How DJ Charlotte is leading the ‘Future is Female’ movement

In a predominantly male industry, the list of prolific female DJs can be rather stark in Trinidad and Tobago. Whether due to lack of opportunity or the mindset that women can’t keep up, there’s a clear gender disparity, particularly in the numbers.

In just a few years, DJ Charlotte has earned herself the reputation as one of the hottest female DJs in Trinidad and Tobago, becoming a household name as one of Slam 100.5FM’s main DJs, one of YUMA Carnival’s headline road DJs and serves as star act for some of the biggest events in the country, as well as regionally and internationally.

Her journey to get there hasn’t always been easy.

Charlotte shares more on how she got her start, why she quit at one point and her commitment to paving the way for a new generation of female DJs.

How did you get your start as a DJ?

DC: I was 15 and I had a group of friends who wanted to start a DJ group and play at small events, birthdays parties, that kind of thing. They said they wanted to pull me on board and I thought ‘That’s strange but okay’, I was down for it. They gave me a programme, Virtual DJ, which I downloaded and started playing around with.

My brother also used to DJ, he’d collect a lot of music on our very old computer back when it had Windows 95 (laugh).

I’d just listen to music, all kinds, music before my time…and I really enjoyed it. I’d sit for hours just listening and mixing. I’d make mixes for my brother and sister; they’d be watching TV or playing games and have it on mute and listen to me play.

From there it went from playing at home to playing at birthday parties for like 10 people; I just enjoyed it so much. I started UWI at 18, where there were so many parties and it was there I was really exposed to playing for larger crowds.

Okay, so you established yourself a bit more on the university scene. Post-UWI, were you still doing it as a hobby or as a side hustle?

DC: Fun fact: I actually quit while I was in UWI. I thought it was too much pressure, it was distracting. I was starting to get gigs, a lot of gigs, but I started to lose interest because I was getting exposed to the reality of the entertainment industry, particularly with how women are treated. As up-and-coming 19-year-old female DJ, let’s just say it wasn’t a very welcoming space, from promoters, other DJs, down to even security. It was starting to become too much of a fight and I quit for about a year.

It was only when I went to one event and I saw Alicia D’ Duchess perform. She mash up the place. I was in the crowd and I remember standing there, thinking: “You’re not supposed to be in the crowd, you need to be up there on stage.”

Right then I knew I needed to get back on the horse.

My first major event was at Zen [Nightclub]. The party was swinging and I was starting to get this confidence I didn’t have before, and it was something that I only felt while on stage. After that, I was hooked. Zen solidified that this is what I’m meant to do.

How did you market yourself beyond the UWI crowd?

DC: It was difficult because I didn’t have anyone to guide me, so I looked at it as trying to meet as many and network with as many people as I can. I wasn’t really thinking of my image at the time, I was thinking of getting into the parties, getting to play, just getting to be heard.

It was only, later on, I realized that my image was just as important as my career. I basically had to come with everything on my own: what kind of image I wanted to portray, what I was going to sell to the crowd, who I am as a person. I had to start thinking of myself not as a name but as a brand.

DJ Charlotte

Everything just kind of blew up from there. I didn’t even realize how big the brand was getting until I’d go to random places and people would just come up to me excitedly asking ‘Are you DJ Charlotte?!’ and I’d be like whoa! (laugh)

I’m still not accustomed, it’s still a weird feeling, you know? I was never really the popular one in school, so when someone comes up to me and says, hey, you had a great set, I’m still blown away, to this day.

Given your position as one of the most prolific female DJs in the country, have you thought about putting together a mix tape or any other projects that feature some of the up-and-coming female DJs?

DC: Yea, I’ve definitely given that a lot of thought. There are a lot more female DJs in the country out there than people think. I’ve had some of the younger DJs reach out to me asking me for advice and I’d be some humbled by it because it’s like I’m still learning myself. I’d definitely love to help the younger ones especially since I didn’t have anyone to guide me in any way, and I feel like if you’re blessed with a talent, after a certain point you need to give back.

I’ve always wanted to get into mentoring younger female DJs. I’ve met with some of them, they’re really good, some of them just need that push because it can be a scary field. I’m not gonna lie, it can be an intimidating space, and you are judged to a higher standard than the guys. In terms of working with, for sure.

I have this phrase that I stand by, ‘The future is female’, and I would really like to see more female DJs as headline acts and not just put first to warm up the crowd or because she looks nice.

Put her first because she’s a good DJ. When people say ‘you’re the baddest female DJ,’ instead of making it a male and female thing, understand that there are some female DJs who are just as good if not better than some of the guys; let’s not make a gender thing.

I definitely want to help some of the younger ones really understand the business from the early stages because there’s a lot goes into it, like how to market yourself, how to push yourself as a brand, how not to get caught up in this one image of looking sexy. I mistakenly assumed that once you look good, you’re guaranteed to get a booking, and that’s not the case. You have to earn respect first, put the groundwork in first, earn a reputation first before you can really start putting you can start pushing yourself out there.

Regardless of gender, what advice would you give some of the younger DJs?

DC: When I first started out I was playing empty dances with bartenders only. But…that same bartender knew someone who was doing an event and would put me on to them. That said, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter where you go, what you do, as long as you leave a mark.

Also, playing first is actually a good thing. Opening a dance is very important, I think more important than playing primetime. At primetime, people already know what to expect, what songs are gonna play. When you play first and engage a crowd or even a few people, that really speaks volumes to your talent. Playing first…you have to know your music, not just what’s popular right now. There’s way too much music out there to be playing the same thing over and over. You gain a lot more respect and more bookings.

What’s next for DJ Charlotte?

DC: I’m looking into production and a ‘Future is Female’ event. I really want to create something that will highlight and showcase females in the industry.

I’m also considering going into talent management. Who knows, one day I could be managing the next up-and-coming female DJ. I feel like I’m ready for that because…I don’t want to say a lot of managers exploit people, but there are times when you don’t know who to trust in this industry and I feel like I can help a young woman a lot faster than when I was at my start. There are so many talented female DJs but they just don’t know where to start.

Because of the experience I have now I can use that to mold and shape someone, put them out there and let them shine.

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