Keeping my child star grounded

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 07:00 |

At just 10, SHEILA SHELDON has hobnobbed with the high and mighty, thanks to her fledgling talent as a designer, painter and model. Her mother VIVIAN OTIENO tells us how she helps her daughter handle the celebrity status 

Vivian Otieno was going through her 10-year-old daughter’s social media account, which she manages, when she bumped into a message that left her shell shocked. A son of a prominent politician had sent her daughter, Sheila Sheldon, a direct message, which obviously was intended to make advances at her.

Vivian dealt with her daughter’s admirer head on. “He had inboxed Sheila thinking he was chatting with her and asked her whether she could be her boyfriend. Disturbed, I asked him whether he had a 10-year-old sister and surprisingly he said ‘yes’. I asked him whether he would be happy to hear that his sister was dating at that age and well he  he said ‘no’. He apologised for making advances at her,” recalls Vivian while narrating of some of the incidences she has came face to face with following her daughter rise to fame.

Glitz, glamour and mud

This is one of the challenges that Vivian has to face since her daughter, a painter, designer and model started to shine locally and internationally. Her Instagram page, which is growing by the day, has attracted 116,000 followers.

“She receives all kind of messages in her social media account. You would be surprised there are people who send obscene messages to her. I go through the messages and delete such lewd messages and only show her the positive ones,” she says.

The young artiste rose to fame after painting a portrait of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The photo, which was posted on her Facebook account attracted a lot of followers, with some people tagging State House. 

Some of her notable paintings include portraits of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, former US President Barack Obama, rights activist Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey

But with all the glitz and glamour, there is a downside to all the fame and being in the limelight. “Many times she has received a lot of promises from celebrities and prominent leaders, but they remain just that, promises. Most people reach out to her to get their portraits done. But they don’t pay once the work is done,” she narrates.

 She adds: “They don’t put into considerations that you have bought raw materials such as paint and frames. Or that Sheila has sacrificed her time. Or that we incur travel expenses just to deliver the finished work.” 

To assist her cope with such disappointments, Vivian encourages her child to be strong and also cautions her against being too trusting, something that has sobered her daughter in her young celeb world. “I tell her to cry if she can. But put a brave face in whatever situation. Life has to move on whether people deliver on their promises or not,” she says

Vivian helps Sheila to save her earnings for her future. She made her understand the essence of saving from an early age and the pre-teen is comfortable with that.

Sheila’s father who is a private person is instrumental in shaping his daughter’s future. Apart from providing for the family, he offers financial support and funds her work. The family has set a gallery in their house where they have put various portraits done by their daughter. 

Budding talent

Vivian recalls how she was unaware of her daughter’s budding talent until she received a call from her teacher. “I work as a chief inspector and in 2015 I got a transfer from Malindi to Mombasa. Just before we left, Sheila’s teacher called me and told me about my daughter’s drawing talent. Seeing my disbelief, the teacher took me upstairs and on the wall, there were a lot of things drawn by my then six-year-old daughter. It was unbelievable,” she recalls.

When it comes to balancing her artistic work and education, Sheila has a tough mother who ensures she does her schoolwork during the week and focuses on her talent over the weekends and holidays. 

“She’s smart in school and is always amongst the top three. We always sit down with Sheila every Sunday and plan for the week ahead,” Vivian says.

Recently, Sheila got a modelling contract by ISIS model Africa, an agency in Nigeria. “They loved how she rocks the runaway,” she says.

But with all this celebrity status, Sheila’s parents are keen to ensure that it doesn’t get into her head. “We teach her to understand that she is still a child no matter her achievements. She should interact with other children and not despise anyone,” Vivian says.

From their experience in raising Sheila, Vivian and her husband are more knowledgeable in handling their five-year-old son who has passion for music. 

But since he is still young, Vivian and her husband have left him to grow and develop his talent and also choose the course of his life. 

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