Presenter Vick Hope, AKA Victoria Nwayawu Nwosu-Hope, was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1989, before she and her family – mother Ady, father Nigel and three brothers – moved to Northumberland. After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in modern languages, she moved to London, working as an MTV runner before landing gigs hosting Crufts, the Capital FM Breakfast show and backstage reporting on primetime series incuding The X Factor. An Amnesty International ambassador, and judge on this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, she hosts Radio 1’s Going Home With Vick and Jordan, Life Hacks and The Official Chart: First Look, plus her podcast series, Songs to Live By.
That’s my husband’s leg behind me – we’re at his grandmother’s house in Newcastle. I’d just come home from work and I’m smiling so much because Vick had just stood up on her own. I’m thinking: “Oh, isn’t she clever?” I loved putting her in lively clothes. Vick’s outfits were always odd shapes and full of joy. I like to joke I am truly a woman of colour! Not one for boring greys.
I grew up in Nigeria during the civil war. Fear was a constant presence: there was very little food and we were always hearing bombs going off and having to scramble for shelter. I knew it was bad, but there were fun times, too – me and my siblings played at being soldiers and were always trying to pinch each other’s food. We had to work on the land to produce crops and fetch water from the river. To this day I think getting hot water from a tap is weird.
Once the war ended, I came to England to live with my grandmother, but you can’t escape your past and it’s had a profound effect on my parenting style. I brought Vick up to never waste food or water, to appreciate everything. I was also fierce about her education. When I came to Newcastle, I didn’t speak a word of English. Less than a year later I sat my 11-plus. “First name” I could do. But “Surname”? No idea what that was. Needless to say I failed.
Thankfully, Vick has always been very scholarly. She could talk before she could walk and she hasn’t shut up since!
When she was a teen, there was never any great rebellion; it was more quiet stuff. She’d wear big earrings at school which wasn’t allowed, and we fought when she wanted to shave her legs and wear makeup – I thought she was too young. Vick was so studious, though, she got away with an awful lot.
I’d always raised her to want to leave home and go into the world, so when we went to visit Cambridge University, I remember looking around, thinking: “Yeah, I’m quite happy for you to live here.” I didn’t feel sad that she’d left us at all.
After she graduated, Vick was always thinking: “What next?” She’d done a demo for an online channel called Jump Off TV – and was reporting on hip-hop and rap. I remember proudly saying to my friends, “Look what Vick’s doing! And if anyone understands the language and the music – please let me know.” Ever since, she’s not stopped working, inching closer to where she is today. It’s been an amazing ride. She probably knows more than me about the modern world, but I still like to think I can impart a bit of my own wisdom.
When Victoria was born she came out with her eyes wide open. I remember the medical professional with her at the time saying, “Oh – this one has been here before!” What I saw was my grandmother. And I think she is the essence of who I am. She had this strength – to just take life on. Deal with it and move forward. Victoria is the same. It’s why she is so good at her job, and why she is such a wonderful person.
I’m less than one in this photo, so I don’t remember it, but I know that it’s a typical setup – at Grandma Pauline’s for a cup of tea; Mum with a very loud laugh and always wearing red. She loved wearing bright Nigerian clothes: for her wedding, she wanted to have a red dress but my dad’s mum didn’t think it was appropriate. Instead, she got a gold one lined in red – and kept flashing the underside of it at everyone.
Our house was full of chatter and people. Mum loved to entertain and we were encouraged to have friends over and throw parties. But I didn’t know anyone else who had a mixed-race family. I didn’t see people like me in my local community or represented on TV or in books. I felt stuck in the middle and a bit unsure. When I was little and in the bath, I remember asking: “Mum, please can you wash the brown off me? It would be OK if I was the same brown as you, but I’m not.” Mum’s response was to tell me I was beautiful as I was. “This is who you are: you are not black, or white, or half, you are both – you are your mum and your dad. You are mixed.” She always told me I was enough – that I was everything and could be anything.
Her stories about being hungry and running from air raids as a child instilled a sense of awareness in me – that life is not fair and we should be grateful for what we have and help people not as fortunate. She gave me a moral compass and inspired me to work hard. It did mean at school I was teased for being a geek, though. There were times I would have preferred to have been super-sporty, pretty or have big boobs because that’s what was considered cool. Now I look back, I’m proud of how I nourished my mind.
When I got to Cambridge, I quickly became aware of the class divide. In my first term I got an email asking if I’d be interested in having my picture in the prospectus – I’m a bit of a showoff so of course I wanted a photoshoot! When it came out, I was surprised: underneath my image they put a quote saying: “‘Anyone can get in’ – Victoria, Newcastle.” I was like: oh, I see. I’m ticking boxes here. I’m not angry, though. If being on the prospectus is a part of encouraging others like me to apply, then that’s what it takes.
We had a TV when I was little but we never unpacked it when we moved from Newcastle to the countryside. I think that’s why I find my job so exciting – television is still this magical thing, there’s an ephemeral quality to it. Whether I’m on screen or on the radio, my main purpose is to be uplifting.
As for my mum, she is a real storyteller. She holds an audience captive – even at the shops buying our school shoes, she’d be engrossed in conversation with the person measuring our feet. She is amazing at communication, which I like to think I’ve inherited. Mum is very positive and spiritual – no matter what is going on in her life, nothing is ever that bad. We can get through anything – and we’ll get through it smiling.