Brimming with confidence and a style completely her own, DJ Doowap is impossible to ignore
Words: Tshiamo Seape
DJ Doowap will surprise you. Not with her hair or clothes, but with her commitment to her craft and total belief in herself. She is only satisfied with making it on her own terms and rightly so. From the beginning of her career, she has shown that she has what it takes to soar among the very best and we are just now witnessing her ascension. We caught up with the multi talented Doowap for her first The Wire interview where she gave us her take on music, her journey, and life in the 90’s.
So what keeps you busy at the moment?
Okay, right now I feel like I’m in a hyper emotional state. I’m going through a lot of changes before the summer. I’m spending most of the time in the studio practising my DJ set, finding new music, and playing around with my vocals. I’ve gone back to my DJ teacher who I started with back in 2012. I just did a six-month course with him but that’s what kicked off everything: when I was first scouted by YFM and he has always been someone I learned a lot from. I felt like I was getting a bit stagnant with my DJing so I wanted to take it up ten more notches.
I’ve also started acting classes to enhance my overall performance and help me come out my shell.
You said your playing was becoming stagnant, why is that?
I loved the music I was choosing but I wasn’t taking it to the levels I was capable of taking it to.
You’ve become quite popular and seen by many as an influencer. Why do you think you resonate with so many people?
I think I’m very authentic to who I am, so if there’s a brand that I’m not feeling and they approach me, I’m not just going to do it for the money. It has to be a really dope concept, and it has to be a brand that is doing something that interests me. The industry talks a lot and when I came into it people were saying “Doowap, we dig what you’re doing, but you’re expensive” so I said, “that’s cool, you can come back when you have more money”. That’s what I’ve always been about. I think that’s what people really respect about me. I’ve grown, I’ve grown into myself instead of changing who I am.
“People are seeing this person grow into this African Queen and embracing her culture, and its a big deal.”
Could you tell us more about the Nike campaign?
It was super professional. When you’re on a lot of these campaigns they start late or you don’t get fed. The nice thing was that I was told way in advance so I had a lot of time to train and prepare and train to get my body in the right shape for the shoot.
The women in the campaign are just dope. The Pack, Lady Skollie and Shana Power. That’s another thing with the brand (Nike) – they focus on women so much. It’s been a year or longer where they have specifically been empowering women. That’s another thing that just made me say “Thank you”. Being around so many different women was so special.
How do you see your role as a young black woman, especially considering your unconventional approach?
Since 2012 I’ve just been focusing on discovering who I am because I was in the UK and that was my whole diving life. So when I didn’t make the Olympics I thought why not just wipe the slate clean and start a whole new life. I’m painting my own picture right now, discovering colour and all these things. I’m taking it slowly and not being afraid to embrace everything that happens. I suddenly get offered a show on YFM – ok cool I’m going to take it because that’s a great opportunity. Then, I don’t even plan it and I get offered a show on SABC1. I’ve never done acting or presenting but I’m still going to do it. So, people are seeing this person who’s facing her fears the whole time and growing into this African Queen and embracing her culture, and its a big deal.
How was it working on SABC1?
After my first show for SABC1, I did “One Mic“. One Mic was a way bigger production. Lights, camera, action for real. Celebrity judges. I was thrown in the deep end – that was boot camp but it made me super strong. It was two weeks of intense filming and I came out super strong.
Did that inspire your desition to start acting classes?
Acting has never been on the cards, but the performance aspect is what was great – I’m a performer. The great thing about actors is that they can come out of themselves in order to portray someone else. I don’t really need to be someone else, I just need to come out of myself.
The entertainment industry has traditionally been a place for progressive thought and greater inclusion. With regard to women, do you think this is the still the case?
I think in the whole entire world the best thing to be right now is a black woman. Right now – all around the world – if you’re a black woman you have a lot of power. We have been left out the entire time and there’s this huge wave of everyone realising what a mistake that was. Black women are about to run everything.
So locally and internationally are there any black woman you look up to or want to collaborate with?
I love FKA Twigs, Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell. I don’t dig her attitude but her fierceness and godliness are so amazing. I mean who wouldn’t want to be her. Oh my gosh! Lebo Mathosa. She’s very high up next to Aaliyah and Salt n Peppa.
So you have a lot of appreciation for the old school…
I definitely do. My favourite era is 1995, for sure. Janet Jackson was at her peak just looking sax with her eight pack! Salt ‘n Peppa were running things. Boom Shaka was there and my sister was born on my birthday in 1995. It was just the most ridiculous year, I think. The 90’s were great. It was full of lots of colour, and lots of change; it’s such a young energy the 90’s.
It’s dope to be setting the trends but I also need people to inspire me.
What do you and your friends get up to – whats your ideal weekend?
From Thursday to Sunday we’re going in – Thursday we start with cocktails and a view – maybe Sandton on the Deck. From there it’s off to a dancehall joint to sweat. Friday is the club. We usually know everyone there and we just hang out drink some champagne and check out everyone’s outfits. Throughout the whole weekend, it is just champagne. Saturday we go hiking. Sunday we like to go to the botanical gardens or the farmers market, chill, and have champagne again!
Who within the industry has the best style game?
It’s difficult. There’s not a lot of people in the industry who dress nca. There are a few people who do, but do they dress nca because they have money and can afford a stylist? There’s no one who really has the eye to dress. I want to see people that look alien. It’s dope to be setting the trends but I also need people to inspire me.
To be honest Boogy (Maboi). I think genuinely she does it – she’s got the eye.
What are you most looking forward to?
Other than performing while DJing I’ve got a lot of really great gigs coming up, but they’re a surprise so I don’t want to give too much away. It’s things that are really going to push me. Now that it’s Spring time people come guns blazing – including me. So, it’s time to be at boot camp, get focused, meditate in the morning, go to the acting classes – every day just pushing my craft.
You’ve had a great career. What are some of your highlights?
When I first went to Berlin with Lex Lafoy. We did shows in Germany, Austria, Switzerland. That’s when I felt tour life. No one knew us and we didn’t know anyone. We’re gonna learn from these people and they’re going to learn from us. We’re gonna give this our all, they are gonna scream, and we’re going to just feed off it. Over 17 shows we learned so much. We polished our set to the point where we were talking telepathically. Another highlight was playing my first major festival – Oppikoppi. The energy that I was feeling started making me do the craziest shit – I was putting in all these effects that I never use in my set. People were screaming and I thought “oh my god, this is what flying is”.