You could say Clara Amfo got on the airwaves by trying her luck. Of course, an incredible knowledge of UK music and being a natural conversationalist helped too – but it was “back-chatting” her old boss that finally got her on the radio.
“‘Why are you playing that song? You should be playing this song! Let me do a show please, come on, go on, let me just do one hour!’” she recalls. Back then she was a marketing intern on Kiss FM badgering her boss. And then in the depths of winter, with presenters calling in sick or taking impromptu holidays, he finally gave in, giving her a Boxing Day spot.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Now, Amfo is a household name – she’s presented the Brit Awards and Top of the Pops, done Strictly, and recently took over from Annie Mac as presenter of the prestigious Future Sounds on Radio 1.
Amfo’s latest project sees her fronting new BBC Three show The Drop. Filmed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, it’s all about streetwear, and the hustle required to run your own brand. Think The Apprentice but with young, fashion-forward candidates who face design-focused challenges that are then judged by the general public, rather than an ageing billionaire.
Amfo is a massive streetwear fan, having worked in shops growing up, and admits: “Everybody knows I’ve got an issue with trainers.” She does, she adds, wear most of them. And it’s what she wears day to day.
Sat in her home in a slouchy grey cropped hoodie that pops against the bright orange arch painted on the wall behind her – a lockdown project – Amfo lights up when discussing how streetwear is entwined with MC culture, the birth of hip-hop in the ‘70s, and the icons of the ‘90s. How hip-hop took a simple peaked cap from the basketball stalls to the streets, and how baggy trousers or ‘pants’ are influenced by incarceration in America when prisoners would have their belts confiscated.