Lupita Nyong’o, mum feted by the Harlem School of Arts
They may share the same last name and DNA, but when it comes to the lion’s share of the fame and fortune, there can only be one and there is no escaping their shadow
Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine
Growing up alongside siblings is tough enough for almost anyone, but have you ever contemplated what it would be like to forever exist in the shadow of a far more famous brother or sister?
It turns out spending an entire life in the covers of a celebrity sibling can give the ‘less known’ siblings feelings of inferiority complex.
One such sibling is Zawadi Nyong’o who has been quoted wanting to escape the long shadow of her younger sister, Holywood actress Lupita’s reputation.
During an interview with a local magazine in February 2017, Zawadi spoke about the irritation she gets whenever she is only accredited to what her sister or family is rather than her own self and her many achievements.
She disclosed that often times she gets irked when people refer to her as ‘Lupita’s sister’. “I am all about sisterhood, but I am my own person.
I cannot live forever being referenced to as someone else’s sister, someone else’s daughter. Then when I get married, someone else’s wife. As a feminist, individuality is important,” she quipped.
Zawadi is just one example of a rarely recognised, but sizable demographic; the adults who feel held back and ignored in favour of famous siblings.
Singer Akothee’s baby sister, Elseba Awuor Kokeyo aka Cebbie_Koks_Nyasego has been trolled several times for riding behind her sister’s fame.
Snide comments such as, “We only know you as Akothee’s sister” are some of the common comments on Cebbie’s comment section.
Yet Cebbie is successful in her own right. For instance, she recently graduated with a masters in International Relations and Diplomacy from Daystar University and is currently pursuing a post graduate diploma in sign language at St Pauls Horizon Sign Language Training Centre.
Other admirable feathers on her cap are; she is a communication and PR strategist and a budding entreprenuer running Virtual21, a public relations, management and consulting firm.
“I wouldn’t really complain about my sister Akothee overshadowing me. In fact it comes with its own merits since I am able to gain favour by virtue of just being Akothee’s sister as opposed to if I was just Cebbie,” she says, adding, “The only negative thing I would say, is that you can easily lose your identity as a person.”
On the international scene, the script is the same, but different cast. American actress and producer and Pretty Woman star Julia Robberts’ younger sister Nancy Motes in 2017 committed suicide after years of struggling to live under Julia Roberts shadow. In her suicide note, Nancy places the blame for her depression squarely on the shoulders of her superstar step-sister. She expressed how much she resented her sister’s success.
James Middleton, the younger sibling of the Duchess of Cambridge, has also recently admitted that it is “frustrating” living in his royal sister’s shadow. The 27-year-old entrepreneur said his achievements have been overshadowed by Kate since she gained her royal status.
In an interview with with The Young Director (TYD) James said, “Yes, it does get frustrating. I work incredibly hard, just like every other person in business and work.
And aside from the fact of, yes, I am the brother of someone very important, I am, at the end of the day, just James,” he ranted.
Artist and executive producer of Naaman music entertainment, D-Rush Naaman does not only come from the oldest and most respected music family in Mombasa (famous professor Naaman family), but his elder brother Musa Babaz is also one of the biggest music promoters in Mombasa and Tanzania. But D-Rush has vowed not to let his late father or elder brother fame distract him.
“Music has always been in my blood. It has got nothing to do with my father’s fame or what my brother is doing. My father was famous in his own time and I have had my own journey and I work hard to become successful through my own studio and label,” he says.
He, however, has encountered fans asking him why he hasn’t taken advantage of his brother’s fame to grow himself. “I always tell them ‘mtegemea cha nduguye hufa hali maskini’. I do not plan to ride on what he has built for himself.” he says.
Grace Olela, a counselling psychologist in Nairobi says just because a sibling is not a household name doesn’t always mean that they don’t live accomplished professional lives.
“Most of the time, siblings tend to develop different interests as though they don’t want to compete with an older brother or sister,” she says.
She describes the situation as an almost natural pecking order where the older child exercises more authority, so younger children tend to choose different interests because they choose to be treated as individuals.
On the flipside, some celebrities have confessed to grapple with their less famous sibling’s jealousy, insecurity, fear, pressure to the point of guilt for being the famous one in the family.
Like in Julia Roberts case, her sister’s suicide raised worldwide concern on what really should be the role of a successful individual to his or her family members.
Grace explains that when siblings of a famous person have esteem issues and feel less important, it can result in severe family dysfunction and personal issues. At times the star sibling becomes blackmailed for being the reason the whole family is in the spotlight.
“At other times the other siblings become depressed, angry, drug dependent, or destructive in order to gain attention and sabotage the fame of the star sibling,” she offers.
Family counsellor, Raymond Mwaura notes that family as a system is a unit meant to maintain functionality and controls. Therefore, one family member’s success is often given more value compared to the rest of the family members.
“Any malfunction of an individual in the family set-up affects all; this is the same with success. So, if one person in a family is a celebrity everyone identifies with them so as to gain approval and acceptability and favour,” he says.
He says being a celebrity sibling also comes with its own responsibilities.
Some people use their sibling’s famous status to grow and promote themselves like former United States President Barrack Obama’s sister Auma Obama did, while others use it to communicate their grievances like Malik Obama did to handle his famous brother’s fame,” explains Mwaura.