DJ Jessica Milner on Sexism in the DJ industry and Sticking it to the Man
This DJ from Manila was asked to pose in a bikini for an event. Her response got us raising our fists in femme solidarity
It’s amazing how the past several years have seen the emergence of women carving out their names in another male dominated sector of society—the DJ industry. Hardly a fashion show, store opening or corporate holiday party is without a DJ, and hiring a female one seems de rigeuer to pump up the crowd. In Manila’s popular night haunts such as The Bowery, 20:20 and Black Market, you'll find DJ Jessica Milner lighting up the place with her effervescent vibe.
A music nerd for as long as she can remember, DJ Jessica has always been fascinated by the way a DJ can wield the power to influence the crowd's mood. “I always naturally gravitated towards the front of the dance floor because I wanted to watch what the DJ was doing,” she muses. "I found it so beautiful how a DJ can sway a whole room’s emotions just by playing music. I immediately asked my mom to sign me up for lessons.”
Not sticking to one genre, DJ Jessica built a strong following for her diverse and ever-evolving music style (she currently has 15.6k IG fans). She prefers to mix it up because, as she explains, “My mood shifts all the time. I always find myself obsessing over a new genre every couple of months. It really depends on the situation as well because there are some events that call for lounge-y house music or a popular club that calls for hip-hop. It’s really up to me to set the mood and I love that about being a DJ.”
The road to DJ-domme, however, wasn’t a smooth one for DJ Jessica—and frankly, no road ever is for women attempting to break the glass ceiling. But in the eight years that she has been in the industry, this equal parts striking and talented lady has always stuck to her guns and has not even once given in to the sexism that pervades the industry. "I’ve definitely experienced forms of sexism and moments where I'm typecast as a 'sexy female DJ,' which I absolutely hate. I was once offered a gig in Bali but they cancelled on me because I refused to pose in a bikini. I told them to suck it,” she recalls.
DJ Jessica also points that choosing to be a DJ as a career has also raised a lot of eyebrows from the conservative set. "I was also put down a lot by people who didn’t understand my career choice. DJing is about generating a mood and taking your audience into a better place by understanding their emotions. It’s a lot easier said than done,” she laments. "I’ve experienced a lot of pain and hardships in my eight years in the industry, but it feels great to give them the middle finger. I’m happy! Mind your own business.”
And the dedication paired with the conviction to stick it to the man is certainly paying off. DJ Jessica’s proud to have been billed alongside Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Tiesto, among other artists. She also opened and closed for some of her favorite artists and DJs such as Snakehips, Jai Wolf, Jay Prince, Shortkut, and Sosupersam (“At the 143 party, too! An LA based R&B party that goes all over the world," she brags).
"My job has taken me to some beautiful cities and countries as well like Malaysia, Thailand, and South Africa. South Africa being my favorite one. I didn’t think I was going to be able to see the beauty of Stellenbosch and Cape Town on my own! Let alone being flown there for work,” she beams at the memory.
"Honestly, I’m just happy when the crowd enjoys my sets. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people enjoy themselves whilst listening to the music I play."
DJ Jessica Milner: Top 3 Albums That Changed Her Life
For DJ Jessica, music has definitely changed her for the better. "Music has always been an incredibly huge part of my life,” she declares. "When I’m happy, I listen to music. When I’m not feeling my best, I listen to music. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by music. I even chose it as my career. I’ve met the best people in my life because of music and I owe my success to it. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have this deep love for music.”
She shares the top three albums that have influenced not only her career, but also perspective on life:
1) Dangerous by Michael Jackson
"This was the first album I begged my parents to buy for me. I was three or four years old and was a huge fan of the King of Pop. I remember watching his live shows on television religiously whilst copying his dance moves. I guess you can say that was when I discovered that I was a music lover."
Favorite song on the album: "Remember The Time”
“The melody just makes me feel so good. And I love that feeling of nostalgia that Michael sings about. It just makes me feel all giddy inside."
2) Voodoo by D’Angelo
"A guy that I was seeing introduced me to the brilliance of D’Angelo many years ago and that was when I discovered my love for soul music. It touched me in a very different way because you could actually feel the artist pour out their heart and soul into their music and I found that so beautiful. There’s something about that kind of music that touches people on a very personal level. Even as I DJ, I get lost in the music whenever I play this certain genre.
"When I found out that D’Angelo was going to be in Asia, I immediately booked a flight to Osaka to see him. He even said I love you to me (well, sort of) because I was the only English speaker in the crowd at that time. I screamed, 'I love you D’Angelo!' and got a response from him just before he played his last song. Best concert ever!"
Favorite song on the album: "Feel Like Makin’ Love"
"The mixture of Pino Palladino’s bass guitar, Questlove’s drumming, and D’Angelo’s soulful vocals makes the song so funky and sexy."
3) Discovery by Daft Punk
"My brother introduced 10-year-old Jess to Daft Punk and I remember the feeling as I listened to electronic music for the first time. I was obsessed! I guess you can say that my love for Daft Punk really influenced my taste today because I’m still very much into disco and French house."
Favorite song on the album: "Something About Us”
"This song makes me feel so many things and that a mark of a good song. The lyrics about love and uncertainty with one of Daft Punk’s best melodies made this song my favorite one."
Listen to DJ Jessica Milner’s top three favorite albums here:
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