‘Forget the gatekeepers’: Henrie Kwushue on her upcoming Instagram series, Free Game with Henrie.

Radio's rising star, Henrie Kwushue, is teaming up with Instagram to present Free Game with Henrie. This mini-series seeks to equip emerging Black creatives with the necessary skills to navigate the notoriously tricky terrain of the British entertainment industry. 
by MEMUNA KONTEH May 3, 2022

Radio’s rising star, Henrie Kwushue, is teaming up with Instagram to present Free Game with Henrie. This mini-series seeks to equip emerging Black creatives with the necessary skills to navigate the notoriously tricky terrain of the British entertainment industry. 

The 26-year-old presenter joins a talented cohort of creatives (including GUAP’s own Ibrahim Kamara) working with Instagram as part of the platform’s Black Perspectives initiative, aiming to challenge the status quo by empowering Black creatives across various industries. It’s part of Instagram’s ongoing commitment to championing and supporting the careers of young Black creators on the platform and beyond. Henrie herself has risen up the radio ranks in recent years, from her first presenting gig on Reprezent’s drivetime show to current work with the likes of Spotify, Kiss FM and the iconic NS10v10 on No Signal. 

When she isn’t on the mic, Henrie works behind the scenes as a social entrepreneur, platforming London’s youth through her company, HTK productions. On Free Game with Henrie, she combines her passion for philanthropy with her infectious on-screen aura to interview some of the industry’s biggest names and provide viewers with answers to the burning questions we dream of asking our faves. 

Free Game with Henrie will take the idea of the highly sought-after (and ridiculously unattainable) ‘dinner with Jay-Z’ and make valuable professional advice accessible to anyone in a content series hosted on her IG channel. In an interview with GUAP, Henrie discusses her career trajectory, barriers unique to Black creatives and her aspirations for the show, which airs from the 16th of May. 

How would you describe your personal brand as it stands today?

H: That’s a hard question. I think my personal brand is just a babe who likes to enjoy herself and just wants to be herself. I think sometimes people are really quick to label [themselves] like I am this or I’m that, but genuinely am just Henrie. I’m just here to be me.

At what point did you realise you wanted to work in music and entertainment?

H: I think I realised quite early on in my life. Maybe when I was in secondary school. I knew that I wanted to work in the media, but I didn’t know exactly where, and I didn’t know what side of it. I didn’t know that I could work in music, but I do remember watching T4 On the Beach and thinking, yeah, that looks really cool. I remember watching Miquita [Oliver] and thinking, wow, she’s someone who’s just herself—just enjoying her life.

And obviously, this was before Instagram, which is crazy to even think. But this is when I was growing up. And I like, yeah, I would love to do something like this – I think I must have been in year nine or something.

Can you briefly describe your journey from that point in year nine to where you are now?

H: When I was in uni, I did work experience at Reprezent radio, and then I just carried on with education. After graduating university, I got my own show with Reprezent, I was doing breakfast, and then I did drivetime. Then I got a job at Spotify hosting Who We Be Talks, and then I landed Kiss FM. In and around all of that, I’ve just been doing loads of my own content creation.

What do you think have been some of the advantages of establishing yourself in the industry so young?

H: To be honest, I feel like age is such a bad measure to go by because what’s young to me isn’t what’s young for somebody else. I started doing this properly when I was like 23, like super properly, where I knew I didn’t want to do anything else with my life. When I was 23, there were people telling me, ‘you’re getting on, you know. You’re getting a bit old.’ [laughs] So I don’t know if I was young at the time, but I feel like age is inconsequential; there is no such thing as being too young or too old… the concepts of time and age are just different to everybody. 

However, I feel like the pace that I went at is the one that was meant for me. In the same way that the pace of Jay-Z, who started rapping properly at like 36 or something, was correct for him. 

What do you consider some of the highlights of your career so far?

H: So far, being able to create a three-part Docu series without knowing where it would go was actually quite a big deal for me. And it’s about something that was quite close to my heart, which is gentrification. I’m glad that I did it, and I’m glad that I put it out there. I’m glad that it got some traction, and I’m glad that people enjoyed it and still talk about it now.

I am also very proud of the [Spotify] podcast, I cannot lie, because I’m able to talk to people every single week who I could only dream of and pray about talking to in any capacity… so to be able to get them on a podcast every week without fail? Incredible stuff.

What do you think of some of the biggest obstacles facing Black creatives in the entertainment space?

H: I think one of the biggest obstacles facing black creatives is the difficulty of being heard and being seen. It’s such a big one because [non-Black people] can create a piece of content or idea, and it’s like everybody buys into it straight away. Sometimes it takes [Black creatives] so much more to be seen and to be heard, even though there’s so many of us that are shifting culture.

So many of us are coming up with innovative ideas literally every single day, yet it can still feel like the industry has a one-in-one-out policy, when really and truly there should be space for everybody to be able to achieve and to be able to do well. 

Why is it important for platforms like IG to support Black creators?

It’s important for platforms like IG to support Black Creators because that’ll mean that there’s a real acknowledgement of those who set and create trends that add to the world we live in today. Although nothing and no one should validate you, it’s still nice to know that the platforms recognise the importance of black creators.

What do you hope your audience on IG can take from Free Game with Henrie?

I hope that from Free Game with Henrie, an audience is able to get some real information from the contributors whilst still being entertained. But mostly, I hope that any fears that young black creators have about where they are in their journey is somewhat absolved by the answers given. That Black creators know what’s right and what is not and can hopefully have more confidence with said knowledge.

What was the inspiration behind the title of your show, Free Game with Henrie?

H: So for Free Game with Henrie, I wanted [a name] that would connect with the audience that I want to reach. I also wanted the name to reflect exactly what we’re doing, which is helping people up their professional game for free. You shouldn’t really have to pay for [this advice], and you shouldn’t have to scratch your head or do the most to get it. 

The show gives information freely, and it’s in a place that you can always come back to, just in case you forget the answers. Hopefully, this content will be a reference point that people are able to come back to it anytime and be like, ‘okay, cool. So it feels like I’m in the right place.’ or ‘It feels like I’m doing the right thing.’

Are you allowed to name some of the guests, or is it all under wraps?

H: Yeah, so, the people that I’ve got on the show are guests who I’m very, very excited about. I think they cover a large part of the entertainment world, and I’m honestly just glad that they said yes. We have [BBC Radio DJ] Tiffany Calver, we’ve got Filthy Fellas podcast host Poet, and we’ve got [UK Drill artist] Unknown T.

The fact that these lot said yes shows that they see the value in what we’re doing, and that makes me smile.

Outside of projects like Free Game with Henrie, how do you think we as Black people can address or navigate the culture of gatekeeping within the creative industries?

H: I feel like we should forget the gatekeepers. We’re at a point now that we are able to create something and cultivate an audience regardless of who’s either trying to hold chains on the doors with their bare hands.

Now, everyone is able to create something for themselves. So whoever is trying to gatekeep, let them know that they’re gatekeeping something old, something traditional, and we are in a very new space and time where we don’t need gatekeepers. They’re holding on to a very rusty gate.

Follow #BlackPerspectives on Instagram and find out how you can get involved in Free Game with Henrie: @henrieviii.

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