The DJ world is a predominantly male industry. Trinidad and Tobago is no different where the gender disparity is clear and the number of prolific female DJs is scarce.
In just a few years, Charlotte Chadee, popularly known as DJ Charlotte has boldly broken those barriers, establishing herself as a staple in the industry both at home, across the region and beyond. As one of Slam 100.5FM’s prolific DJs—headline road DJ for YUMA Carnival and countless events— Charlotte is living testament to her own personal mantra: the future is female.
Find out how she got into mixing and her passion for laying the foundation for up-and-coming 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 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. 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, make mixes for my brother and sister. It went from playing at home to playing at birthday parties for like 10 people. 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 and it was distracting. I was starting to get 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 an 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— 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]. 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.
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. 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.
Have you thought about putting together a mixtape 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 so 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 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. 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. You have to earn respect, put in the groundwork and earn a reputation first before you can really start pushing yourself out there.
Regardless of gender, what advice would you give up-and-coming 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. You have to know your music, not just what’s popular right now. 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. 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 mould and shape someone, put them out there and let them shine.
— A version of this article first appeared on ricqcolia.com.