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DJ Paulette on taking a leap of faith and becoming a musical trailblazer

For over three decades, DJ Paulette has become one of house music's most respected and ubiquitous faces. In this exclusive extract from her memoir Welcome To The Club, she outlines the challenges that female DJs face in the industry.

By DJ Paulette

DJ Paulette (Picture: Lee Baxter)

If DJ’ing isn’t difficult for a woman to do and there’s help available, why don’t more women do it?

No one said it is easy. The stakes are high. Before you’ve opened your mouth or played a track, that feeling of being judged, imposter syndrome or having something to prove i.e. that you’re not ‘just a girl’ or ‘not bad for a woman’ bristles the baby hairs on your neck. DJ’ing takes years of masochistic resilience, absolute dedication, meticulous preparation, exacting research, long-term investment, and unpaid graft. It is not a cash cow or an oven-ready career. Its nerdy, techy nature lacks the glamour and instant grat- ification that singing, modelling or Tik-Tokking offer. It requires a high level of competence and confidence in using technical equipment – you cannot be fazed by the technol- ogy, buttons, faders, cables, USBs, SD cards.

DJ’ing requires performing regularly in front of different crowds to build a profile. This means securing regular bookings, networking, negotiating, presentation, long hours, DIY parties, building a following, and being seen to be working regularly enough to make that all important leap from part-time / weekend DJ to full-time, self-employed touring DJ.

It means you have to take a leap of faith but remember to maintain your parachute. To join the big league you must demonstrate year-on-year progress; there has to be some kind of strategy or plan in motion. This can take years to establish.

DJ Paulette (Picture: Lee Baxter)

Perhaps more women don’t do it because the ‘one in, one out’ weapon of mass rejection is disheartening. Tokenism is a form of abuse that means that the one person who meets the selection criteria must then represent their race and gender for as long as they are employed there. The door opening shrinks to a funnel that slowly drip-feeds talent. And when the holding bay on the floor below becomes oversubscribed, many simply abandon their bags and leave. There’s only so much waiting around you can do for that one prestigious vacancy that an entire workforce is in com- petition for. This is more pronounced for women of colour, for whom the glass ceiling in the higher / management levels is tempered and blacked out so we’re less likely to try to break through it. The solution? Someone or something large must make way or step aside to make room for more than one appointment every ten years.

Many men apply for jobs knowing they meet only 60 per cent of the criteria, while women only apply for jobs when they know they meet 100 per cent of the criteria. This unconscious filter has its effect on the workforce at every level. Perfectionism is the enemy of equality: it stifles the pioneering spirit, suffocates the entrepreneurial mind- set, and chokes creativity. With a little unlearning we can bypass these obstacles.

There wasn’t a huge amount of supporting literature for anyone who followed DJ’ing as their vocation through the eighties and nineties. There weren’t any instruction manuals, idiot’s guides, ‘how to’ handbooks, nor were there accredited music business courses, or media internships that might jet propel your DJ progress. Today no career hap- pens by accident. The new generation of DJs are fearless, focused, in control from the outset and benefit from the educational and vocational opportunities available. From The BRITS to BIMM, from Point Blank College to Future DJs, professional and academic coaching and extracurricular involvement is now a respectable path to follow.

DJ Paulette’s Welcome To The Club is Published by Manchester University Press . It is available through There are also signed copies available from Rough Trade.