Women In The Mix: 4 Must Know WOC DJs Who Are Killing It!

Human Interest

After dancing my butt off at Everyday People's notoriously fun day party this past weekend, I was so proud to see so many great female DJs spinning on the ones and twos! As the divine feminine and gender revolution takes over our society, women are stepping into roles previously held exclusively by men.

I think it's important that women, and specifically women of color and QPOC get opportunities to succeed in industries that have been dominated by people with societal privilege. The world of DJing and music production make up two of these industries.

The DJ and music production industry has more diversity than it ever has before, yet awareness of this fact is still quite muted, and women DJ's are underrated. This read will spotlight four journeys and give more insights on why representation of WOC is important as told by four DJ phenoms.

DJ Demi Lobo @demilobo

DJ Demi Lobo is an LA-based DJ. She chose her stage name as her real name because she is an entrepreneur with multiple entrepreneurial ventures. So instead of choosing an artist name, radio name, author name, etc, she decided to go with DJ Demi Lobo, and it works for everything!

Her Style:

"When you hear me spin, you are going to hear your jams, and not just the current jams, I can play a hip-hop set, weddings, top 40, reggae etc...but my favorites are the sets where I can open up my catalogue and mix Cardi B with Busta Rhymes, Nicki Minaj with Mase, Biggie with Drake... If I close my eyes and envision those mixes, I'm ready to dance in my front room right now! Imagine the latest Future Song blended with 'Poison,' now that sounds like a challenge I want to try!"

Why Representation of Women in the DJ World is Important:

"Before I was a DJ, I was the youngest Radio Personality to ever be on 107.5 WGCI in Chicago, and before I was a Radio Personality, I was a Black pop recording artist. Going against the grain is in my blood. I feel like my purpose in life has always been to show those who look up to me, or even those who feel like their dream may be impossible, that it's not cliche, and you CAN truly do everything you put your mind to."

"Going against the grain is in my blood."

"If you look on any flyer for a club or an event, the majority of the time, the DJ is a male. In recent years, female DJs have been completely dominating the market (go us!). It is so important for my fellow ladies of color, to grab your fear by the horns, and chase after your dreams. There are clients now who seek out female DJs and producers, who will give the job to you JUST because they want to see other WOC win. Where there once was not, now there is a market for women to thrive in this industry. You just have the take the first step. I left my job on one of the biggest radio stations in the world to chase my dream of being a DJ in Los Angeles, so at this point, there is no roadblock that can come my way, that I will look at as an obstacle."

Her Greatest Accomplishment:

"I'd have to say playing at the grand opening of Ava Duvernay's new production studio in LA, Matt Barnes' "Athletes VS Cancer" event, and the grand opening of Ciroc Studios, just to name a few."

The Real on Song Requests:

"If we are at a wedding, I gotcha! Anywhere else, if I think it will be a good fit, I will mix it in. But if it is a random song you only hear in your shower, and you just want to hear it on loud speakers, then it will likely have to wait until next time (laughs)."

Kumi aka BAE BAE, @baexploitation

BAE BAE is another LA-based DJ. Her stage name used to be spelled "Bebe" like Bebe's kids, a classic cartoon show--but she tweaked the spelling a couple years ago. She's an Aries, which is the first astrological sign, so "BAE" (before anyone else) felt right.

Her Style:

"I'm an open format DJ and I like to play music by Black femme and women artists of many genres like R&B, Hip Hop, Dancehall, Afrobeat, Jersey Club, Vogue, and experimental club music. I like to focus on music that feels empowering to me, focusing on women of color and femme artists who are claiming their power. I really love to play 90s and 2000s throwbacks and mix them with newer music. I feel like I have an appeal to both older and younger audiences."

Why Representation of Women in the DJ World is Important:

"It is vital that women of color become visible in the music industry as DJs and producers because we will then have the power to shape the content of what people listen to on a daily basis. Music is a key component to our culture, so if we can influence that culture, we can change the world. As women of color in the music industry, we have the potential to create new forms of expression that represent our unique experiences and challenges. I specifically work hard to honor and represent Black femmes and women because I feel like we are some of the most degraded people on earth, as we stand at the intersection of racialized and gendered oppression."

"Music is a key component to our culture, so if we can influence that culture, we can change the world."

The Gender Biases She Deals With:

"There is often the belief that women aren't as talented as men DJs or producers. This is so far from the truth! I am tired of being a part of DJ lineups when they give women the early slots, and men the better slots. Femmes and women are my favorite DJs and producers because of their unique song selections and samples. We play music that affirms us. I also feel that we really know how to get women and femmes dancing on the dancefloor, which is the heart of any party. When I DJ, I dance; I always join the crowd and dance to at least one of the songs I play during a set. I like to see myself as a part of the audience--I do it for the community of dancers."

"We play music that affirms us."

Her Greatest Accomplishment:

"My biggest accomplishment has been creating my own parties in my community for a mostly black audience and collaborating with Black femmes and Black queer people to make them happen. I care deeply about creating safe and fun spaces in my own neighborhood. That's what got me into DJ-ing in the first place. Reclaiming space is a direct way to push against gentrification."

The Real on Song Requests:

"Typically, song requests suck the air out of DJ-ing, but if someone requests a song and it's on point, I will get on their wave. Ultimately, my goal is to help everyone have a good time, so if it's a good request, I'll take it!"

Coral aka FXWRK, @fxwrk

FXWRK is a DJ/Producer from New York. She got her stage name from a friend who made it up in college as a play on her last name.

Her Style:

"I'm an open format DJ with a preference for hip hop/rap, R&B, Motown classics, every sort of uptempo club music, and experimental, futuristic trap. What sets me apart is my transition style: I'll often mix one song into the next relatively quickly. It makes things surprising and exciting in a different way than a long, gradual mix. I also constantly hop between so many different genres to keep things unexpected."

Why Representation of Women in the DJ World is Important:

"Representation of women in the DJ world is so important to even the playing field. To make space in the industry for the overlooked, underprivileged creativity we possess. To change the public definition of what a DJ looks like, thereby creating new possibilities and templates for WOC in the future. To challenge outdated gender stereotypes about women in this male dominated field."

The Gender Biases She Deals With:

"There is definitely gender bias in this industry. Gender stereotypes, inequality, and sexism are omnipresent in the majority of male-dominated industries. Ours is no different. We face a variety of obstacles: exclusion from access to professional networks and opportunities, sexual harassment, informal social hierarchies built to protect men's positions of power, and more. It's not hard to find hateful or derogatory comment threads about women DJs online. Being underestimated or not taken seriously is another dynamic."

"Sexism is omnipresent in the majority of male-dominated industries. Ours is no different."

"For about three years, I was Global Director of a private international online community called SISTER, which eventually grew to become the world's largest group of women and nonbinary people in electronic music. It's a growing, supportive collective that has had a positive impact on many women in our field."

Her Greatest Accomplishments:

"My debut album called The Awakening, recently featured on Vice's music channel on Noisey.com! The SISTER Collective I spoke of. Doing a really good six-hour set last month, since it was my first time playing that long, and playing Boiler Room, NYC in 2016."

The Real on Song Requests:

"I honestly don't like them since I came up as an NYC underground club DJ. People who attend these kinds of parties tend not to ask for requests because they see the DJ as an artist in their own right. The set is a 'performance' and there's a level of trust.
If I'm playing the kind of event where I know to expect requests, I happily oblige."

Myah aka DJ Dimples, @djdimples

DJ Dimples is a Miami-based DJ. Her mother actually gave her the stage name Dimples! "She asked me in the kitchen, 'Do you want to be a ballerina or a musician?' Without second thought I replied, 'Musician thanks.' She gave me a look like, girl don't answer me that quick! (laughs) But I knew I was a music baby, so she responded, 'Well you have Dimples so name yourself Dj Dimples.' 'Ok, that's perfect.' I remember saying back to her."

Her Style:

"My sound and style is smooth, I tell a story when I DJ. I could tell you how my day went with the songs I will start with, or if I'm feelin' myself, and I can tell if the crowd is too; I have music for that as well. It's not much scratching in my sets, I am a cutter and a mixer for sure. I can scratch though, it's just never been as important for me."

Why Representation of Women in the DJ World is Important:

"It's important for women, and specifically WOC, to step into these roles so we can create more space and opportunity for people like us. It's not enough of us in the correct positions, so for women to be there, we will first seek out other women to fulfill these roles. No man can outthink or be smarter than a woman!"

The Gender Biases She Deals With:

"There are many gender biases, but what I do to set the record straight, is not give up! I make sure I prove people wrong. I don't stop until I do what you say I couldn't do."

"I don't stop until I do what you say I couldn't do."

Her Greatest Accomplishment:

"One of my greatest accomplishments as a DJ is providing opportunities for other women DJs with events that I now have. When I first started DJ-ing, I had to force my way in...now I only hire other women DJs. I'm so happy to be able to give other women a platform to show their craft, and actually be good!"

The Real on Song Requests:

"I don't mind song requests as long as you do not come and ask me to play a song I just played three songs ago (laughs). Other than that, they may remind me of something I haven't played. I play off the top of my head, I don't make sets before I DJ. I come in, feel the crowd out and go from there. We end up of course having a blast!"

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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