By Trevor Makonyonga
On Zimbabwean social media, there are many socialites who influence trending topics. These socialites attract huge followings and often host programmes on Facebook and Instagram showcasing content which ranges from comedy to life commentaries. One such influencer is Tatenda ‘Tatelicious’ Karigambe, a transgender woman and vibrant influencer coining words like “skweya”, which has been adopted in local slang. All did not start as rosy as it seems now for the Sweden-based celebrity.
The start of her journey
Tatelicious’ journey in the public eye started in 2013 when media broadcast specialist, Nico Abote influencer and Thomas Chizhanje invited her to share her story on their social media platforms. In no time she became a sensation attracting audiences from bigger media houses in Zimbabwe.
In an interview with Bustop TV, Tatelicious said that she has a different destiny from everyone else and that even during negativity, she maintained her loving personality.
“When I came out [as transgender], people were bashing me and quoting Sodom and Gomorrah and saying, ‘in the Bible it is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve;’ those typical clichés people always quote,” she said. “But I know my Bible so well, and it says come as you are, be authentic in front of God, and God will settle everything. People just say you were created as a man so be it, but I say that was not my destiny, I was supposed to be born a man and to change to a woman, that’s why I became Queen Tatelicious from being Tatenda Christopher Karigambe. After that social media exposure in 2013, I went to the print media, I was invited by Newsday and many people came to the interview room wanting to see if really a man can change into a woman wearing dresses. I was then invited by the Sunday Mail, but this time it was not as sweet as the Newsday interview. I was interviewed by a person who is against the LGBTQI community. I thank God for getting me through the interview because he was so timid, and his questions were off, like ‘how do you do it in bed.’ I carried myself well.”
With the media turning an eye to her, in June 2015 she went for an interview with Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa on ZiFM Stereo that would change the trajectory of her life. After that interview, Tatelicious attended a conference hosted by the United Nations which opened doors for her.
“I was then scouted by the United Nations because I am also HIV-positive,” she said. “UNAIDS in South Africa elected me to be one of the key populations representing Zimbabwe at a huge Southern East African conference.”
Scars, coming out, and the embrace of a loving mother
Having faced tough experiences as a child, Tatelicious said that she was the black sheep in her family. She suffered abuses, which left her scarred for life.
“I was abused by my mom’s brother when I was 12, then I was raped by our househelp when I was 14,” she said. “My mom was working as a truck driver and would be away for two to three weeks. I was left alone with siblings who hated me and didn’t even care what was happening to me, so people took advantage of that. They would just say Tatenda ane musikanzwa (Tatenda is mischievous).”
After the misfortunes she went through, her coming out was not a smooth ride. Tatelicious however says her mother deserves an Oscar in the script of the making of the Queen. Her mother stood by her through thick and thin, and this helped her to gain confidence in herself.
“The good thing is, I was raised very loving, secure, intelligent, and strong mother. She worked at UNICEF as a driver, so when you work for the United Nations, you don’t go with the traditional doctrines. My mom was well informed on LGBTQI issues. She was guided by gender specialists at her workplace. She imparted me with confidence; that is why you see that when I am doing my shows, I am not moved by anything. I was trained, well trained to face anything. My mother is the main character in my story. She trained me to appreciate myself, to never underestimate what God bestowed upon my life and to appreciate that I add value to the community.”
Being the Queen of the people
The year was 2015 and the brand, Queen Tatelicious was born. Now she has over 49,700 followers on Instagram and 183,000 on Facebook.
“I only had a handful of followers but now I have a family of followers.”
Tatelicious has earned a reputation for lashing out at people, but she has rebuttals to those seemingly justified assertions. The celebrated socialite said that it is impossible for her to please everyone, hence she only goes for positivity on her platform.
She said, “I lost some friends, yes, but who cares. If they do not believe in who I am, should I go and beg them to stay around? If you do not like me, it is okay, even Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his followers. So, who am I? I am not money. I cannot keep negative vibes around me. I was talking to a fan who said that I should have reached 1 million followers, but the fan had concerns because I block people. Then I said I am not after fake followers, just to say I have a million or 3 million followers, no, I am after authentic and genuine positive driven people who feed on my positive energy, and I feed back on their also positive compensating energy. It is a give and take relationship not to say I entertain people who say ngochani or sisi bhudhi, when they come to my platform, I block them. I don’t tolerate that nonsense.”
Advice to others yet to come out and dreams of being president
Her advice to trans people who are yet to come out is hinged on avoiding drama. She also urged others in the LBGTQI community to further their education. She also paid tribute to those who came before her.
She said, “Be educated; I am so educated. I went to school, I studied, I was a straight A student from Nyahuni to Mazoe Boys School to Glen View High to Watershed College studying music; I am an A student. If you want people to get your attention, be an educated person so that you are on a level of literacy which is good rather than just saying “I am gay”. It doesn’t get attention. Go to school, have your O’ and A’ Levels, go to university. Do not live your life like Tatelicious but be you. You might take inspiration from me but mind you I haven’t even started. I haven’t even sat with people like Oprah or Bill and Melinda Gates or the Obamas, the Clintons, those are part of my bucket list. When I came out, I didn’t have anyone to look up to. These were my own experiences going down, picking myself up, thanks to God. In Zimbabwe there was no one from the LGBTQI community to look up to. It was tough for me. Those who are coming after me at least have a reference that there is Queen Tatelicious. Be educated, be better than me, be a PHD holder, be an entrepreneur, be a businessperson, so that people can respect you. People stay on my platforms because I entertain them, teach about HIV and AIDS issues like adherence and treatment. Have something to give to the community. Above all. I am a Christian I believe in God, just ask God what your purpose is in life. We cannot all be socialites and we can’t all be in the spotlight.
“I pay homage to people who came before me and are undocumented. They did it and passed the torch to us. Also, don’t have drama and don’t force it on your parents. Not everyone is like my mom. Respect them; do not wear dresses or makeup in their house. Wait until you live by yourself then express yourself anyhow you want.”
She added, “One of my goals is to be the president of Zimbabwe one day. I have already started building a fanbase of people I know will take me into power.”
‘This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of <TrevorMakonyonga/BustopTV> and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union’.