Sure, this is the 21st century and women's rights are firmly in place for the most part, but we can't help noticing the large gap in equality between men and women in the workplace every time we go to some huge club and look up at the DJ booth. In electronic dance music,the lack of celebrated female selectors is astounding. The media coverage of the ones are successful in the scene can be equally dismal. The only female DJ to ever crack the the infamous DJ Mag top 100 has been Claudia Cazacu in 2010 (she squeaked by at #93).
But what about the loads of unmentioned ladies who continue make waves in EDM? We talked to some of the top female DJs right now about obstacles they may have faced in their ascension as super stars in the industry. If you're expecting a big pout fest from these women, guess again. Turns out that most of them are more concerned with kicking ass on their own terms.
Liv Nervo, one half of the Australian DJ duo The Nervo Twins, started DJing with her twin sister Mim seven years ago when they moved to the UK and fell into a group of DJ friends. Starting their careers mixing at house parties, they soon began producing and writing songs. These days, they're best known for their songwriting collaboration with David Guetta on his Grammy-winning hit "When Love Takes Over," performed by Kelly Rowland. Playing the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and headlining various shows throughout the globe NERVO have proven themselves as true artists in this ever growing EDM community, regardless of their gender. "Don't let your gender get in the way," says Nervo. "Try to be true to yourself and if you are having a great time then your audience will too."
This is a rather humble statement coming from artists who recently landed a record deal with Virgin America/Astralwerks and are currently carving out a debut album. Breaking the stereotype that EDM is dominated by male DJs, The Nervo Twins (a.k.a NERVO) use their songwriting skills and upbeat energy to shine through in their DJ sets. When pressed for advice for young female DJs, Nervo sounds the same as any other artist who made their name with passion and perspiration. "Practice makes perfect," she says. "A lot of us have been working in the studio for several years so I suggest to just keep going." With a recent collaboration with Nicky Romero coming out soon and a full album in the works NERVO are the perfect example that showcasing great talent, regardless of gender, is the trick to making it big in this male dominated industry.
"I definitely think I have had to prove myself a little bit more as a female," says electro queen Audrey Napoleon. Audrey began her passion for DJing when she moved to LA and worked at Hollywood hot-spot Geisha House. She remembers catching the performance bug after her friends took her to a DJ night at Avalon Hollywood. Despite feeling more pressure to outshine her male counterparts early in her career, Napoleon says her lack of female colleagues in EDM is not a huge concern to her. "If you're talented then you get there, if your not then you don't. As of now it just so happens to be male dominated, but I think its more based on talent not gender," she states.
In some ways, the fact that there are so few famous female DJs makes them a prized asset in addition to all the hard work they put in. Heineken recently made Napoleon the face of its "Sunrise Belongs to Moderate Drinkers" international campaign with her own original track "#mysunrise." Now playing all over the world, with a 15-stop tour on Identity Festival and an upcoming EP titled Ornamental Egos out July 24 via SQE Music Napoleon's hard work and dedication has come full circle.
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Like any industry, sexism is still an element that plenty of female DJs deal with nightly. "There have been times where people assumed I didn't know how to setup properly or use the equipment, when I do so very well," says Shae B. The Long Beach local (born Shaelen Burroughs) started her DJ career just a mere two years ago and has already opened for Michael Woods at Avalon in Hollywood and played the Wide Awake Cart at EDC this year. "At first it was hard to get my foot in the door," she explains. "But now a lot of people are really accepting of girls that DJ." Burroughs notes playing at Avalon, the Playboy Mansion and even some Victoria Secret events as being the most memorable for her.
"You have to own yourself in every way possible if you want to be taken seriously," she says. "I think if you have that professionalism and respect for the work that you do then it will be reciprocated." That professionalism which Shae B has displayed has lead to her continued success as a DJ, model and actress in this incredibly competitive industry. She is opening for Treasure Fingers this Sunday at the Drais Pool Party in Hollywood amongst mostly male DJs. "I've been beaten with the mentality to not take crap from anyone, which is usually the case in any industry," she says. "As a female we have to work a little extra harder, show our dedication and sometimes bust balls just like the men who precede us if we want to make it."
Though there is definitely a lack of female DJs playing major festivals and clubs all over the world it doesn't go un-noted that there are plenty of hardworking females who have paved the way for these ladies and many more to be able to garner the success they have achieved. From Annie Mac, DJ Rap and Kristina Sky the amount of true female DJs with talent is definitely there and will hopefully continue to grow as EDM continues to gain notoriety and mainstream popularity. Currently DJs are being coined the rock stars of the 21st century, but we can't wait for the day when female DJs make it as big as the likes of Katy Perry and Beyonce.