This week on UKZD 60 Seconds, UKZAMBIANS had a chat with the first ever winner of Big Brother Africa, CHERISE MAKUBALE , currently in London. She won US $100,000 few years ago. Here we find out what has happened to her life ever since. She tells it for the first time in her own words.
UKZAMBIANS: How has your life changed since winning Big Brother Africa?
CHERISE: My life has definitely changed. Apart from winning the money, I went from a small town girl always walking around the Copperbelt with a brown envelope looking for work to an instant celebrity where even a two year old child was screaming my name. It has really been a blessing from God. Doors that would otherwise be closed were suddenly opened.
UKZAMBIANS: Have you progressed in your professional/celebrity life since Big Brother Africa?
HERISE: Professionally not much. Last year, I decided to take myself back to school now that I am not as busy as I used to be. I intend to complete my studies because I believe education is very important in life. As a celebrity, I can say that it has been a rough ride at times but very exciting and world class at other times and I believe I have learned much more about being a celebrity now than before. It was a very new field for me and a total contrast to my former life, but I am now at a comfortable stage in both my career and profession. It is all about determination and perseverance no matter what comes your way.
UKZAMBIANS: Has the way people treat you changed since winning Big Brother Africa and how?
CHERISE: When I won some of my friends decided that I was too big in status for them and would often get surprised when I give them a call. Some tried to take advantage by asking for money and then biting me in the back. I was shocked at the amount of jealousy that some showed and others even stopped talking to me. One of my protocol advisers just told me to expect some of these things – it is the so called ‘price of fame’ that comes with being a celebrity. There were times when I had to put my foot down otherwise I would have been used. This upset most of my friends even more but at least my true friends remained loyal to me and I to them till this day. Most of the public just saw me as a money basket and the letters started pouring in asking for money. Others just thought of me as someone who sits next to Mandela and they can't approach me (Ha! Ha!).
UKZAMBIANS: What charitable work have you been involved after winning Big Brother Africa?
CHERISE: After winning, I was involved in a lot of charity work all over Africa, especially spreading awareness on HIV/AIDS, sometimes through UNICEF. In Zambia, I made donations to several orphanages and helped fundraise money for a disabled Skills Centre in Chipata, which is now called the CHERISE MAKUBALE RESOURCE CENTRE FOR THE DISABLED. After a while, I decided that I should build something of my own. That is when I decided to focus on children and came up with an educational park – THE CHERISE KIDS PARK. I must say it has been a long rough road to build my Park, but after two years we finally launched the Park this year and it will be fully operational in the next six months. It is an educational park providing awareness to children on HIV/AIDS, Road Safety, Malaria, child abuse and environmental issues in a Park, with a friendly environment, where studies show that children are more receptive. Once fully operational, The Cherise Kids Park will have a Resource Centre for workshops and the running of the programs mentioned above, a mini basketball court, a paddling pool, a road circuit and the usual play things for children to have fun.
UKZAMBIANS: Do you intend to build your career in Zambia or to move abroad and why?
CHERISE: At the moment my projects are in Zambia. Once those are fully established, I will decide what to do because my family is in the UK and they want me to settle here. However, the only thing I can say for sure is that when I go back to Zambia I will need to stay there for at least three years and then after that I will decide which direction to go.
UKZAMBIANS: Where should we expect to see Cherise in 5 years’ time?
CHERISE: In five years’ time I see myself successfully running my project and one more business oriented project as opposed to charity, married and possibly a mother of two!
UKZAMBIANS: Are you in a relationship?
CHERISE: Yes, I have met a wonderful English guy here and we have been together for a few months. now.
UKZAMBIANS: What are your future plans?
HERISE: To open up more children based facilities around Zambia. Children don't have many accesible places to go to in Zambia. I am also interested in property development (buying and selling), which I have a little bit of already, especially now with the knowledge I have gained from being in the UK.
UKZAMBIANS: What is your message to young people in Zambia
CHERISE: Just that if you want something, just get up and do it – do not wait for manna to drop from heaven. God helps those who help themselves. It is also about time we as young people become more proactive and creative, and had the initiative and drive to do things – we shouldn't let time pass us by. We should all jump on the action band wagon as it is not going to stop for anyone.
UKZAMBIANS: What message do you have for readers of UKZAMBIANS?
CHERISE: To the readers of UKZAMBIANS, I will just say please support your fellow Zambians in their initiatives and don't hesitate to pass on ideas to people living back home. A simple idea can make a very big difference.
Interviewed by Justina Mutale