Heléna Thomson, AKA Heléna Star, is a true selector, with a passion for music that comes from the heart and nourishes the soul. It was through radio that she first flourished, sharing her eclectic tastes on the airwaves since she was 16, and this year she’s been lighting up dancefloors and festivals across the world — from Helsinki to Albania via her hometown, London.
Growing up in the suburbs of Guildford, her music discovery started at a young age, educating herself through her mum’s record collection and delving into LimeWire and YouTube. She also discovered Kane FM, a local radio station run by seasoned ravers who shared similar interests. Landing a short work experience stint there, she impressed the Kane FM crew, who gave her the opportunity to do a two-hour broadcast. After receiving the highest listenership that month, much to her excitement, Heléna was offered a weekly breakfast show. Instantly hooked, she dutifully woke up at 5AM, and walked 40 minutes to the station to broadcast from 7-9AM each morning before she went to college.
“It was amazing, I absolutely loved it. That’s when I really got the radio bug.” she enthuses. Being granted complete creative freedom, the show allowed her to further explore her music tastes and shape her radio and musical identity. At the age of 18, she moved to London, and in 2018 started a residency with Foundation FM, the women-led radio station that she still calls home now.
The station was founded on values of diversity and inclusivity, things Heléna speaks passionately about. “From growing up in the suburbs and being one of the very few Black people, being in a space where that’s the forefront of the conversation, including people that have been excluded elsewhere, that’s a massive thing for me,” she says. “It’s something that I really hope to continue through my work as well.”
Over the past four years, her radio show has built a solid foundation, displaying an eclectic palette of soul, broken beat, funk and R&B, to the classic sounds of house, electro and techno. “I like to use my show as a vehicle for showing music that you wouldn’t necessarily hear in a club, because that’s where a lot of my love for music lies, it’s non-club focused,” she explains.
She’s had an impressive line-up of guests on the show, interviewing artists that she admires, with a mix of emerging acts, talented friends and personal heroes, including Bradley Zero, Octo Octa, Jeremy Sylvester, Shy One and Jossy Mitsu, to name a few. Her popularity has risen outside of radio too, and her club gigs have been an opportunity to explore the other side of her musical tastes, with a distinct love for the feel-good rhythms of house and classic techno.
“I’ve got a very small record collection, which is growing. It’s funny, most of my favourite tunes are from the year I was born, ’96. I don’t know if that’s the Leo in me!” she laughs. “All the tunes that I find from that kind of era, they just hit a spot for me.”
This summer was her busiest to date, one of the highlights being Dimensions Festival, where she played a daytime set on the beach and a garage-heavy B2B with Eliza Rose. Another milestone was last month’s show for Eglo Records at Corsica Studios, a label that she respects massively. She has many aspirations for the year ahead, one of them being another highly anticipated run of the ‘Techno Is Black’ clothing line, with 75% of the profits going to charity.
Another is to keep having fun, and to always keep the core of why she does this in sight — the love of sharing music. With plenty of gigs in the pipeline and radio shows to come, there’ll be many opportunities to do so, especially with the infectious energy and positivity that she radiates.