Radio presenter Henrie Kwushue on her post-lockdown summer glo-up plans
Supported by adidas
Having graced the cover of Guap magazine, topped the Dazed 100 and amassed more jobs during the pandemic than she had going into it, 26-year-old Henrie Kwushue has had a pivotal year. For most of it she’s been busy trying to become her best self.
The radio presenter’s south London tones and dry wit got many of us through the lockdown as she hosted No Signal’s hit NS10v10 weekly showdowns (the Wizkid vs Vybz Kartel episode pulled in half a million listeners from 99 countries alone), and in the following months, she‘s hosted shows over on Kiss FM’s early weekend slot and Spotify since. She also released her own web series. “What can I say? God is good,” she says excitedly when we catch up over the phone to reflect on her impressive ascent. Henrie’s had a head start to the post-lockdown glo-up a lot of young people in the UK are in deep preparation mode for.
After months on end of barely being perceived, we don’t just want to emerge and blend into the scenery. We want passers-by to double-take. Not only have we got ready and put on something that isn’t pyjamas but yes: we are a vision. And Henrie approves this message. As soon as she saw the sun she says she started shopping for new clothes, lamenting her old lashes and “HK initial” adorned monochrome acrylics. She’s having her hair styled as we speak, a trademark silver and black box braid look as a placeholder for the wigs she’s ordered for when the world opens up. “So I’ve got at least two looks in the bank for next year,” she laughs.
As spring rolls in and the days feel brighter, so too does Henrie’s wardrobe. “I’m being a bit more girly. I’ve got dresses now which if you told my friends that before they would genuinely laugh in your face,” she says. “I even bought heels. Oh my days. I think that’s the biggest move forward for me because even if I did wear a dress pre lockdown I’d always be in trainers. But I’ve got two pairs of banging heels that I can’t wait to showcase to the world.” Henrie is pining after the adidas Tennis luxe collection, its pastel hues and blazer and shorts combos in yellow (the colour marries her “tomboy-ish” tendencies with her desire to make bolder sartorial choices). The collection embodies youthfulness, fun, and elegance – feelings that have been in short supply.
“I’ve missed random trips to go bowling, I miss the brunches, I miss the cinema,” Henrie says. During lockdown, she would either be extremely casual, hair wrapped in a turban while she cares for her new kitten Ash, or she’d bring out her best clothes on short trips to Tesco or Lidl (“it didn’t make sense – I had to stop”). She reminisces on the places she used to dress up appropriately for. Parties at the now-closed Ace Hotel, “the intimacy and the excitement of the cinema”, and trips to the recording studio. At one point it all felt like a distant dream. However, Henrie’s allowing herself to feel hopeful about making plans for the coming months. “What did we even use to do? We’ve been in lockdown for so long I can’t even remember. The first motive would genuinely be a bottomless brunch. The minute we’re able to go clubbing I’m gonna be there.”
“The way you look shouldn’t determine how you feel but that feeling of getting dressed up and having somewhere to go does uplift your mood”
“Maybe I’ll do something I have never done like rock climbing or an escape room,” she says before being reminded that an escape room might be a little claustrophobic for someone who’s spent an entire year indoors. “True, you make some good points that might be triggering. I don’t know what I was thinking,” she laughs.
But the thirst to try out new things is something we can all relate to in an era defined by debilitating sameness. Recently, gal-dem’s Life editor Niellah Arboine penned a touching essay on how her time inside has allowed her to divest from performing femininity for the patriarchal glare of wider society. Similarly, Henrie’s found that she’s a lot more experimental in her look now than she was pre-pandemic where she would “just wear anything”.
“The way you look shouldn’t determine how you feel but that feeling of getting dressed up and having somewhere to go does uplift your mood,” she says. “For young people who were supposed to be going to uni, maybe starting new jobs, that have had two years taken away this helps them psychologically feel out who they are as a person.” Her scheduled glo up is born out of excitement of having somewhere to go, not for the attention of onlookers and suitors. However, she says that if a “husband decided to come [this Summer] I’m not gonna say no”.
The rapid change in attention on social media due to her exciting new gigs has freed her time to take more of an interest in fashion. Earlier this year she was crowned as one of the ambassadors of the new adidas Tennis Luxe collection. “Maybe I dress a little bit better than I did than maybe like a year ago,” she admits, but she insists she doesn’t obsess over it. Rather it’s been fun having a think about new looks. An era I would like to channel but I don’t think I have the bottle to is the era of the 90s video vixen. “You know when you see something on the rack and you can’t imagine what it will look like on you?” That’s the feeling she’s begun to embrace as an antidote to the mood of the last year.
“I was turning up to things underdressed as a statement but I am now going to try my best to be as elegant as possible for a bit. Everyone’s going to be like ‘rah Henrie is that you?’ and I’m going to be like yeah it is,” she says sarcastically. “Life is for living. Bougie is the new normal.”