We seldom meet people in our lives who magnify positivity and goodness when they are around us. Today, Dani Behr and Tara Joseph interview Lina Bradford, also known as DJ Lina. Kicking off her career at an early age, DJ Lina tells us her amazing beginnings and journey towards becoming a world class DJ. She talks about her grandmother, a black wicker witch, as a key influence in her life. Feel Lina’s magnetic energy as she tells us her magical story from studying ballet to becoming a renowned DJ who is loved and adored by many.
Listen to the podcast here:
A Spiritual Journey To Becoming A World-Class DJ With DJ Lina
As you know, we love to have an eclectic mix on the show. They’re uber successful in what they do. They are big personalities, well-loved by all and our guest is no exception. Tara, who’s our guest on La La Landed?
We are honored to have none other than the fabulous, DJ Lina. How are you?
It’s so funny how many times when I worked with someone and they are like, “Is your first name DJ?” I said, “Lina.”
Lina Bradford aka DJ Lina.
Lina is known around the world. Let me tell you about her. She is a great friend of mine who everywhere I go, whether it’s London, New York or Miami, everyone’s like, “Do you know Lina?” “Yeah, I know Lina.” Constantly how many meetings I’ve been in where they’re like, “Do you know Lina?” “Yeah, I know Lina.” Everybody knows you, Lina.
I’m a relic.
We’re a relic stage now?
I’ve been stage shifting for a while.
Why don’t we start at the beginning? Let’s find out about where Lina came from like childhood and growing up in New York. Let’s have a brief backstory.
First, I came to your planet from my planet, Planet Ishla, which is the name of my daughter. I transplanted down into Manhattan and I grew up directly across from Carnegie Hall. My grandmother was a famous opera singer and that’s where I grew up in. Growing up in New York back in the ’70s was everything. It was like getting a taste of what I felt was real New York. Every kind of culture and every type of diversity you could imagine. Coming from a biracial family, it was the only thing I ever knew. I feel so blessed to have been a part of that and getting it from the realness of my grandmother and meeting all of these amazing people. I never had any judgments, but to what people bring to the table. I like that I’ve always been very clear and stayed very strong to be that way throughout my whole life, especially with social media when people sometimes forget to have this. I’m a people person. I like to talk.
We like to talk as well. Did your grandmother perform in Carnegie Hall?
Yeah, she’s also been a part of the S&M Contingency for the Gay Pride Parade since the ’70s.
Tell us about that. You can’t just grind over that one like that.
It’s all normal for me.
That’s the problem. What is that? Break it down for the average life of a person that has no idea what you said.
All grandmothers are the matriarch and messiahs of the family. One, she helped my family and understand all of this in spirituality. She’s also a black wicked witch. She helped me understand my being, my power, my spirituality and she showed me alternative ways of looking at things and not judging people and taking people for face value.All grandmothers are matriarch and messiahs of the family. Click To Tweet
What’s a black wicked witch?
Spirituality is strong in my family. We’re all Aries women in my family. I didn’t realize that until later on in life. How strong that was when we were all together, just the things that we can manifest and what we can do. That has always been one of my powers is being a people person. Feeling out people’s energies and knowing how to work with people in so many different facets of what I do and understanding. We all have that. It’s whether or not we tune into it. If I’m speaking to people or from deejaying, I know how to make people feel comfortable and I know how to bring them in. That starts from an early age and my grandmother helped me understand that.
Does your grandma get down and dirty when you’re deejaying?
She’s still doing it. She’s also a part of the Imperial Court in New York. She’s very active.
You need to describe three things for not just me, but the audience. Black wicked witch, what does that mean? Does she have spiritual powers?
We all have them if we tune into them. We all have spirituality and that power within us.
Does she practice it though?
That’s something that’s like eating peanut butter for most people. I came from that so it’s one of those things that’s instilled in me. I’ve always stay tuned to my spirituality and it grows with you as you mature and maturity is that best gift. I had that and I’ve always stayed strong to it and it’s never led me wrong. I’ve always had these two beautiful cherubs and that spirituality leading me away from darkness. I don’t know that. If it’s ever in the room, I’m automatically catapulted to the other side of the room because I have that with me.
It’s interesting that you say that because through you, we’ve met some of your amazing friends. All of them have said to us what an amazing spiritual enlightening person you are, who’ve helped them in different ways and being there for them during difficult times in their lives. Everyone says the same things about you. That you have this special aura that not many people do have what you have.
We haven’t fished it out of them. They call us with this information.
That’s so beautiful, Tara and Dani. Thank you. I honestly feel that’s my first gig and gift before anything. I take that very seriously. I love people. I couldn’t be in this industry and not be a people person, but most importantly, love people. That has a huge part to do with how I grew up, but then also being an only child and playing with my Barbies. I always had scenarios and I always like making people feel happy and good about themselves because why shouldn’t you? Not everybody has the ability to have people in their life that built them up. Especially in this industry, people can be very one way and about themselves and they’ll cut you to get what they want. I’m not that person.
We’ll go back to the Barbies in a little bit, but I want to go back to what you said about your grandma being an S&M. What was she?
She’s a dominatrix, a Phoenix. She has a female and a male slave.
Did you see this as a kid? Is she walking around with a whip? Give people a feeling of what this looks like and how she goes about her everyday business.
She was taking me to Studio 54, Garage and Saint and all of that stuff when I was eleven. Fashion and being out there was always forefront in my life and I was a dancer at that time. For me, it was all about the dance, the fashion and the experience. I got to see that other side of her. Everybody in the family knew her gig if you will. That’s something that you do on your time but it’s not something that you hide because it’s a part of you.
Was that her job or was it her lifestyle?
No, it’s a part of her life. We’ve met many of her slaves throughout the years who will come in and clean her home.
I need to get myself some slaves.
What do people fall into the category of a dominatrix slave?
A submissive person because my grandmother is a dom.
If I put an ad on Craigslist saying, “I need someone to clean my house.”
I don’t know if that’s the route you want to go. There’s a whole society with it. It’s a sorority. It’s a way of life.
It’s so funny. You go about your day and you don’t even know this goes on for most people.
To me, it was my normalcy. New York was a different time than now. Everything is so candy-coated and safe. I like that. I still have that alternative way of knowing how life is and that it’s still there.
Tara, would you be a dom or would you be the slave? You have to pick, Tara.
I definitely would not want to be tied up and whipped and gagged. I will definitely not be a slave.
The funny thing is that it’s such a misconception. There’s a mindset and a lifestyle that goes along with that. It’s not all that all the time.
Tell everyone who is Ishla?
I have two Yorkies and that’s one of them.
Do you have fur babies?
I have fur babies. There’s a whole different scenario that goes along with that. The misconception is that there are people that are always getting beaten. There are people who live to have people orchestrate them through their life. My grandmother, Nanu, has always had that strength and that power. I found that through her with my life. It’s funny that people were like, “Lina, you cast spells on people.” Not in a bad way because I’m the most positive person you’ll ever meet. I’m a princess of light. I do like when I’m spinning and when I’m talking to people, I don’t realize it because I’m so focused on giving that energy in life. People are always like, “Lina, you are a sorceress.”
When I’ve been reading different interviews that you’ve given online and also on your website, you talk about all of the support you’ve been given throughout your life, in your career as a transwoman. Was your grandmother, one of the key people who helped you through that whole process?You can have people to curate the vibe of the audience and take them on a journey. Click To Tweet
100% and she also taught me that labels are not something that you adhere yourself to. Labels are something that you wear. For me, I don’t like having to be pigeonholed. For people who are lazy and don’t want to find out who you are, that they need to say you’re gay, you’re lesbian, you’re trans, you’re black, you’re white, you’re mixed or whatever. No, I’m Lina. I’m a far dynamic woman to be placed and categorized into just one little box. When you need me, you get so much more than you didn’t even realize and that you didn’t even know and you’re getting schooled effortlessly. Nobody wants anything over them like this. I’m not that person. My life, my energy and my education are effortless.
In the short amount of time that I’ve known you, I’ve certainly felt that you brought a huge amount to my life just through your friends and the way that you are. It’s simply you.
Lina has this energy about her that is powerful, but it’s magnetic. That’s why everybody from wherever we are in the world that knows you always have something positive to say about you. It’s voluntary. It’s not like, “What’d you think of Lina?” People come out with it and say, “Do you know Lina?” I’m like, “Yeah.” You definitely give more to others that you even maybe realize and not just because you’re brave and courageous and have the history of your transition life however, you handled it and then in your timing. It’s so far beyond that. People see you like this almost motherly spiritual being that hovers over. It sounds cheesy. When people talk about you, they talk about you in that way.
They do. Tell us about how you moved from studying modern ballet, tap, etc. and all of a sudden, you became the hottest DJ, not just in town, but one of the hottest DJs globally, traveling from Santa Fe to Sardinia to here, there and everywhere. How did DJ Lina come about?
I feel like I’ve lived so many different lives and positions effortlessly. I pray 4 or 5 times a day. I can’t even count. It’s whenever a prayer comes to me and I’m always asking to be focused and always continue to keep myself 100 with the universe. When I have that and check, everything else comes organically and with that has come everything that it is that I’ve done. It’s always been this like alarm clock inside of me that happens when it’s supposed to. From dancing for ten and a half years and modeling and then acting.
She could dance. I get the modern ballet if anyone gets down on a doll. We’d been to an invited party where she could throw some shapes in the heels, the tight pants. It’s amazing.
Now, I’m jealous that you’ve had that experience, Dani, and I haven’t.
Tara has to come to a Lina party.
When deejaying happened, it was one of those things that I never ever thought of any of those things. I never thought I would be acting. I never would have thought I’d be modeling or any of those things. They come into your life, for me, when they’re supposed to. When I got asked to deejay years ago, it was a dare. I took the Pepsi challenge and here I am and it’s crazy.
When you started off many years ago, what were the tunes that you were putting into your set? Was there a key song that got you going?
That’s interesting that you say that because I’m a very eclectic person. I’m a classic rock and roll. Led Zeppelin is my favorite band. I’m a classic rock chick before the end of the day. When I first started, I remember my first set. It was a tossed salad of everything, from classic rock to ‘80s and to some early ‘90s. It was 1997 when I started spinning. Later on, it went into the soulful house. I then found my niche, but I love an opportunity any moment that I can have a not so “serious gig.” My high profile, big gigs or when I’m doing big situations or soulful house and then disco. If I’m doing a hotel gig, it’s not that so serious as far the mindset. It’s serious but as far as I can have more fun and a little more freedom and make it a tossed salad with the music. Any good DJ is going to know how to morph and know their crowd. That’s the longevity of a good DJ.
You must pick up on the energy of a room or a club room.
They only think that room and you have a small room. That’s not how it works. You can have people to curate the vibe of the audience and take them on a journey.
I have to say I’ve been at some gigs of yours. She gives good Donna Summer people and then she kicks it into a little bit of Michael McDonald and then there’s a little bit of Luther coming out of the side there.
If you know your music, you can take those people on that journey. For most “people” who slapped the word DJ in front of their name would never know how to curate and do that where it all sounds so seamless and it’s a story. I always say, the first thing you have to know as a DJ is it’s a story. I’m taking you on a journey from the first song to the last song. With that, you’re going to know how to mix into it and take them there.
You’ll get a feel of the low of the energy and then you’ll throw in some great ‘80s sing-along when everyone is like, “Wow.” She just had timing, Tara. Her timing is so on it. She’s like, “I was doing too much talking.” We need a little throwdown.
I love watching your face when that happens, Dan.
Give me a little nostalgia and a song.
I know exactly what night you were talking about. We were at The Standard on the roof party. I’ve got goosebumps. That was a fierce set.
Do you have certain deejaying times that you’ve done that stand out more than others? Do you have a favorite of all time?
They’re all my favorite and fun for me. Everybody has their one thing, but I look at every experience as a special and amazing one.
Do you have special venues that you prefer? Is it more like Fire Island?
They’re all special to me. I love anytime that people want to have me in their presence. I’m very humbled that way. Anytime I get to do my art in any form, whether it’s speaking, acting, talking or spinning, I’m grateful. I’m going to give you 100% and maybe a lot more because that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to make people happy.
How often are you deejaying?
It’s a big sigh.
You sounded exhausted when you said that.
I come from the old school philosophy. I’ll sleep when I’m dead because at the end of the day, when you love what you do, you’re never working. I do have the luxury being so far in the game, not only with spinning, but in my life. I put in the hard work where I don’t have to work seven nights a week. I do the things that me and my team, I feel stronger than I love. If I want to do something and I feel it and it happens to be 2 or 3 times out of the week, then I’ll do it. I do have the luxury of curating my schedule and a lot of stuff booked a year in advance. There’s a lot of stuff that I’m scheduled then I’ve got my corporate thing. I’m always working and I’m always traveling and that’s how it is that I stay alive.
Do you have people sending you songs? Will you mix this? Will you do that or you’re using old classic stuff.
I’m not a jukebox DJ. There are certain events when it’s a certain type of vibe. That’s fine. I’m not one of those DJs that you come up to and you ask for requests. It’s not Burger King. You can’t have it your way or else why would you have it here? You just pop in the iPod. They’re there for the experience of what it is that I bring to you and that’s what it is.
Talk about some of the other projects that you’re working on? I know you had some new stuff to talk about.
I do so much that I don’t even realize what it is that I’m doing until I’m reminded of it. Being an Aries like I always have to be busy and I always have a lot of pots on the oven. It’s good to be that way because then you’re not thinking, is this going to pop off? I’m not that person. At the end of the day, I never got into this for the money or for anything else, but to feed my soul as an artist. I like the fact that I can do multiple things at one time. I came from school that you had to focus on one thing. I did that for a long time and then I was like, “I can do these other things too.” It wasn’t until later on I was able to tap in and do these other things where I’m like, “Give it to all me, I want to do it.” There are a lot of things, some things I can’t speak about. I worked hard.
You can share this with us.Maturity is the best gift because your spirituality grows with it. Click To Tweet
I hate not sharing. I love to share. I find that sometimes you block the blessings if you say too much. I like to wait until everything is solidified and dipped in chocolate and everything’s written off and we’re there and then I can do it. I’ve already put it out to the universe of what it is that I would like to do. If it’s supposed to be, it will be.
Do you have a game plan over the next few years if you could foresee the future of what you like?
I don’t like to do that because then you’ll be very upset with yourself. If I look back at my life, I would’ve never guessed that I’m here. Tomorrow will be another day. A year from now will be another day. I’m organic with my process and how it is that I live my life. If you had asked me back in the day if I would be here, I would say yes but I would never expect all of the things that it is that I’ve done. It’s probably because I don’t limit myself and say, “In the next couple of years, I’m going to be doing this and I want this.” I have more than I could have ever expected in this life.
How about more fur babies?
Yes, that I can say and Claudia would probably say, “Let’s hold up. I want a farm of Yorkies. I want to be that Josephine Baker with tons of dogs.”
Talk about the projects you can talk about then besides deejaying. That’s one of the many strings you’re involved. You’ve had your podcasts.
I am blessed to work with the organizations that I work with kids and whatnot. I am working on a book that will curate somewhat of my life until now. Not like an autobiography or anything like that, but the things that it is that I’ve done, to be where I’m at and what I’m doing. I get to work with kids.
What do you do with kids? Tell us about that.
I worked with Hetrick-Martin, which is the Harvey Milk School and they have a high school in New York. I get to work with them and I also get to come around and speak to different organizations and kids about one hard most importantly orchestrate this life and not get caught up into these things. To realize that these people have the right to speak to without even knowing you from a can of paint. We’ve got to get back to basics. Until you know me, there’s no reason for anyone to judge anybody. There’s one person or one spirit that does that. Me being able to speak to kids, let them show how effortless and how not anal retentive I am about life that you can’t get caught up onto what’s out there and people writing about you. All my stuff is positive because that’s the person that it is and I am. I’ve never had negativity thrown my way. If I have, I wouldn’t know that it’s there because I’m not seeing it. If I don’t see you, I don’t see you and it’s not in a shady thing. What is it going to do for me to sweat the BS and think about somebody else’s life who could only benefit me in the long run? They usually do. I find this funny and you’ll never know that Lina doesn’t see you.
We know your friends. You introduced us to Angelica, who went to Harvey Milk and had an amazing experience being educated through Harvey Milk. It sounds like you do amazing work.
I’d like to think so.
I want to talk about some fun, fluffy stuff right now. Lina can work an outfit. One day you’ll see her and it’s like Meryl Streep went out of Africa.
I’ve always been a chameleon from playing my Barbies.
We have that in common. I wake up in the morning and I’m like, “How do I feel? What am I channeling?” You have the same thing. I want to hear about what are your favorite looks? What is your favorite outfit?
Who knew I had these cheekbones before?
She has amazing cheekbones.
I always had this recurring dream of cutting my hair. When I did, it was so cathartic. Finally, the dream was so potent that one morning I woke up last August here in LA. I was like, “Okay.” It’s that moment at that time. When I woke up, I watched a Netflix movie and ten minutes into the movie, the girl cuts her hair off. I then paused it, I went to the bathroom. My friend who was over the night before, he left his Clippers and I said, “This is the third sign.” I then called my colorist and my hairstyle and I was like, “I’m ready. Let’s do it.” The next day, I went over and I did it and did not look back. I feel the strongest and I feel the most attractive inside than I have ever felt before. I always felt like my hair story was never mine growing up biracial. I was felt like it had to look and be a certain way and I didn’t like that. I realized where it came from. The first time that I’ve ever experienced any prejudism was from African-American people because they were like, “You think you’re better because you’re mixed, you’re light skin and you’ve got good hair?” I’m like, “What does that mean?”
I was like, “I have relatives that have your coloring, have your hair texture and why would you say that? You set yourself back by talking to someone else in your tribe, even if you don’t feel like I am, you are.” We ended up being friends with them later on and I realized that’s where it came from. It was cathartic. I was like, “I get to write my hair story now.” The first thing that we are judged as women is our hair. Is that your hair texture? Is that your hair length? Is that your real hair? Is that a weave? Is that a wig? When I cut it all off, it was like shedding all of the other people’s BS, which is odd because I don’t do that. I did realize that the hair gig was stuck up in me something fierce.
There’s something about hair that it encompasses so many little things than just hair. It makes you feel a certain way when you get up in the morning. It changes your whole subconscious feeling about everything.
My security level went to the next level.
I love that on the front page of your website. It says that you’ve never felt sexier or solidified in your life. That sums up exactly what you’re saying.
The hair doesn’t define her. Claudio, Lina’s boyfriend, you could say you can now touch the hair?
I had a phobia. I would never let a guy touch my hair.
Men should not touch their hair.
I said, “From here down, it’s all you but from here up, don’t do it.”
My African-American girlfriends, you cannot even look at the hair. Forget not touching it. You still can’t touch the hair either.
I’ve never had that myself. It’s interesting to hear that from you guys.
She says that with a full thick hair.
I don’t like hands on my face either. Is it a face thing as well? Don’t touch the face.
Patting in the back are very condescending to me.
I don’t like being tapped. Tell us where we can see you DJ. With some of the events you do it private. Where do we log on to see DJ Lina?
On my Instagram. It pays the advertisement.Any good DJ is going to know how to morph their crowd. Click To Tweet
Tell everyone your Instagram accounts so they can have a look.
You need to send me dates on that. Our mission is to get Tara down to one of your next gigs.
We can dance our Turkey up on Friday.
Our audience can check out all your social media so they can get the most up-to-date Lina schedule by checking out your Instagram. You’re going to have to come back on again soon.
When you can talk about your next project. Thank you.
We’ll talk about this one project off the air.
It sounds very interesting. We’ve got to see Tara throw some shades.
I’m not very coordinated but I will do my best. If you take me to one of your shows, I will drink. I used to go out to London and dance on the bars. I was out there.
I love you, ladies. Thank you for having me. Like Janet, “I was worth the wait.”
More than anyone so far.
Can I tell people how long it was to get this in the calendar? It was easier to make an appointment with Queen Elizabeth.
She got tomorrow.
I love you, guys, so much. Thanks.
Thanks to all the audience. You’ll be hearing from us again soon.
Thanks, Lina. Thanks, everyone. We’ll check back in with you very soon..
About Lina Bradford
Lina Bradford grew up in New York City, across the street from famed Carnegie Hall on the Upper West Side. Her career in entertainment began at an early age as a dancer. She studied modern ballet, tap and jazz for 11 years and performed in several companies throughout New York. Those same moves she learned in rehearsals became a part of her signature style when she began her DJ career by performing throughout the gritty East Village scene.
She travels through Europe, appearing in Sardinia, St Tropez and Paris. Accolades soon came rolling in, including DJ of the year and Lifetime Achievement awards at the Glammys and Sage Innovator. DJ Lina is often seen hosting the biggest private parties from NYC to Europe. Even with all her accomplishments, she feels as if she is just beginning to hit her stride. “I’ve never felt sexier and solidified in my life”, she says. “This is by far the most beautiful spot I’ve been in.”