A DJ’s responsibility is to impart a mood, a sonic embodiment of their surroundings coupled with the vibe of the eclectic attendees. The transitions are premeditated and feel effortless, making you forget the egregious line you just waited in outside. Likely waking up in a haze of second-hand smoke and cheap vodka the next day, you might not remember the way-too-expensive cocktails (as any New Yorker will understand) or the crushed velvet love seats in the lobby you Instagrammed, but a good night of music stays with you long after the party’s over.
Turning away from the musical milieu and confronting the politics of the industry, one cannot help but wonder why the DJ community is still a relatively difficult one for women to break into. Society's outdated perception of gender in the workplace - among many other things - derives from the belief that men are better at pretty much everything than women are. It’s not a secret that women are generally seen as unequal to men, far beyond entertainment sphere. So, the question is, why is it so much harder for female DJs to professionalize their career and break through to music star status? Is their success less meaningful? We’re acutely aware of the facts, yet the percentage of women who actually reach stardom is mediocre at best in comparison to their male counterparts.
Fortunately for our ears (and inner activists), you’re about to meet four women who decided to keep it pushin’ and overcome whatever myriad adversities arose along the way. These women have subsequently gone on to sell out shows and become the entrepreneurial boss babes we all aim to be.
Ashley Haenel/ SHLIZK
Location: New York, New York
Music style: Open Format
Go to song: Firestone by Kygo
Trademark: lightning bolt ⚡️
For SHLIZK, it hasn’t been an easy road to get to where she is today. “Being a female DJ in a field that is pretty much dominated by males has been a pretty interesting experience for me,” said the New York native. “A lot of times, people think that since I am a woman I can’t do the job as well as a man. I always knew that music was my life and when this field emerged as I was coming into young adulthood, I started to encounter different roadblocks that not many other young females may have faced when pursuing their dream. As each show and event passed, my confidence rose. I was good, better than a lot of the guys I was playing a show with. Dealing with others who thought they were better than me was a challenge, showing them up was easy.”
Samantha Duenas/ SOSUPERSAM
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Music style: R&B, Hip Hop, Future Bass
Go-to song: Kelela "Rewind"
Having opened for the likes of Erykah Badu and Little Dragon, SOSUPERSAM is no stranger to success. However, her family wasn’t always on board with her career choice. “At first, my parents did not approve of my DJ career. They didn't see any stability or security, and my mom regularly sent me job listings for about two years straight. After a while she realized I was able to pay my bills with my unconventional job, and she started to be a bit more supportive. I understand, it's sort of a nutty job.” She also notes that, “In 2016, it is still uncommon to see a woman behind turntables commanding a large audience. I feel pretty special to be in this position and definitely encourage more women to give it a shot.”
Nicole Stillings/ DJ Rosé
Music Style: Dance, Disco & Modern Day Hits
Go To’s: All fresh remixes... September, Stayin' Alive, One Dance, I Want You Back, Countdown, Girls Like, Cool Girl..
Trademark: Always in a bright, red lip...usually with a glass of rosé ;)
A regular at NYC hot spots like Lavo and Marquee, DJ Rosé opened up about the stereotypes she faced growing up with braniac parents (literally, her parents are brain doctors). “Many people scoffed at first- commenting on my “$200,000” degree from Emory, etc. Most people (maybe rightfully so for most DJ’s) pointed out that this career change didn’t have the longevity of my old path where I was already a Marketing Director at 23. DJs are perceived as creatures of the night, less professional and intelligent than most (albeit creative). And being female throws a whole new layer of elements into the mix.” She adds that her most daunting challenge has been, “Honestly, patience. Being a good musician takes practice, practice, practice. And I’m an impatient, get-it-done-now kind of bitch. Overnight success doesn’t exist in entertainment but showing up daily with a smile and some feel-good tunes will go a long way.”
Milan Stoute/ Miss Milan
Location: New York City
Music style: Open format (Hip hop, R&B, EDM, House)
Go-to song: Kanye West "Father Stretch My Hands"
Trademark: My trademark is "The Milan Experience"
Unlike many of her musical peers, as an entrepreneur, Miss Milan keeps it simple. “I handle my own brand and business, I created my website (DJMissMilan.com) so people can get to know who I am and also contact me and book me directly. Management will come when it's right, I never want to force something like that, it has to be organic. My main vehicle for growing my supporters is social media, every outlet helps people follow my journey and see what I can do.” In regards to climbing the DJ ladder to success, she asserts, “I've dealt with sexism where guys think that because you're a pretty girl you should get paid less than anyone else or they try to boo you to date you and I'm just here to make my money and have a great time.” That’s definitely a mantra we can get behind.
Photo Credit: afewgoodclicks.com
In 2016, Renee Wang sold her home in Bejing for $500,000 to fund her company, CastBox. Two months later, she landed her first investment. Just a half hour after hearing her pitch, she was offered one million dollars. By mid-2017, CastBox raised a total of $16 million in funding. CastBox's user numbers at that point? Seven million. Fast forward to today. Renee Wang of CastBox announces a $13.5 million Series B round of financing, bringing her funding total to a tidy $29 million. CastBox is now serving more than 15 million users.