In Summary

  • Kimberley Leonard is the World News anchor on Sky News and has more than 15 years of international experience, which includes working as a news reporter, anchor and producer for some of the leading news channels in the world. 
  • She spared some time from her anchoring job at Sky News in West London for an exclusive interview and opened up about her childhood, family, education, career, relationship status among other interesting topics.

She caused a stir on social media all the way from London, UK, after she revealed her Kenyan roots. Kimberley Leonard has since become a big buzz online as she continues to inspire many young Kenyans, especially journalists, to work harder and aim for the skies.

Kimberley is the World News anchor on Sky News and has more than 15 years of international experience, which includes working as a news reporter, anchor and producer for some of the leading news channels in the world. 

Kimberley Leonard. PHOTO/COURTESY

She spared some time from her busy anchoring job at Sky News in West London for an exclusive interview with Swala Nyeti Managing Editor, Mac Otani, and opened up about her childhood, family, education, career, relationship status among other interesting topics:

Swala Nyeti: What kind of a childhood did you have in Kenya?

Kimberley Leonard: I think I had a privileged childhood in Kenya. I grew up in Langata, and I went to Banda and then Hillcrest. My mum was a travel agent at Wilson Airport and my dad was a pilot there who ran Air Kenya and then Safari Air. I have 2 sisters and a brother who are all younger than me.

SN: What kind of a student were you?

KL: I think I was a good student – I was more into arts than the sciences! And I really have problems with maths! Hahaha.

Kimberley Leonard. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: What kind of a child were you and how do you relate with your parents and siblings?

KL: I was of course the best child – and my parents’ favourite……although I think maybe my siblings may have a different opinion! Lol! I think I’m quite a responsible person and I wasn’t a great one for going out and partying. I don’t drink or smoke so that wasn’t a huge part of my upbringing. I rode horses, which is something I do now and love.

SN: Did you always want to be a journalist while growing up?

KL: No, I didn’t always want to be a journalist – I thought maybe I would try to work in film. But when I finished university, I got a job on the news team at Capital FM, and I enjoyed it, so I continued. Once I started working in radio, I knew that I wanted to work in TV – that has been something I always wanted to do. And I remember when I started working at Emirates News in Dubai, I was driving to work one day and thought “I must be the luckiest person – imagine that this is my job and I love it so much!”

SN: Tell us more about your initial career in the media and how you rose to the top.

KL: I started working at Capital FM in the news team – I was mainly presenting the news then. Then I went to do my masters and came back to Kenya to do an internship with the Al Jazeera bureau in Nairobi – that was as the channel was launching, so that was pretty exciting. I then left there and was in Kenya for a while before I got a job in Dubai and moved there to work – I literally just went not knowing anything about the place!

Kimberley Leonard and her brother Jonathan. PHOTO/COURTESY

I worked in radio there initially and then I moved to TV – I stayed there for nearly 8 years and really enjoyed it – I got to do a lot of cool things. Like I flew with Flydubai to Juba for one hour – it was their first flight there and we spent an hour on the ground doing the ceremony and then came back to Dubai! And I went to Ghana to do a story about a school-feeding programme there – it was really cool talking to the kids whose lives you could tell were really changed by being able to come to school and have one hot meal. And it was their mums who were employed to cook and make it. And the food was coming from local farmers. And on the other side, I did cool aviation stories – I was the first English journalist to interview the UAE aerobatics team.

I also interviewed Richard Branson and Paris Hilton.

SN: What are your key attributes that have set you apart from the rest?

KL: I’m not sure what my key attributes are – I think you would have to ask someone else! Lol!

Kimberley Leonard and her dog. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: How did you land at the World News desk at Sky News?

KL: Sky were advertising for the role – so I applied. And then I told them that I would go and do a screen test in Abu Dhabi. So, I flew to Dubai, drove to Abu Dhabi and did a test – it was summer and the hire car had no air conditioning. It was not fun! Then I told them I would come and see them in London – so I flew to London. And I remember when they called to tell me I had the job – I was standing on the street in Doha having just been at the gym!

SN: What lessons have you learnt working for international media houses compared to the media in Kenya?

KL: I am continuously learning from everyone I work with – there haven’t been lessons that I can say are only applicable to the international media or the local media. One thing is that when people start berating the press and complaining about them, you’ll appreciate a free press when you don’t have one!

Kimberley Leonard celebrating 5 years at Sky News with colleagues . PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: Have you gotten used to the UK yet?

KL: It’s a lot colder living in the UK! Hahahaha! I don’t think I will ever get used to the weather here!

SN: What’s your view on family, marriage, children and friendship and how do you balance your time between the four?

KL: Family and the people you love are the most important things. I sat with my dad for 10 days in ICU when he died – that sort of a situation will make you realise what is important in life and what isn’t. I don’t have a husband or kids but I would like to if I get the chance.

Kimberley Leonard. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: Are there days when you feel like giving up and who or what inspires you to keep going?

KL: Yes – I think we all have days when we want to give up. On those days, I remember what my brother told me “Kimbers, just put one foot in front of the other.” And then I think about the opportunity that I have had and how lucky I am, and I think about everything I have to be grateful for…and I just continue.

SN: What are some of the key highlights of your career?

KL: Most recently I was able to interview President Kenyatta – that was definitely a career highlight. I’m sitting in my brother’s garden right now, listening to the trees and looking at my ridiculous pink socks and trying to remember some of my career highlights and there are so many cool things that I’ve done that I can’t pick any! I love aviation stories and I’ve done a lot of those in my life. What I like most about my job is that I get to talk to the policy makers – so I get to ask them why they do what they do – and hold them to account.

Kimberley Leonard. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: Away from work, what takes most of your time and attention?

KL: I work long hours – especially at the moment, so when I have time off, I catch up with any personal admin I need to do, catch up with friends, catch up with sleep and I ride horses as often as I can.

SN: What do you miss most about Kenya while abroad?

KL: I miss my home in Langata and my family. I miss the coast, I miss the rain and the sunshine and the food.

Kimberley Leonard and Jon Craig. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: How are you dealing with the recent love and adoration you have been receiving on social media from Kenyans?

KL: I’m quite surprised by it all – I love that I have all these people to talk to, who are interested in what I’m doing – and I love hearing when you’re watching and where you are watching from. You can usually tell the level of stress or intensity of a shift – if I reply on twitter, then the shift is calm – if not, then you know I’m dealing with a lot of breaking news and interviews.

SN: If you were not a journalist, what career would you be in?

KL: I’m not sure what I would be – maybe a pilot.

SN: What’s your pet peeve?

KL: I don’t think I have a pet peeve. However, I do know that my sister Kath’s pet peeve is to hear people eating or drinking….so I like to annoy as much as possible.

Kimberley Leonard. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: Some people have a weakness for spending a lot of cash on shoes or clothes or perfume. What’s yours?

KL: I’ve never been one for shoes. I think at the moment, I spend a lot of money on horses! Not actually buying the horses, but the riding accessories and the riding lessons! Lol!

SN: How is the media landscape like for women in Kenya and in the UK? Are we there yet?

KL: Speaking broadly, we are definitely not there yet because we are not there yet on gender equality. Think of our mothers and our grandmothers - think of how enterprising and strong and intelligent they are. Now imagine if they had all been afforded an education. We need to do better. Gender equality is a right.

Kimberley Leonard supporting Eliud Kipchoge. PHOTO/COURTESY

SN: What advice would you give young women and men who look up to you and would love to reach your level of success in the media?

KL: Life is short – fight hard for what you want. Believe in yourself – even when everyone around you is trying to tear you down. Find a handful of people you trust and take their advice – don’t worry what anyone else has to say.