“Guys, I’m on the run! I’m going to jail! For being the baddest bitch to ever walk this land since Queen Nefertiti, baby.” This is one of many zingers that Achieng Agutu delivers in her motivational videos. On her Instagram, Agutu—who calls herself a “tantalizing confidence queen”—posts short clips that are meant to uplift her followers and empower them with self-confidence. She’s basically a life coach-meets-hype girl; her speeches instantly boost your mood. And even better yet, she wears exuberant outfits full of colors and prints that are just as joyful to watch as her monologues.
Agutu was born and raised in Kenya, but moved to Richmond, Indiana to complete high school when she was 16. “I lived with a host family,” Agutu says. “I had only seen the U.S. on TV, and was obsessed with High School Musical, so I was very disappointed when I walked in and no one was singing.” Agutu then studied communications and Spanish at Goshen College in Indiana, and now she’s studying business at the Hult International Business School in Boston. It’s these college experiences that made her start doing motivational speaking in the first place. “In Indiana, I was the only Black girl in most of my classes,” she explains. “I didn’t see people who looked like me, and there was nobody who was really hyping me up!”
During her busy college studies over the past few years, Agutu started creating content on Instagram with that sole purpose in mind: to hype herself up. “It started really small, with Stories of me just dancing every morning,” she says. “Then people started reaching out to me and saying, ‘Thank you so much for posting that, it made me feel so good.’” She realized her videos were also positively impacting others, and now she posts clips every other day that uplift both her 130,000-plus followers. (The videos have gained even more traction during coronavirus times, when we need all the joy that we can get.) One day, she’ll post a video passionately talking about the importance of saving your money while wearing a silky gold top; another day, she’ll demand you stop “saving” that special outfit and just wear it, while rocking a chic two-piece knit set herself.
Her fans have continued to flock to Agutu for her inspirational messages, but they also just downright love her style. Agutu’s wardrobe channels her Kenyan heritage, complete with a flair for color and prints, and it perfectly matches her sunny, upbeat personality. “I love color so much,” Agutu says. “In Boston during the cold seasons, a lot of people don’t wear color, so when I do they’re like, ‘What’s the occasion?’” She gets this love of bold fashion from her parents. “They always told me to dress your best,” Agutu says. “My father would always put out his clothes, iron them—shoes shined. And my mother, every Sunday we would go to the flea market [in Kenya] and she would buy different things for me, and we’d have a little fashion show.”
These days, her favorite labels to wear are ones that remind her of home, too: Agutu is a big fan of Africa-born labels, like ÖFUURË a Nigerian-Canadian fashion label. (She’s worn a printed shirt dress and one-shouldered gown from them). She also predominantly wears Black-owned brands in general, such as Kai Collective. “The way their silhouettes and dresses look on the body is so beautiful, and just luscious and luxurious,” she says. While Agutu says she doesn’t deliberately dress for joy, she recognizes that what she wears can affect people on an emotional level as well. Her cheery fashion looks are the perfect thing to wear on her mission to enlighten people. “I want my outfit, whatever it is, to be vibrant and inviting,” Agutu says. “If I wear yellow and walk down the street, it might even make someone smile!”