Have you ever had to pretend to be someone else to get ahead in your career? Well, that is what Tatiana Alvarez had to do for her DJ career. Sexism in the electronic dance music industry is very much a reality. Female DJ’s take up a very small portion of the industry and there is a clear economic disparity in compensation for female vocalists, despite some artists making real efforts to change that. Unfortunately, this is the case for pretty much all industries, but one could argue that it is even worse in the electronic music industry. The story of Tatiana Alvarez is a stark reminder of how bad it actually is.
Even though she started actually learning to DJ at the age of 17, Tatiana’s career as a DJ started out pretty strong. She was a mainstay on the Hot Import Nights tour circuit, although it wasn’t something she really liked. She would prefer to be in baggy shorts and a T-shirt rather than a mini skirt and halter top. During that time, the female DJs on the tour would do photo shoots for media and she would be put into the clothing that she didn’t really like to be in.
“We’d do photoshoots for FHM and they’d want us all to be sexy in dresses and heels. I was showing up in baggy pants and T-shirts and Converse. I was more into skateboarding. I’m 5ft 10in and stilettos aren’t comfortable for me. I don’t have that body type. The guy who owned Hot Import Nights would say, ‘You need to be different.’ I was miserable.”
After that, she hired a publicist and started seeking gigs in other markets. Her mix-tapes would be shared around the underground techno scene in New York without giving her name, and the bookings would be made on her talent alone. All the while, the fact she was a female was never mentioned. When the people who booked her found out that she was in fact a woman, they would immediately cancel the bookings. Alvarez says “They said, fuck that girl, she is sexy, she’s only used her looks to get ahead.’ My publicist was like, ‘It’s her tracks on there – you were going to book her as a guy.’”
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