2021 TED fellow Karen Lucas is known to millions of television viewers across Africa as Kaz from the hit TV reality singing show 'Project Fame', where she was infamous for her quirky and sometimes controversial antics. Her vivacious nature, charismatic stage presence, and mesmerizing soulful vocals continuously impressed the panel of judges, and she was one of the last contestants to be voted off.
At 14, Kaz amazed thousands during her first public appearance at the Nairobi Carnivore grounds, alongside Grammy award -winning rapper Coolio, where she took the title for best overall rapper at an impromptu rapping competition held during his concert in Kenya.
This opened doors for Kaz in the music industry, and determined and encouraged, she recorded her first single 'K-A-Z' at 15 with the legendary Kenyan producer Tedd Josiah. Her song slowly moved its way up the East African charts landing in the top 10. Not bad for a first attempt!!
Kaz’s talent led to the recognition from Kenya’s acclaimed artists and producers, and by the time she had completed high school, she had graced numerous stages, performing at Nairobi’s most popular venues.
At 19, Kaz joined a band and continued to catch the attention of many of the industry’s movers and shakers.
She continued to pursue her other love theatre, gracing Kenya's only professional theatre numerously in lead roles in plays including: Once on this Island, Move over Mrs Markham, Prisoner of second avenue, Oliver, Miss Julie but to name a few.
Spurred on by the overwhelmingly positive audience response from both her singing and acting, Kaz auditioned for the then unknown reality TV show 'Project Fame’.
After her successful run on Project Fame, Kaz went back to work. In 2006 Kaz launched her debut album "Somin, the one we were looking for" in Nairobi. The launch was well received and within a month her debut album was sold out.
Her second album was released at the end of 2013. A Christmas album titled ‘Christmas with Kaz and Sage’ where she featured multitalented singer Chemutai Sage.
Kaz has been recognized by her peers for her artistry. In 2005, she won the East African Kisima award for Best Afro Fusion Artist of the Year, and in 2006, she was honored to receive the African Kora award for Most Promising Female Artist in Africa. She was nominated for best actress in the 'Kalasha awards'. Kenya's first film award ceremony in 2010. Kaz was nominated for the AFRIMA(All Africa Music Awards) awards in 2014 and In 2018, was awarded the Upindu award for her work on activism in the LGBTQ+ community.
Some of the work Kaz has actively been involved in includes;
Organizing shows to raise money for the Nairobi Womens Hospital and Kenya Breast Health Program where she volunteered advocating for breast cancer awareness
She produced short Public service announcements for The CRADLE - The Children Foundation, on taking a stand against human and child trafficking.
She worked with USAID during the Umoja Pamoja campaign promoting peaceful and nonviolent voting in Kenya.
Every year during the Christmas period, Kaz raises money from her friends in the community and organizes lunch with her family for the Angel Centre Home for Abandoned Children.
She continues to use her platform to educate the public on LGBTQ+ issues and create awareness and focus on SRHR education for the youth.
Film and Television:
Her first stint on TV was an MNET's sponsored short film 'RASTAR' in 2005. She continues to work closely with Supersport and Mnet as a television presenter.
She later hosted the TV show, 'AFFRODIZZIA' on Citizen Television in Kenya, which showcased music from across the continent, educating viewers on each African country's musical history and culture.
In 2011 she hosted a lottery TV show 'Kwachu Mamilli" on KTN where daily winners were taking home 1 million KSH.
In 2012 Kaz co-hosted the talk show 'The space' that centered around Kenyan youth and making changes in society to benefit them. The direction of this show was to lead young Kenyans toward peaceful voting in the then-upcoming elections.
She directed and produced a short series called 'Kenyan woman'; interviewing different Kenyan women on overcoming adversity. Kenyan woman is a project set out to inspire young girls in Kenya and the world at large.
The project was endorsed by Eve Ensler, the author of the famous 'Vagina Monologues'.
She starred in the TV show ‘State House’, a political drama that aired on cable TV.
Kaz currently works with DW Africa as a TV host for a sex advice segment coined after her podcast brainchild, The Spread.