QUEENS, NEW YORK
I met Drea at a mutual friend’s Ugly Christmas Sweater party in Brooklyn about three years ago. Back then, she was a fashion casting director who juggled a couple of DJ gigs after work – but despite her hectic schedule, Drea kept it going. As we kept in touch over the years, her hobby evolved into a career; she continued to cultivate her love for music and eventually left her 9 to 5 to pursue DJ’ing. This move for Drea was now… or never.
There’s just something about women that feed and empower your soul, and it should be reciprocated.
How does your craft reflect your personal aesthetic?
My professional background for the past 10+ years has been in fashion, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to turn my hobby and love of music into my craft. I had a pretty cool job as a fashion casting director, working with the biggest designers, brands and talent around the world. Through casting, I was able to meet a lot of awesome folks, and make some lasting connections. I was lucky to be in the position I was in. But I think the stress to maintain and keep up with the industry finally caught up with me so I decided to pick up DJ’ing on the side. The newness of it felt so exciting, that I found myself inspired to make moves with it. A year later, I quit my day job and dove into this new world of DJ’ing that I barely knew anything about. I’m a lot happier and lighter these days, and it’s because I feel like I can be more like myself.
How have the women in your life been instrumental in your life and career?
I grew up in a single parent household, having been primarily raised by my mom, my grandmothers and my aunts. My mom worked multiple jobs, and made a ton of sacrifices just so I could live comfortably and have a proper education. In this man’s world, my grandmothers (R.I.P. Inang) are the most emotionally and physically strongest women I know, not letting life’s road blocks stop them from achieving what they’ve aimed for. My aunts have always offered advice and lent their care whenever I needed it without question, teaching me the real definition of friendship. Their teachings are a reflection on how I am towards other women. There’s just something about women that feed and empower your soul, and it should be reciprocated. I’ve been so lucky to share connections with so many other strong women because they inspire me to be better. If it wasn’t for these women in my life, I really believe I wouldn’t have the guns to be where and who I am today.
Use your resources and research people in the industry that you admire and are doing what you want to do and reach out to them. Make connections with them. People are generally willing to help if you just ask. Stay curious. Realize you don’t know it all, and have an open mind. Consume as much as you can, and make it work for yourself. Take risks.
Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?
Working in fashion taught me to keep up with trends, and with the help of social media, it’s made it much easier for us to stay connected. I pride myself in having good taste and knowing how to cut the fat with all the extra crap out there, so the real challenge is being able to mute the noise while managing to staying relevant. I love pop culture, and I stay curious. I like to keep it moving. Nostalgia is good, but there’s also so much cool, new shit out there – especially with artists and music!
How do you keep track of your personal and business goals – and stay creative at the same time (even when you’re exhausted)?
It can be way challenging to keep track of both personal and business goals as a creative, but being freakishly organized while developing good habits has helped. I own stacks of notebooks and jars of pens because I like to physically write things down, and if I don’t have a pen and paper on hand, I’ll write it down in my phone or in my laptop. It’s the only way to regulate all the chaos going on inside my head. You can have a long list of goals, but having the discipline to formulate and execute those goals is how you’re really going to achieve them. Understanding that if you’re hungry enough and have the drive to want to see your ideas come into fruition is essential. Being a DJ nowadays is more than having great taste in music and having the technical skills to back it. You sort of have to be a “social personality” to add value to your brand; you almost have to treat it like your business.
Staying creative is an ongoing struggle, but I’m fortunate to live in a city that inspires me every day. A lot of people in NYC have this “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality, but sleep is fucking awesome! I think it’s important to stay in tune and listen to your body. As long as you eat right, stay active and allow yourself to be open, you’d be doing your future self a huge favor. You can’t create if you’re feeling restless or exhausted. The stress just isn’t worth it in the long run. Disco naps are fun, too. It’s all about maintaining a balance.
How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?
Mentors are extremely important. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know it all, and it’s silly to think that you don’t need anyone to make it in life. We all need each other to get by. Embrace the people that inspire and challenge you so you can grow. I learn something different from each and every single person I keep close in my life – young and old.
My main mentor is my mother. She’s my number one. She is everything.
Shawndub and TAP.10 have been my DJ mentors since the very beginning. They’ve pretty much taught me everything I know about DJ’ing, and the ropes of industry. I admire those two so much. They’re possibly the most patient and intuitive people I know.
My boyfriend, Mike Baker has been my life mentor since we started dating. He’s really helped me through a lot of shit, and has shown endless support with what I want to do and who I want to be. He is literally my best friend, and I can’t imagine life without him.
What is your advice for women entering creative fields or starting their own business?
Figure out what exactly it is you want to do in the creative industry because there is so much to contribute to this world, whether it be in fashion, design, marketing or music. Use your resources and research people in the industry that you admire and are doing what you want to do and reach out to them. Make connections with them. People are generally willing to help if you just ask. Stay curious. Realize you don’t know it all, and have an open mind. Consume as much as you can, and make it work for yourself. Take risks.
Place that inspires me the most…
The beach and being near the ocean. It reminds me how small I am, and allows me to open my mind to immeasurable possibilities.
I feel most powerful when…
I can help empower other women.
I love what I do because…
It makes me feel good, and it allows me to make others feel just as good.
Best advice I have ever received…
Nothing is free. Everything comes with a price.