Turntable Talk with Summer Altice: Dj Jessica Who

By Summer Altice

Summer talks with DJ Jessica Who, a confident, talented and gorgeous woman at the top of her game.

A confident, talented, gorgeous woman isn’t as hard to come by these days as she used to be. But to come across a DJ at the top of her game with all of those attributes…well, it’s extremely rare! She is not only talented, but she is a very humble, cool, down-to-earth chick. Oh, and she is a SKAM Artist, which is an agency that reps only the best in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to DJ Jessica Who.

Summer Altice: When did you start deejaying?

 Jessica Who: I started eight and a half years ago. I was really young, about to graduate high school.

Altice: What is your favorite style or format to play?

Who: I get really anxious when I’m told a gig is one type of music, like I can't play hip-hop, or it's only commercial house. I feel like I’ve molded my style based on being able to play things people aren't expecting, whether that is Motown or Merengue. That's where I have the most fun, which translates into the crowd having the most fun. In my opinion, “open format” has come to mean house and hip-hop, or as someone once brilliantly said when I asked the format of a club, “Drake-house.” So I guess I’d say my favorite style is anti-format. I love to play really feel-good, fun music, as silly as that may sound, anything that encapsulates that “best night ever” feeling for the crowd is my favorite. But if I had to be specific, I love to play old R&B, hip-hop, oldies, Motown, disco. Stuff you can't always play in a club setting.

Altice: What was your most fun gig recently?

Who: It would have to be between dragon-i in Hong Kong and Pangaea in Singapore. They go really crazy in Asia, and those two clubs both had really good vibes, which allowed me to do things a little differently and still have the crowd right there with me.

Altice: Do you feel the advances in technology have hurt or helped the DJ world?

Who: The dreaded question. I think moderation is the key here, as with most things. Most DJs I know have come to the collective decision that while it has made our lives easier and given us the ability to branch out and play a wider range of music in farther away places, it has also opened a Pandora’s box of people who see this as a way to skip all the important steps we took to get here.

I've only been deejaying for a short time in the grand scheme of things, but I did a lot of crappy gigs for no money in order to get where I am now. I think that's a huge part of it, and without that, you have no concept of the value of what you have, and no appreciation for the art of deejaying. I don't mean to sound like your dad with the “value of a dollar” speech, but it's true. Deejaying wasn't a springboard to instant fame when I started. It was a means to be creative and, if you were good at it, to use that gift to give other people a really fun time. That's still what it means for me.

I can only hope that some of the kids who start now with all this new technology are doing what I did, which was learn everything I could about how it started and the people that came before me to mold it into what it has become.

Altice: Do you ever find it hard to get respect as a female DJ?

Who: It's rare. If I do encounter some kind of prejudice based on that, I try not to take it personally. After all, I never considered myself a “female DJ,” seeing as I didn't have much of a choice in being female. I just consider myself a DJ.  But I'm aware the outside world is going to label you no matter how you see it. As can be expected with all the new technology and advent of the DJ-as-superstar, a lot of the people who have hopped on board the DJ wagon are female. I feel that just like any other new DJs who may not be truly committed, there are a lot of women who may give serious female DJs a bad name.

I've learned to make it into a game to prove people wrong.

I can feel it sometimes when I walk into a new place and start setting up, the resident DJs or staff or crowd will be thinking, “Oh god, a female DJ.  This is going to suck,” and in all honesty I don't blame them. They've probably had bad experiences. I just start playing and hope that they are pleasantly surprised when they realize I do take it seriously, at which point I can distance myself from any negative stereotypes.

At this point in my career, I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard. I've been given support and respect from people I’ve looked up to for years, and that has meant more to me than anything anyone could say about me based on being female. 

Altice: Do you feel you have to work twice as hard to prove your skills in the male-dominated world of deejaying?

Who: I don't really see deejaying so much as a male vs. female field anymore. I see it as educated vs. non-educated. I think the informed have to work together to preserve the standards of the art that we value, to protect it from deterioration at the hands of those who don't really value it, or who see it as the new trend. Those who really care about it will still be there when everyone else moves on to the next big thing. 

In any case, I believe DJs deejay for other DJs. Obviously, I always try to do the best job I can, especially technically. If I have to play music I don't necessarily love, my creativity or enjoyment of it has to shine though in a technical aspect. But I definitely try step my game up more if I’m deejaying for people I really respect, especially other DJs I look up to.

Altice: What advice would you have for a young female DJ that wants to follow in your footsteps?

Who: I think it would be the same advice for any young DJ. I know it's hard when you're young and you're really excited about something, but take a second to evaluate your motives. Make sure you're in it for the long haul, because if you're doing it right, it's very time- and brain-consuming. You probably will have to work a little harder as a female when you're first starting out. Don't let anyone take advantage of you.  

Altice: What are your thoughts on people like Paris Hilton trying to deejay?

Who: It doesn't matter that she's rich and famous; it's just another person who saw it as a fun trend and jumped on it. I think the more dangerous ones are the people whose motives aren't as transparent and appear potentially sincere. I think everyone thought “It's about time” when she decided to deejay; it was somewhat inevitable with the way things were going, and I wish her luck in her blossoming DJ career. I don't waste time worrying about it; she's not taking any money from me.

Altice: Where are your current residencies?

Who: I'm at LIV on Wednesdays with the awesome DJ Ross One, and Pangaea in the Hard Rock once a month. Other than that, I get to travel like crazy, which is exhausting but amazing. Coming to you live from Hong Kong as we speak!

Altice: If you could tell your 12-year-old self anything, what would you say?

Who: It's not the end of the world. I was a pretty introspective, anxious kid. Everything seems dramatic when you have no adult frame of reference.

Altice: Coming from a gorgeous woman like yourself, what cities have the hottest women?

Who: Miami, obviously! Miami has very obviously hot, confident women. And New York too, which has a more understated, cool hotness.

Altice: What is your dream gig?

Who: Honestly, it doesn't have to be the most spectacular party ever. My dream gig is a party where I can do no wrong. Where I can literally play all the music I’ve ever loved, and have people absolutely raging right along with me. It's a really good feeling.

Altice: You deejayed Playboy’s Super Bowl party this last February in Indy…Is a Playboy party the ultimate gig?

Who: That was such a fun party. There were girls hanging from the rafters. Literally. It was a really classy, sexy, well-organized event, and I got to play really good music, which is always a plus. Ne-Yo performed a full show, which was amazing. Playboy is the ultimate in playful fun. Only they could pull off a party like that.

Like I said, she is not only talented, but also eloquent, smart and an all-around great example to all women that you can have it all. Please check her out at www.djjessicawho.com


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