It’s time for another DJ feature, and we are SO EXCITED to have DJ Stef Nava on deck! She talks to us about her humble beginnings, what it’s like doing weddings, and shares the challenges of being a dope-ass female DJ in a male-dominated industry.
After you’ve checked the interview out, jump over to the EXCLUSIVE MIX TAPE she created just for YOU! Holla!
What was your favorite genre of music growing up?
It’s hard to say what genre was my favorite because I really listened to a little bit of everything growing up. This was before the digital iPod age, so when I was little I listened to what was on the radio or whatever music my parents played. My dad really loved Steely Dan and Earth, Wind and Fire, so I loved soulful/ jazzy music early on. l loved a lot of Motown and had a phase where I was obsessed with Stevie Wonder. The 90’s were an amazing time for rock (Nirvana, Pearl Jam) so I listened to a lot of that. When I was old enough to drive, I think Hip Hop was what I was into the most. I thought I was so cool blasting my DJ Enuf mix tape in my Mom’s Toyota Camry! My older sisters were big hip hop heads, too, which definitely influenced me early on. I was lucky because they introduced me to stuff, especially hip hop, I would never had listened to as young as I was.
What did you do before you started spinning?
I was an actress. I worked a little bit in TV and theater. Then my agency dropped me out of nowhere after I came back to NY from a theater gig in San Diego. I was waiting tables, bartending, babysitting and a bunch of odd end jobs. After that, when I started deejaying just for fun, I started getting more and more DJ gigs and I realized that this was what I should be doing full time.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for female DJ’s?
This is a big question. There are many challenges! For one, just the way people approach females in the booth. Stuff that would never happen to a male DJ. I’m sure myself and any other female DJ out there could come up with dozens of horrifying stories people wouldn’t believe. Like, getting groped (yes, really, this has happened) and just an overall lack of respect. Last week I was playing in Saks [Fifth Avenue] and this woman came up to me and said, “That’s you doing the music? That’s hysterical! I can’t believe you know how to work everything!” People assume women are technically challenged. When I do mobile gigs where I provide all of my own equipment, people are shocked to see me carrying in everything on my own.
Also, you’re going to be judged harder as a female. You deal with a lot of ego. Many people, especially other DJs, will assume you’re getting work solely for being female. It may be the case initially, but talent and hard work is what will keep you workingm so don’t be afraid to own what you’ve got. One time I met this DJ who had never heard me play before, and within 3 minutes of meeting him he told me he knew exactly how I deejayed, and how I probably stared at my computer screen the whole time. This guy knew nothing about me and he ripped me apart as soon as I told him I deejayed full time.
I don’t know about other female DJs but my biggest challenge as a female has been owning up to my talent and not listening to all the negativity. For a while, I really let it get to me. If anyone feels the need to break you down like that, that’s the last person you should ever take seriously. The DJs who are really dope don’t pull that kind of crap. And hey, if they’re hating on you that bad, it usually means you’re doing something right.
How is the music scene changing for female DJs? Do you think they are getting the attention that they deserve?
Forbes listed the top 10 highest paid DJs in the world and there wasn’t a single woman on the list. With the exception of Pauly D, they are all music producers. There are female producers out there making music, but not too many are really having their moment yet getting the attention they deserve. I think that’s going to change in the next few years. I think we will see more house and hip hop production from females. I have a few DJ girlfriends who are making really dope music. It’s exiting to watch.
How is spinning at a wedding different from playing at a club?
Weddings take more preparation time beforehand. At the club I always just wing it. Even if I prepare a playlist for the club I rarely end up using that many songs from it. And at a wedding, you only really spin a dance set for 2-3 hours max. But, both are hard work. There’s also more pressure at a wedding because it’s such a big day for the people that hired you. Most couples I’ve spun for have been cool so it’s been a lot of fun, but you always have to be on your toes and ready for anything.
What do you love most about what you do?
Making people feel good with music…. And the fact that my job allows me to have a lot of freedom. Like having 10 hours free certain days to stare at a computer screen and teach myself how to produce. With a 9-5 job I would never have the time and energy to be creative.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Missy Elliot. She raps, she sings, she produces… Would love to see a big come back from her.
What advice would you give to an aspiring female DJ?
It’s pretty cool to have women doing their thing in an industry that is male dominated – so own that and know that what you’re doing is awesome. Don’t let anyone make you feel small, especially other male DJs that are probably threatened by the fact that you do what they do but look better behind the decks (haha). And practice! Get your skill level up to par. Represent for the ladies! And be confident. Don’t let anyone ever intimidate you into feeling like you shouldn’t be doing something that you love – no matter where you are skill or career wise. Just keep going.
Are there any special projects or events coming up for you?
Nothing special yet. Just working on getting better at my producing skills.