top-Maison the Faux, Whatever 21/ shorts-Whatever 21
Story/ Jennifer Ortakales
Photos/ Morgan Stuart of Kreative Kommune
Photo Asst./ Kyle P. Stuart
Stylist/ Jonatan Mejia of Kreative Kommune
Hair/ Mischa G
Makeup/ Raisa Flowers of Kreative Kommune
You moved to Los Angeles at 18 years old. Moving across the country, without any help or friends is rough. How did you make it on your own, especially in the first year?
Moving to Los Angeles at such a young age was definitely a leap of faith. I grew up in a sheltered bubble, also known as Georgetown, Washington D.C. Growing up, I was super preppy and conservative because that’s all I really knew. Thanks to the beginning of social media (Myspace, Livejournal, Purevolume), I was introduced to the artistic community of Los Angeles.
My parents were not fans of my decision, and I’m sure if they had it their way, I would have followed in their political footsteps. I remember packing about four suitcases of my belongings, going on Craigslist, finding a sublet apartment, booking a flight, and just deciding on a random date to move to Los Angeles. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it without the power of the internet.
I made connections with some amazing people, a lot of whom were established and well known artists. These people are still my best friends to this day and they really held my hand and guided me along in adjusting to L.A. life. I could have easily found myself hanging around the wrong group of people, but thankfully I made some smart, successful and amazing friends, who looked out for me and showed me the ropes of a successful life in Los Angeles.
Where did your passion for music, specifically in EDM, come from? Did you grow up knowing you wanted to create music?
It wasn’t until I was about nine years old when I knew I might have a future in music. I wasn’t good at sports and I had heard about this after-school musical theater program. Once a year, they got to travel to Disney World to perform and miss three days of school because of it. That sounded SO DOPE to me at nine years old. All I knew was that I needed to be in that musical theater troupe, but it was auditioned based.
I ended up convincing my mom to let me audition, and I got it! My mom told me that not only did I make the troupe, but that the judges were so blown away by my voice they described me as “pitch perfect” and “always on beat.” I had no idea that it was a thing to be “pitch perfect,” I just thought everyone had perfect pitch and it was just an easy basic human trait to control your singing voice.
I was a horrible student; I actually failed math class in the fifth grade. When it came to English, I excelled in creative writing and poetry, but failed miserably in serious reports. Looking back on it now, that really was a red flag that I was more of a creative than an intellectual.
Coming from loving metal and rock music, it was only a given that I would naturally gravitate towards working in EDM. I like to call EDM the “Digital Breakdown.” In metal, there is always a part of the song that gets super heavy, called the breakdown. I love that EDM captures the essence of that super heavy moment and even adds to it, because in EDM there are no instrumental limits!
Robe – Mused/ Top – Mused/ Bustier – Maison the Faux/ Pants – Maison the Faux/ Choker – Louis Vuitton
How is your DJ style different from your music as a performer? Do you see yourself fitting into one role more than the other?
My DJing and my music really go hand-in-hand. I think it is really important to add your own sound into your DJ sets so they stand out. People want to hear a signature sound, so they feel as though the set has been customized. I feel like whenever I DJ, I am performing. You need to have stage presence, attitude, and showmanship in order to really rock it as a DJ. People look to you to hype them up, so you cannot let them down.
How was reality TV a stepping stone to a career in music? Did it prepare you in ways you never expected?
I totally believe that reality TV did help me with my career as a musician. It not only promoted me as a musician, but it also gave me a following. I won’t lie, yes I did have a good amount of followers before reality TV, but I don’t think I would be where I am at now on social media (numbers wise) without reality TV. It gave people an insight into my life that they would have never learned about, or seen otherwise. I would say that reality TV prepared me by giving me more of an audience and it also taught me how to please and maintain that audience.
Looking back, what did you do right in your career to get yourself where you are now?
There are so many stepping stones and milestones that I can think of that may have been “the one” that helped launch my career. The first thing that comes to mind though is moving to Los Angeles. I wouldn’t be where I am today without relocating myself to L.A. I visited home recently (Washington D.C.) and I just kept thinking about where my life would be at if I had stayed home. One thing is certain, I would not be as happy as I am today. I would probably be working a job that I either didn’t care about, or was struggling at. There is just nothing there for me artistically or career wise. If I wanted a career in the arts, it was dire that I move to Los Angeles.
Were there any mistakes or missed opportunities you’d say were for the best?
There was a moment in time when I thought I wanted to be in the fashion industry. I was looking at fashion schools, internships and jobs. I would still consider myself in the fashion industry today, but I wanted to be in it full throttle. I think when I started getting older, dying my hair weird colors, doing crazy makeup, and dressing like a little punk, the only explanation I had to my elders was that, “I want to be in fashion!” I almost used that as a crutch to make everyone around me feel better when my style started to get super alternative.
My family, being super conservative and preppy, was scared when I started to change my style up. I had to convince them for years that I wasn’t going crazy. Deep down, I knew I didn’t want to be in fashion. I knew fashion would just be a hobby. I didn’t know the correct terms or fashion lingo, but when it came to music, I knew everything.
I spent all of my free time studying music without even meaning to. It was just what I did whenever I had free time. I would research bands, artists, DJs, what programs they used, what platforms they sold their music through (if even selling it at all) and how each and every one of them launched their career. Looking back now, I am super happy that I did not keep that façade up of wanting to be in the fashion industry, and that I stayed true to myself.
How do you describe your personal style and how does fashion play into your music?
I would describe my personal style as “out there” but still “in touch.” I like my style to first strike people and surprise them, but then I like to reel people in by still adding elements of normal everyday fashion into my looks. I like to describe it as “ironic” or a “clash of cultures.” I love seeing people get confused by my fashion choices. Usually, the confusion is about whether they like my style or not. Especially people from different American cultures, who have been taught that people with crazy colored hair or tattoos are “weirdos.”
I love walking into a room with my crazy pink hair and tattoos, but dressed in a long pencil skirt and nice top with a long peacoat. I can tell that people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to the pink hair and tattoos suddenly become perplexed. I like to throw people off, take them by surprise, so that they can open their mind and maybe become less closed-minded.
I hated being told what I could and couldn’t do with my style growing up. I think it is important to show people that you can look any way that you want and still be successful. If you watch any of my music videos you can tell that my fashion and music totally go hand-in-hand. Whenever I listen to a song, I get a vibe from it, and that vibe turns into a visual. If the song is a sad song, I get maybe a dark or romantic visual. If the song is a fast paced hip-hop track, I would probably get a more spunky, streetwear and hip visual. That’s why I love creating music videos. I almost always get a visual when I listen to a song and I think putting that visual out there really helps send the message of what the vibe is of the song.
Who inspires you musically? Any artists you’ve listened to since you were young who have influenced you?
As I mentioned earlier, I was a complete musical theater freak and because of that, I find I am more drawn to music that has a theatrical vibe, or is more intense. Obviously growing up, it wasn’t as cool to be into Broadway musicals and that’s when I started getting into rock and metal music. I found that metal quenched my thirst for that theatrical vibe. It was loud, there was so much going on at once and it was big. I loved rock operas. For instance, I was obsessed with The Phantom Of The Opera and I have seen it a total of 14 times on Broadway. I’d say that most of my musical inspiration really stems from musical theater and drama. Most girls growing up liked Britney Spears, and I liked going to Broadway shows. I was a bit of a nerd.
Top/Bottom – Maison the Faux
You released your first album this summer and a music video for your song “Fake It” this month, what’s next? Any appearances your fans should be on the lookout for?
Yes! I have been DJing a lot more in the Los Angeles area now that I have finished my album. It can be really hard to balance creating, and DJing at the same time, but when it comes to playing gigs, I feel at home. I started off as a DJ, so I will always have a blast when it comes to DJing, playing music for everyone, and meeting all of you! I am also in the works of trying to figure out how to put together a tour. I want to get out there and play for all of you, whether it be nationwide or worldwide!
If people take away one message from your music, what do you strive for that to be?
To just be yourself. Be weird, be silly and be real. As I mentioned earlier, each one of my tracks sets a tone whether it be silly, quirky, sad or angry. I was always told to tone it down when I was growing up. I think that now that I have this outlet to spread a message, I can make people who may feel like they are a bit weird, or an odd-ball, feel a lot less alone.
It will always be cool to be yourself, but it won’t always be cool to pretend to be someone you are not. You simply cannot master being someone that you are not. If you embrace yourself and all of your little quirks and edges, you just end up appealing to the people who share those same quirks and edges, but may not be brave enough to embrace them just yet, for multiple reasons. Whether it be because they are scared of being judged, or a family member isn’t letting them embrace those quirks, or a friend is suffocating them by telling them that it’s simply not cool to be that way.
We are not alone and there are so many other people with the same traits, flaws, and imperfections. I find that being yourself ends up helping each other feel better about our imperfections. Then, we end up drawing in the people who may not understand those imperfections but want to. It has never been cooler to be a weirdo than it is now, and we must embrace that and not let anyone try to dull us out.