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HARRY PINERO: CHANGE-MAKER

Harry Pinero is playing by his own rules, leading the line and doing everything to inspire a new generation to believe anything is possible.

Story by Vivian Iroanya

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Photography by Hamish Brown

“At that time there was no money to be a joker,” recalls Harry Pinero, of the day he told his parents he was quitting his job to become an entertainer. “In the beginning, it was very hard for them to understand exactly what I wanted to do. I was constantly changing jobs from social work to IT, but I didn’t look at these careers and was like ‘that’s what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life.’ My parents thought the jobs that are gonna give you security in life are the lawyers and doctors, but none of that stuff really appealed to me at all because I’ve always been a joker really and truly.”

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"at the age of 25 I realised that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to be who I wanted to be instead of having to become this person because of where I'm from."

But growing up in Peckham, south London, Harry felt it was difficult to pursue this career path. With just a few British entertainers, such as Lenny Henry and Richard Blackwood to look up to, breaking through in the industry appeared only possible in America. “It was always something which I felt like I knew I could do but just didn’t know how to. There wasn’t really anyone young that was doing their thing,” he explains. “But at the age of 25 I realised that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to be who I wanted to be instead of having to become this person because of where I’m from. I felt like I was battling with two different personas and I knew that being who I wanted to be would cure my sadness and make me happy.”

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"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it's hard to take it all in knowing that it genuinely just started from a dream"

Thus the move to social media became a vessel for Harry’s creativity. By using platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube, Harry produced content that was relatable and funny. His lively sense of humour and uplifting energy slowly captivated a new audience. One of his first shows was Talent Hunt on Link Up TV. “I started giving people a real part of who I was and when you are yourself people love you for it. I just kept being very relentless with my content. I studied the game and the people that were doing it before me. I needed to be unique and totally different knowing that one day this is going to work, someone’s going to give me an opportunity and when they do I’m going to make sure I’ll take it. So from there, it’s literally been a very beautiful, heartfelt and humbling journey. It’s all God’s blessings and hard work,” he says.

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" I represent the black community, people that come from places they don't give opportunities to. When people look and see me in these places that they've never seen our people before, they believe ‘okay cool I'm next."

Indeed now, with over one million followers, the 30-year-old has so far worked with Sky Sports, BBC, Footasylum, Spotify’s Who We Be Talks series and much more. He tells me of one of his defining moments as a host of the 2019 BET Awards. “Just a few hours before I was due to go on the carpet, I went upstairs to get ready and in one of the letters they gave us it had my pass and about $500. I remember crying tears of joy saying ‘how did I get here? I was literally on the ends like a year ago.’ But here I am. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and it’s hard to take it all in knowing that it genuinely just started from a dream and one day saying ‘you know what, I’m actually just gonna take this risk.’ For a long time, I was very overwhelmed and had imposter syndrome. But now I’m at a place where I just feel so proud of myself. I’d love to go back and speak to my younger self like ‘look, this is what you did.”

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"Learn from people’s experiences and never feel like you know it all, because you don’t."

Now, there’s a bigger purpose to what he is accomplishing, Harry says. Alongside his peers Chunkz, Nella Rose and Yung Filly, Harry is committed to inspiring a new generation and giving back to a community that gave him so much. His #WeAreWinning slogan represents just that. “I represent the black community, people that come from places they don’t give opportunities to. When people look and see me in these places that they’ve never seen our people before, they believe ‘okay cool I’m next.’ I’m showing that forget what everyone else says, if you believe in yourself, you can do it. And if I can inspire a generation to continue thinking in that way, then my job here is done. I can turn on my TV in the next 10 years and see people shutting it down and doing what they said they weren’t gonna allow us to do.”

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"I want to continue to inspire a generation of people so that when my son grows up, he can say ‘yeah my dad was one of the change-makers’ and I inspired him to be whatever he wanted to be."

Despite all the successes, we discuss the failures and rejections that came along the way. Harry says it took a lot of self-belief, hard work and determination. “Learn from people’s experiences and never feel like you know it all because you don’t. Write your goals down and don’t believe that ‘this is too big for me as a dream’ because if I said to myself 10 years ago ‘okay, you’ll be working with Manchester United and they will give you a season ticket and they’ll post you on Instagram,’ I’d say stop ‘drinking alcohol mate.’ So pray and speak things into existence. Believe that you want to be a real successful winner.”

As for the obstacles that may emerge from our environment, Harry mentions continuing chasing whatever you love and becoming better at it. “As African children, we look at how we can make our parents proud, but we should love ourselves first and do what makes us happy. Everything else will fall into place in God’s timing. I’m at a stage now where my parents are proud of who I’ve become rather than who they wanted me to be. You literally have to tunnel vision into chasing your dreams because no one’s gonna get those dreams for you. Have your own expectations and work towards those.”

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I ask about his future plans. “I want to be an improved version of himself,” he says. He hopes to dive into more TV and film as well as working in Africa. “I set myself goals that sometimes can be humanly impossible, but you can make them possible. There’s so much more for me to achieve and I really want to break the corner they had about black people that we can’t do this or that. I want to continue to inspire a generation of people so that when my son grows up, he can say ‘yeah my dad was one of the change-makers’ and I inspired him to be whatever he wanted to be. So if you see me on billboards, don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he laughs.

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