(DJ, Producer, Label Co-Owner)
Celeste Alexander knows what it means to dare to do more… A wife, a mother, a DJ and label co-owner, Celeste manages to balance these responsibilities while delivering and creating some of the deepest, soulful, mixes In today’s house music landscape. In 1982 Celeste was introduced to DJing by the legendary Steve “Silk” Hurley. During that time dance music was being shaped into a culture and genre’ that is now known world- wide as house music. Celeste was learning her craft with the likes of such names in the industry as: Terry Hunter, Maurice Joshua, Ron Carroll, Ron Trent, Vick Lavender, Mike Dunn and Gene Hunt. Along with other DJ’s and producers from the Chicago area that have grown to giants in the industry, Celeste was the daring female in an otherwise male dominated industry that was holding her own and making a name for herself in the Chicago music scene. She remains the only female who has played with the late Ron Hardy, the legend himself in his home “The Music Box”.
Debunking the myth that mixing was gender specific, was Celeste’s motivation to continue to play. Through the mentorship of such iconic DJs as Frankie Knuckles and Andre Hatchett, and the unwavering support of such noted DJs as Ron Hardy and Wayne Williams, Celeste has and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Celeste left the scene for about 10 years returning in 2006 with the desire to again be a part of the culture she left. She fell in love with how house music had progressed and wanted more than ever to play again. Offered an opportunity to have her own internet radio show on Cyberjamz.com in 2007, was the springboard to giving Celeste a world- wide platform to express herself. It’s been 7 years and “The Celestial Odyssey” is still one of the top ranked shows on Cyberjamz Internet Radio.
Celeste has had the opportunity to play in clubs in various cities including, Miami, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta and Detroit. She has shared the decks with names like Jihad Muhammad, Lou Gorbea, Ray Vazquez, and Vick Lavender among many others. Celeste was the first female to play the world’s largest one day event in house music, known as The Chosen Few Picnic. In 2009 she joined forces with Vick Lavender and Steven Stewart to become co-owner of Sophisticado Recordings, which is now one of today’s most quality labels in the industry. To her credit she has released several tracks under the Sophisticado name. In 2009 “Nasty Bitch” her collaboration with the legendary Terry Hunter hit top ten on the charts. In 2013 she joined forces with BlondBabe Promotions. Under this management she has successfully maintained a monthly residency at Chicago’s Underground Wonder Bar. “An Evening with The Lady of House” has quickly become one of the best experiences of music and dance on the Chicago House Scene. Staying true to her craft and shattering stereotypes still remains Celeste motivation and dedication to an industry that is far more main stream than many give credit to. Thirty-three years ago, while other women were watching the game, Celestethedj Alexander dared to step into the game. “When I first started playing public I would wear baggy clothes and a baseball cap so the people wouldn’t know it was a female playing. After I got them dancing I would take off the sweat shirt, and baseball cap so they could see that they were dancing to a female playing. I love the shock factor!
MzHouse Diva: When did you get started in the music scene?
Celestethedj Alexander: 1981
MzHouse Diva: How did you get into DJing?
DJ Celeste: Steve Hurley introduced me to the art form of mixing and I was eventually taught the mechanics by a brother named Steve Duplain. I was then mentored and taught by Andre Hatchett, Keith Fobbs, and Frankie Knuckles. I kept playing because I was told early on that women couldn’t do it…sounded like a challenge to me. lol
MzHouse Diva: What was the first record you bought?
Celestethedj Alexander: I would have to say the 12inch of Martin Circus, "Disco Circus" and I think a Devo album. Other than that, I started playing and taking a lot of my mother’s records.
MzHouse Diva: What was your first paid DJing gig?
Celestethedj Alexander: Calvin Hollis (name sound familiar?) and Dave Risqué spring party at International Game room on 47th street.
MzHouse Diva: How would you describe your DJing style to people?
Celestethedj Alexander: Sexy and soulful, but I will still beat you down, grown folk, with some childlike moments! lol
MzHouse Diva: When did you first fall in love with house music?
Celestethedj Alexander: I don’t think it was actually called house then, it was still a splinter between Disco and Punk and R&B, and some Rock even back then. I have ALWAYS had a special connection to music. Even as a small child there was music my mom had that moved me in my spirit. I think I was at a good age to explore the dance clubs and underground clubs without a curfew. After latching on to Andre Hatchett and going everywhere together, I was hooked to the club scene and to the music. I was about 19 maybe?
MzHouse Diva: What draws you to the deeper, soulful side of House? Why has it often been overlooked by mainstream audiences yet thrives underground and how can that be changed to reach a broader base?
Celestethedj Alexander: Soulful house is richer, more vocals, orchestrations, and more soul touching. It has not been as overlooked as many may think; it just may seem so in the U.S.. It’s far more prevalent, in other countries and closer to mainstream.
MzHouse Diva: Who were some of your musical influences?
Celestethedj Alexander: As Artist… The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Donald Byrd and so on. As for DJ’s: Frankie, Andre, Ronnie all in my younger years. Now….. Josh Milan, Vick Lavender, Louie Vega, Ron Trent, Glenn Underground among many others.
MzHouse Diva: Do you play any musical instruments?
Celestethedj Alexander: I took lessons in piano, clarinet and classic guitar as a child, none of which I can play now.
MzHouse Diva: What is your most memorable moment in your career?
Celestethedj Alexander: It has all been memorable, when you love what you do, it’s all held special in your heart. If I had to pick one specific gig, playing at the WMC for the first time, and playing at Coney Island have to be a couple of highlights that still make my heart flutter.
MzHouse Diva: What was the best advice that was given to you?
Celestethedj Alexander: Upon coming back to DJing in 2006, Frankie Knuckles told me to find myself in the new music, and not to get stuck in the old music, if I wanted to do something more than play on Stony Island…..He was 100% correct!
MzHouse Diva: What is your inspiration and what pushes you to do new work?
Celestethedj Alexander: I still have a lot of learning to do as far as production. I still have not figured out if full production is something I want to do. BUT doing remixes I find intriguing. I have yet to fall in love with the “Process” of making music like I have fallen in love with playing it. Playing for people makes my heart skip a beat every time. I’ve been a house music dj/mix-artist for over 30 years now, my love for the culture, and the skill set it takes to endure is what keeps me motivated.
MzHouse Diva: When you aren’t busy djing; what do you like to do in your free time?
Celestethedj Alexander: Free time? What’s that?
MzHouse Diva: How do you feel about House Music becoming more digital? Do you think that hurt or help the house music industry?
Celestethedj Alexander: When I left the industry in 1994-95, none of this technology was available. When I came back, I had to learn it. Playing on cdj’s was easy to pick up on and the transition was rather easy. Music going digital has been a curse and a blessing all at once. The file sharing and illegal downloads are real, and that hurts everyone involved in the making of records and sales. Price points are next to nothing, so a starving artist is literally just that. I also think the industry is influxed with wannabe DJs, because it’s the popular thing to do. It has nothing to do with the skill, the craft and the love of it anymore. DJ programs, controllers, Laptop DJing, instant file loading and sharing…..technology can be a double edged sword.
MzHouse Diva: What are some of the house tracks that you are really feeling right now?
Celestethedj Alexander: I find myself leaning towards certain producers, which have specific “sounds”. I LOVE what Josh Milan is doing with his Label "Honeycomb", and I’m a big Louie Vega Fan, Glenn Underground, Vick Lavender, Pete Simpson, Atjazz, Dolls Combers, Zepherin Saint and a few others all have works out currently that are in my current rotation.
MzHouse Diva: What advice would you give to ‘up and coming’ female DJs?
Celestethedj Alexander: Don’t be discouraged, but fall in love with the CRAFT for yourself, not for where you think it can take you. We all have T&A, but that’s not what makes you a DJ. Don’t compromise your personal principles just to get put on.
MzHouse Diva: What were some of the challenges you faced coming up in a male-dominated field?
Celestethedj Alexander: I guess acknowledgement of my skill-set by my male counterparts was the hardest early on. Finding someone who would help to promote me without trying to get into my pants was also a challenge at one point. Not quitting was hard, and then coming back after a long period of time was very hard. Staying relevant and now Other DJ who are females /competition can be a challenge also. There were so few of us 30 years ago, now we are everywhere BUT not everyone is in this for the same reasons and stereotyping is REAL!
MzHouse Diva: What do you think of the female DJ demographic? Will we see some growth in the coming years?
Celestethedj Alexander: Although it will probably never happen across the board, I no longer look at us as Males/Females. I wish others could do the same. I think the DJ demographic itself is over populated. But it will probably continue to grow for both genders as the technology gets easier and what we do continue to appeal as being some type of glamorous existence.
MzHouse Diva: If you could change one thing about the house music industry, what would it be?
Celestethedj Alexander: I would take our music out of Lounges, and other places NOT designed for dance, and put the parties back where we can dance at. Abolish the “rave law” in Chicago would be a great start.
MzHouse Diva: Would you like to pick out your best DJ set for 2014?
Celestethedj Alexander: So far No, I don’t have a favorite; I just play my spirit and feed from the dancers on the floor.
MzHouse Diva: Do you think to become a well-known DJ, having a certain image and style helps as well?
Celestethedj Alexander: I'm sure having an image and a specific playing style is what separates us. For me, I've been doing this for such a long time, I'm sure my image has changed, my style also but I try to always hone and keep my skills tight.
MzHouse Diva: Do you think you have a consistent sound that ties everything you do together?
Celestethedj Alexander: I don't know, I guess that may be a better question for the listeners and fans to answer about me. I just play my spirit.
MzHouse Diva: What do you see in the future of house music?
Celestethedj Alexander: I’m not sure, but I know if we can’t get our youth to embrace it, like they have in other countries in the United States…….It's going to be rough in 20 years to find it like we have it now.
MzHouse Diva: How would you like to see your music career in a few years from now?
Celestethedj Alexander: Retired! Lol, although I love doing what I do, I’m really not sure how much longer I want to do it. But I’ve been saying this for a while now and somehow my love for it keeps me in the game and driven to do more….
MzHouse Diva: Can you tell us about your future plans or Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with goals?
Celestethedj Alexander: I still would like to do some overseas parties, London, Japan, Paris, South Africa, just to experience the House Culture in places other than the United States.
MzHouse Diva: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule and doing this interview for the blog. We greatly appreciate it.
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