Crystal Asige is a multitalented, stunning young woman who studied Film and Theatre in Bristol, UK. She is also a singer, song writer and an amazing performing artist. Though robbed of her eyesight at the age of 14, Crystal’s vision to leave the world better than she found it, still remains. She sits JULIUS R. MWAURA to share her story.
I am…Crystal Asige. Fun loving, beautiful, intelligent and down to earth and a visually impaired person. I studied Film and Theatre in Bristol, U.K and now run my own Consultancy firm called Chemi Chemi Live Ltd. I also have my Youtube Channel called Crystal Asige, currently running a series called Blind Girl Manenos (BGM), which is simply my day to day life with myself, the things around me and Glaucoma.
Glaucoma is… an eye disorder that causes damage to the optic nerve. Part of the reason it is so dangerous is because there are no symptoms during its early stages so by the time you notice problems with your sight, the disease has progressed to the point that irreversible vision loss has occurred and any more additional loss may be difficult to stop. I got depressed because I did not know how to explain to people about it. How do you tell people Hey! So I went to the U.K to study film but now I am coming back home and I can’t see a damn thing.
I got into a dark place, couldn’t understand why God took me to the U.K to study film and theatre (which is a visual art) only to take away my sight. I got out of it… later on when God and I had many conversations and eventually, I got up and made the choice to keep moving. I looked for different opinions all over then later on reapplied for a work visa to the U.K which I got and that is how I started working for the BBC. While at BBC, I learnt a lot. They were really accommodative of my condition. They got me mentors and specialist to train me on different softwares and assistive aids. They also changed the layout of the campus as much as they could and generally made my life easier around the office. They did a lot just for one person and that in itself encouraged me a lot. BBC was the best employer I ever had.
I got the chance to work with Pixar, Disney and Adam Smith International, Media Action in Tanzania and Uganda right after I got home as a Content Producer of their online content through BBC and Viewfinders because they believed in me and in what I could do because they chose to see beyond the Glaucoma.
My experience with Kenya after BBC… was challenging. 50 percent of the time, organisations would call me in for an interview and then later they would just turn me down. I used to leave out the fact that I was Visually Impaired in my CV because it should not matter whether or not I have a disability as long as I can do the work. Most of the times during interviews they’d ask: How will you see the computer screen? How will you get to work? Will you be able to operate the Autocue?
I already knew how to do those things. I have built little gadgets to get me here and there, and I told them as much, but I felt as though their general response was not positive. I feel that we have yet to do much to create awareness on issues around persons with disabilities you know? Kenya is my home and they cannot accept me for who I am. Foreigners can, but not my home? That is just sad. I had so much support while abroad but as soon as I go home…zero!Too bad.
So I found a way to… raise awareness of it all through my Youtube Channel and that is how Blind Girl Manenos (BGM) started. I have been asked to write plays and films about my life
(Laughs). I am thinking about it but I am more inclined to a book…maybe!
Singing has… always been there. Music has always been there. I have been singing ever since I was 2 – 3 years old so music has taken me to parties or church. Even when I was being bullied in school, the only way I could tell my Mum about it was through song.
(Bursts to a song)
“Oh Mu-mmy…Steven beat me.” Even while in the UK, I used to go for open mic sessions and music events. I used to play the piano actually. I have a band we… call ourselves Chemi Chemi. (When they are with me). Separately they are called Burning Bush Jazz. We perform in Mombasa and Nairobi. We were the curtain raisers for Sauti Sol during their event at the White Sands Hotel last December actually.
I have been told… I have a soulful – jazz sound. Anita Baker Billie Holiday, Prince, Michael Jackson those are my guys. I would love to collaborate with. Sauti Sol, Nyota Ndogo, Eric Wainaina. Outside Africa, I would take Sia any day. She is a really great inspiration to me.
Her lyrics are always awesome…inspired. Lauryn Hill as well. Very amazing person, would definitely love to do a song with her.
Chemi Chemi Live LTD is… a consultancy firm where we help governments and non-governmental organizations alike make policies related to disabilities more practical. We help advice places of work on how to become disability-friendly and generally create a good work environment for people with disabilities and their employers. Currently, we are mapping Nairobi City for any and all places that we consider not suitable or unfriendly as far as People With Disabilities are concerned and we will then write and present the report and its recommendations to the Governor of Nairobi and all stakeholders, so that they can work on it and hopefully in tandem with both the BIG 4 AGENDA and the 2030 goals.
My love life is… active (smiling shyly). I have been on lots! Lots of dates. Tinder and all that, but I still prefer the old fashioned way of organically meeting guys. I am not dating someone exclusively though so I am still playing the field.
My guy metre… is all about knowing whether the guy I am with could be THE GUY! You know?
“You have a guy metre”? I ask.
Not really a guy metre just a threshold of sorts that my ideal guy has to get to before anything happens.
“For example?” I persist.
Well, he has to NOT be materialistic. He’s got to know how to spell correctly. I mean that just goes without saying. You would really NOT date a guy because he does not know how to spell? I ask. YES! She answers with finality. It makes me really annoyed! Know how to spell please!
Also the conversation has to be stimulating. I mean we cannot just sit there and look at each other’s’ eyes at least not for me (laughs). So we must have great, stimulating conversations!
Plans on St. Valentine’s Day… none as of yet, but I am open to suggestions.
Being a VIP… is a term used in the UK to refer to Visually Impaired Persons that is surprisingly catching on in Kenya and I am the ambassador. By faith NOT by sight is the slogan.
Life lessons as a VIP thus far….
Compassion, materialism, using your third eye, I have learnt lessons about judgment, focus, distractions, how to listen better, not to compare yourself and about myself as a human being. Now that I am visually impaired I actually feel as though I have less problems, you know?
See no evil and all that. We have a lot of problems because we also look to see what people think of us but that has now sort of become a back burner, an afterthought for me after being legally blind.
We need to… get ourselves more educated as VIPs because there is a sense of entitlement. The world does not owe you anything. Everyone has problems and it comes in all shapes and sizes. We need to pull ourselves up. As far as the whole nation is concerned, we need to change the general mindset; if this does not change then nothing can change. We need to change the National psychology out here and not just in Kenya, but Africa as well. Just because I am a VIP does not mean I am an inspiration. I am not an inspiration…not all the time. Sometimes I am just living my life…you know?
Politics and me…is a definite no no. I would not want to run for office…ever! There’s way too much red tape. And, there already an issue with women and leadership so can you imagine how much more complicated it would be for a woman with a disability? So, No. No thank you. Whatever changes I want to make can and will be made through my usual platforms and in my area of influence not matter how small. A leader does not need an office to lead. The office they hold (if ever) only serves to amplify what already possess within themselves.
Most favourite interview… was with This is Ess on NTV which is my most recent one. Because I got to show the producers, the host-Ess, and her audiences a difference. I blindfolded her, gave her practical challenges and for a minute or two we had fun as she told me how she felt in my world instead of the usual sit down, ask questions about my VIP-ness norm. Like I said I am an action-based person. That was fun.
Most memorable embarrassing moment… was when I was going for a hug from a guy friend of mine but went the wrong way and I ended up kissing him on the mouth. Oh my! It was so awkward man! I was like; Dude! You can see YEAH! I am going for my left. Why can’t you go for yours?! What’s wrong with you? And we just had this awkward laugh and laughed it off then just waved goodbye. Never talked about it ever again.
My superpower… would be to flirt. I don’t think I know how to or it could be because I am a straight shooter through and through but I have never really been able to flirt. It is very sad (laughs).
Advice to… non-disabled people. We’re not different. I’m not special, you’re not special, we’re just…we all just are. My limitations are more visible than yours but we both have limitations basically. The best way to treat someone with disability is to treat them as you would any normal person and just because you’ve met one blind person does not mean you’ve met all blind people. Just because you understand one disabled person does not mean you understand us all. Everyone is individual.
Advice to… VIPs. Life does not consist of the cards you are dealt but how you choose to play them does. So, you are responsible for yourself. Don’t wait for someone to stand up for you, stand up for yourself. A shift can only happen if we all do our part.
Advice to girls like myself… aaaiii! Man, that’s like a whole speech. I can’t just put that in a sentence. But let me try. There’s nothing that you cannot do life is full of possibilities. Perhaps I would as well finish with a quote from Helen Keller which is; one thing that’s worse than being blind is to have sight with no vision. So I’d encourage girls, disabled or not to have vision. First of all it’s good to have a vision and understand who you are and whose you are because those two will help you make good decisions in future.
Advice to the boy child… you are more important than you understand. You more important than you think. You maturing into both sensitive and strong men is so important for females… for women. It’ll be so important for you to know how to be a good husband. It’ll be so important for you to know how to be vulnerable. It’ll be so important to be understanding and kind. Strong but not aggressive; finding that balance, you have no idea how it will help your community, your nation, your son, your daughter… et cetera.