Popular broadcaster Samantha Musa, aka Misred, is one of the most followed public personalities on social media locally and she does not shy away from using her influence to change society.
Musa (SM) opened up to Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor about her upbringing and what she believes has gone wrong with Zimbabwe. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Greetings, Samantha Musa, otherwise known as Misred. I am going to be using Misred, not Samantha, because the world out there knows you as Misred. Where were you born and where were you educated?
SM: Samantha Musa was born in Harare. Two beautiful human beings, my mother and my father, my dad comes from a financial background, so he is a banker and I think I was born when they were still living in Tafara.
My dad was coming up through the ranks so as he went up, we moved quite a lot.
We were in Tafara when he managed to get a little bit of money and bought his first house in the central business district (CBD).
Back then it was a big achievement going into post-independence, it was a very interesting time for them, where blacks started to acquire assets etc.
We then moved to the CBD, at some point we were living in Warren Park.
I went to several schools because of the movement. I went to Hallingbury, Bindura Primary, Heritage, Speciss, Maputo International, I was literally just moving around.
TN: With that background, over the past years you have created a powerful brand for yourself and you have become what they call an influencer. Your opinions do matter, for a young person like you, how have you done that?
SM: I actually do not know how it happened. It was not like I sat down and I said to myself: Okay this is how it will happen, I will become an influencer at the end of it.
But I just tried to be honest as I tried to do a lot of the things that I did and in turn I think people resonated with my honesty.
It started off like an accident, then it became intentional. So I sat down and I said: How does everyone else do it outside the profession that I am in?
What are the steps I need to take in order for people to start looking at me as a brand?
It did not happen initially according to plan, but somewhere in the middle I decided to be intentional.
TN: To the point around being authentic, being yourself and then being consistent about that, how have you been able to maintain that?
SM: It is actually very hard because like you said, it is an environment where everyone is trying to project this image, which a lot of the times is kind of hard to live up to.
Look at certain individuals and you are like wow they live such a glamorous life, but when you get to learn of the actual stories, it does not really correlate with what you are showing online.
It brought me back to a place where I was like: Do I really want to be that person who projects something that they are not? And that is where it came from.
TN: What would you say are the core principles and values of the brand that you are trying to project?
SM: I think it is vast because I am a mom of two beautiful daughters.
I am a family person first and foremost and then everything else is secondary to me.
A lot of my values come from the fact that I am a mom and there are certain things that I will not do because I am scared that one day my daughters will be like: So what were you doing?
A lot of it is based on the fact that I am a parent.
TN: I have also realised that you have no difficulties with being vulnerable, showing your weaker side, showing and sharing the difficulties that you are going through. Talk to me about that ability to be vulnerable in the public space.
SM: It comes from my vulnerable times because I have a lot of people who have a lot to say and you have people that think they know me.
I take especially my Twitter experience as the worst whereas my Instagram is not as pronounced as my Twitter and Facebook also.
I find it to be like a diary also, I go out and say my truth in the hope that someone else can bring out their truths and maybe share and resonate with the story. It has been hard, people are just cruel.
TN: Talk to me about it, people being hard, what has been the hardest, what has hit you the most and what is painful?
SM: A lot of the times you find someone who just says something.
Sometimes it is just a lie and I have people that I am answerable to apart from the fact that everyone knows in my circles that I am a public figure but I have friends and family who I am accountable to.
So you find these big lies and it does not make any sense but because someone said it online it has to be true, right? So that is their assumption.
I never have an opportunity to defend myself because the minute I start to defend myself people will be like why is she defending herself?
So I have moments that affect my mental health because I am wondering why they are lying and what the end goal is
So I am trying to do something that is different from my generation and yet people are so hell-bent on bringing me down with any lie they can find.
Not because it is true, but because maybe there is a coincidence and they link that.
I even have challenges with my male friends because they will say I cannot be seen in public with you because people will start to assume something and these are some of the things that I face and deal with, that I do not necessarily put across to everyone, but these are the ripple effects of that vulnerability as well.
TN: Do you ever get used to that kind of toxicity? So it hurts all the time?
SM: No, and it hurts all the time and more and more because people do not see me as human anymore.
TN: That is very interesting. So people do not see you as a human being, you are an object to be attacked and criticised. Talk to me about that.
SM: That will make me cry. I remember one time I was saying on my Twitter page, why do you guys find it okay to do this to me and someone said you chose to be a public figure so we will scrutinise you as much as we want and they were open about it.
But at that point I was like, are we here and then it begins to make me ask, do I still want to keep doing this?
Do I want my private life (to be scrutinised) or I just remove myself from the public and go and farm somewhere, away from some of this. It is a lot.
TN: Is quitting the public space an option?
SM: No, because they would have won and I cannot let them win.
TN: You have received a number of accolades. The one that sticks out for me is you being recognised as one of the 100 most influential young people below 40. That must mean a lot to you.
SM: It does. It speaks to the work that I do. It also speaks to what I still need to do and there is quite a lot and people will always argue and ask why is she there as well.
TN: You have a passion for the creative industry, talk to me about that and surfacing new talent and what has been the highlight for you in that space?
SM: I would like to call myself a connector. I connect people and even when I do not actually mention it in public that this is what I did.
I feel that we are in a generation whereby we do not want to share our skills and knowledge and I just thought it was important for me to do that. I gain nothing so I just do it because I am passionate about it.
I studied music as well in high school so that was one of the subjects that I did and I was very passionate about music and anything that is within the creative industry.
Because I have certain pieces of knowledge that I have, which are very basic in the global scheme of things I just decided if I can share, then I will.
I know a couple of people that I have intensively shared knowledge with, your Enzo Ishall and Ishan.
I have conversations on how we can build each other.
It has been an important thing that I needed to do because no one else was doing it.
TN: What is the biggest reward for doing that for you?
SM: I do not think I look for a reward as such because obviously it is not monetary but when you look back at it and say at least one person did better because I was in their lives, that I always look forward to.
My pastor always says that if someone experiences you and they go away the same, then what is the point?
TN: You have created this brand like I said and you now have a number of corporate brands wanting to ride on your brand.
Talk to me about that experience and these brands that have come to embrace who you are and the brand you have become.
SM: I have been very intentional about how I want to be aligned and what kind of brands will be associated with Misred.
It has been good because corporate Zimbabwe is difficult even for you to get money from them.
I have managed to become friends with some very good people and I have established that social capital. It actually does work.
TN: Which brands do you have relationships with at the moment?
SM: I have a lot of brands that I am working with, Old Mutual for their programme called Amazing Voices, Coca-Cola, that has been over the years, NetOne, it has been a really long time working with them, and Zimoco, etc.
TN: What is the exciting part of that association for you?
SM: It opens up the doors to a lot of different people that you may not have access to.
When you are seen working with certain brands, people automatically assume maybe she is good for us as well.
TN: I am struck by the fact that you are the youngest person to be on In Conversation with Trevor. I have been struck by the fact that you are drawn to philanthropy, you are doing a lot of philanthropic projects. What inspires your involvement with philanthropy and which projects are you involved in?
SM: Philanthropy comes in stages for me, different stages of my life with different stories.
When I was younger, I am the first born, so I remember I started my period and I hadn’t done any conversations about it with my mother.
My periods started I think I was 10 years old and I was bleeding and I took my panties off running around the house and I told my house help.
That time, when I started my period, it was like a really big thing for me, but she then pulled me aside because obviously I had brothers.
She said you cannot do that, but then later on in life I started thinking that if I had someone talk to me through that process prior to it happening maybe I could have handled it differently.
Then came an organisation called Girls Are Us, they do quite a lot of work in rural Zimbabwe where they are mobilising sanitary wear for girls, but also they do sexual reproductive health education.
I fell in love with what they were doing. I wanted to do something more not only because there was a gap that needed to be closed in the country, but because of my own story of not knowing how to deal with my body.
It became a conversation that I wanted to have with other little girls who do not have a big sister or aunt or someone who can talk to them about the processes that can happen with our bodies as women.
This is how my first philanthropic endeavour actually started.
The conversation carried on to young people needing to figure out how I could impact young people in different ways and then it got to me to Red Market Sunday, which deals with SMEs (small to medium scale enterprises) and young people specific.
All of these things were necessitated by stories within my life and I thought what if someone gave me a chance?
TN: How is the Red Sunday Market going? I can see there is quite a lot of vibrancy on Sundays, are you opening those opportunities for people. Would you want to share that experience with us.
SM: Red Market Sunday is an initiative, which we started because myself and my team were thinking around how we could help young people and young businesses without breaking the bank for them because obviously when you are starting out sometimes you do not have money for marketing and here I was having conversations with myself and I said how can we elevate conversations online from the toxicity and find a way to get synergies amongst businesses, clients, products and services, buyers and sellers?
We then thought of Red Market Sunday. Red Market Sunday is an online marketing tool whereby you literally post on your Twitter handle as a businessperson who might have a service or product.
I basically retweet to my platform because I have got plus
122 000 followers on Twitter, so I decided to use that same platform to get eyeballs onto people’s products.
In terms of the impressions, I have over a million impressions on those things because it is not about my platform but the minute I retweet they retweet, it is more eyes seeing that and hopefully they get business from it.
TN: This is you extending yourself for the benefit of others.
SM: Because it is great to find beautiful pictures, show nice clothes, but what more can you do for each other?
TN: I have also been following the conversations around the politics and your positioning in our Zimbabwean politics is different and interesting.
What has led you into that space where you are not subscribing to the binary view of Zimbabwean politics that you have to be in Zanu PF or MDC?
You cannot be either to the left or to the right side or the centre. Take us through your thinking as far as that is concerned.
SM: I think we have lost something in the politics.
We have lost the love of Zimbabwe, of being Zimbabwean and I get burnt a lot for that because people do not understand.
In Zimbabwe you have to have been sent by someone from either MDC or Zanu PF.
You cannot just be in the middle and have the Zimbabwean agenda in your heart and that has destroyed us as a people.
In America, you find that they can have the politics of the Trumps and the Democrats. It is very toxic as well.
When it is an American position everyone comes together and no one questions that.
If you kill one of them they are going to come at you guns blazing and we do not have that in Zimbabwe.
If you are not supporting a certain party and something happens to you, you deserve it.
We have really lost our love for Zimbabwe because of the politics and it breaks my heart because I do not want my children to go through the same thing.
I want my children to understand and love being Zimbabwean first and everything else comes after.
I have had back and forth with regard to that and it is unfortunate because people never believe me.
I have been called all sorts of names if I support a certain position or another position, but at the end of the day, I think we need to get back to being Zimbabwean.
TN: How do you think we are making progress in that? What are the challenges of doing that? It is a noble cause of getting us back to being Zimbabwe before anything else. Are we ever going to get there?
SM: Right now we are in the worst place. It is not about the people but the leaders.
They are not trying to unite people and this is the most divided we have been in a very long time and they are very clear on that. No one is putting people first, no one cares that Zimbabweans are suffering, so let us come together and figure it out.
I know Kenya is an interesting example because they chose to say let us put the people first and the politics second, but here we do not have that.
I am sorry to say this so boldly, but I feel like they both do not care.
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