumored to be gay. Adding to speculation of Kageni’s sexuality is his supposed wealth and high rolling life.
Despite being well known and having business interests that have made him one of the highest paid media personalities, Maina has not been seen often with a woman or is not known to be married or dating anyone.
A few months ago, Pulse Magazine published a photo of him kissing a woman at an exclusive function. The photo caused a buzz as most thought Maina had finally gotten married.
Reacting to this, Maina says he received many phone calls asking if he finally got hitched. ‘I am not married. I love and respect women but the person I marry will be a man.’
Adding to this was a photo of Maina allegedly in a close embrace with another man (wearing a vest) that went viral on social media.
The photo showed Maina hugging the man while seated.
‘That was a close friend who we have shared and gone through many tough times,’ he clarified. He said the photo was taken while the two were in Zanzibar for Christmas holidays.
During last year’s Gay and Lesbian Awards of Kenya (KeGALA), a daily newspaper mentioned that Maina had been nominated and won an award at the event. Maina denies this.
‘I think they expected me to be there. The headlines read that a well known media personality who has been battling gay rumors was present. But I was not. I appreciate the efforts of the organizers to be bold and to recognize the work of activists.’
Reports carried then alleged that Maina attended the event and was awarded.
Maina’s coming out can only be described as ‘surprising’ like CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s revelation he was gay last year.
Cooper, a famed CNN anchor and reporter, too, battled years of rumors he was gay. He neither denied nor confirmed them but in a letter, he came out as gay.
Cooper said that “being gay is a blessing” and he “couldn’t be more proud” of his sexuality, at the time of his coming out.
“I’ve always known I was gay from the time I was a little kid,” Cooper, who came out in an email to journalist Andrew Sullivan last year, recalled.
“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of it, even before I knew what it was or the name of it.”
Cooper was honored by GLAAD this month with a gay media watchdog’s top honors in recognition of his stature and accomplishment as an openly gay journalist. Singer Madonna presented Cooper with the award.
Cooper is currently in a relationship with Ben Maisani, who flanked him during his awarding. They are both photographed going for trips, shopping or riding bicycles through the streets of New York.
Maina once talked about the ‘gay question’ with former Capital Talk show host, Jeff Koinange. In the aired interview on K24, Koinange asked Maina if he was gay.
‘He actually did not ask me if I was gay outrightly but what I thought of all the rumors saying I was.
I could not come to myself to tell him because once, the question was a complete surprise and two, I could just not come out on national TV,’ said Maina.
Kageni, who was once rumored to be dating sultry KTN presenter, Ann Kiguta, hopes that his decision to come out will help in accepting gay media personalities in Kenya’s media circles.
‘I have gay friends many who are on TV and radio but who cannot come out,’ he said. ‘The environment is not yet accepting but many live with rumors of being gay. Others prefer to be anonymous and date secretly.’
Maina said he has attended a few gay parties but out of fear of being recognized – or worse, photographed – he always wore a cap or did not mingle much. ‘It was a necessary precaution because you do not know the kind of crowd you expect and who may take advantage of you.’
At the moment, Maina confesses he has been seeing someone though he has had a few relationships in the past.
‘It is not easy dating for someone like me. I cannot bring my partner to work or office fun days. One of my boyfriend was so ecstatic he told all his friends some of whom shared this to other parties and being closeted, I was afraid that this would kill my career.’
He said that as a public person, he was forced to drop some of his social events, or not go with any of his boyfriend since paparazzi will be there. He has had several close shaves with the paparazzi, he shared.
‘I go to most gigs alone or in the company of other musicians or presenters we are friends with. I am usually afraid of showing up with a man or even get close. I keep displays of affection strictly off.’
Maina’s controversial morning show,Maina In The Morning, has had its fair share of praise and criticism for tackling subjects others would hardly touch or speak of openly.
He has been accused of ‘breaking marriages’ for his discussing topics such as extra marital affairs, infidelity on live radio.
The criticism was dealt with fellow host, Caroline Mutoko (KISS 100) who supported Maina saying ‘The comments I see by and large are “Maina is breaking up people’s marriages.” Really? He clearly has touched a raw nerve. No one claims these people are lying, I think the days we tried to pretend he was making up the calls are long gone.’
‘All that’s left is an uncomfortable realization that the truth is ugly and uncomfortable to deal with,’ Mutoko added.
‘I think by talking about these issues, people can then deal with them. Most of those who call in are people in distress and want to share their stories. Of course, sometimes some callers may share very sensitive information, but the fact they opened up shows they want help,’ Maina said.
Asked about how he felt the general public will view his coming out, Maina said he hopes that ‘nothing changes.’
‘I know I have taken a huge risk by coming out but I look at it this way. It will help many others – especially those in media – to deal with their sexuality. Secondly, I think nothing changes much. People will still tune in to my show and contribute. My sexuality does not make me any lesser a radio presenter or a person.’
His co-host and funny man, Mwalimu Kingangi, congratulated Maina on his coming out saying, ‘I think it’s the best decision for him and we can finally settle all those rumors. It was tough for him working where he could not be himself. I will continue to show him support and I wish him the best.’
Caroline Mutoko, speaking to Identity Kenya on phone, said she was ‘excited’ for Maina. ‘I always knew he was gay but it was something we never talked openly about. I have had to defend him off and on air over the rumors because he is a friend and someone I care about. It’s a great step to take for him and I am sure Kenyans will appreciate him for this.’
Maina is expected to ‘come out’ on radio tomorrow morning (April 2) on his show. He will make the announcement briefly before tackling the day’s topic.
‘As I said nothing changes for now. I will continue to host and write as I do and organize events. I think that people knowing I am gay will actually be beneficial since they won’t have to act uncomfortable around me.’
He expects his show’s rating to rise – despite the announcement – allaying fears that his announcement will kill his morning show.
According to reports last year, Kageni will leave the radio station this year after 12 years.
He is said to have revealed on air that he will be leaving Classic 105 in June this year for retirement.
‘I will be focusing on my business interests and other media works I have been doing. I will also focus on my relationship.’
Maina is a columnist with Nation Media Group (NMG) sports newspaper, SportON.
‘I am a huge sports fan especially English football and a chance for me to write on football, is a lifelong dream I had.’
The magazine is published every Monday and Friday.
Identity Kenya’s Editor, Denis Nzioka, congratulated Maina on his decision and said it was mature and most appropriate especially as the LGBTI community wanted mentors who can be role models.
‘I believe Maina is well-rounded figure and I know he is a good role model. I just wish he finds happiness as an openly gay man. I think we have never had any public or well-known figure come out as gay and I think for Maina to take this step is not only extraordinary but has injected new blood into our fight for acceptance and to create awareness on gay people.’
Maina said he had no plans to wed soon in the US (he has several businesses there and travels often to Miami) but it’s an option he would be willing to undertake once he is sure