When it comes to beauty, Toni Shelton has been at the forefront of identifying and leading a trail of it from coast to coast. As a Chicago native, she has made her mark from Hollywood to New York City and everywhere in between. She’s known for being energetic, sexy, and a one-of-a-kind woman. Whether working with celebrities, commentating about them, hosting House parties, or being the one who is interviewed, she turns heads and opens ears wherever she goes!

Toni is a legend in the House music scene, where she’s referred to as “Disco Toni,” and is known for holding “Another Toni Shelton Production” House music parties, which have been a part of Chicago culture that has included such attendees as Will Smith, four-time Grammy-nominated producer Steve “Silk” Hurley, and more. She was featured in “UNSUNG: Frankie Knuckles”, and was the only black female House music promoter during the 1980s. Her parties were DJ’d by such notables as Tony Hatchett, Andre Hatchett, Keith Fobs and Wayne Williams, and attended by such people as Bernie Mac, Common, Michael Jordan, R. Kelly, and numerous NFL and NBA athletes.

As the “Queen of House”, she was the second person ever to receive a Chosen Few “I Love Music Award: ‘Disco Toni’ Shelton” for her contribution to the genre. She is also featured in the “Move Your Body: House Music Legends” display at the City of Chicago Cultural Center.

Today, Toni is still playing a major role in the progression of House music by holding annual parties in Chicago, and was also given an award at an event at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago for her dedication and contribution to House music. Her annual “All White” House music parties in Chicago have been a popular event since starting them in 2009. She’s worked with many notable DJs, including Steve “Silk” Hurley, New York DJ Charles Dixon, Farley “Jackmaster Funk”, DaMinista, DJ Kenny Ray, DJ Angel, and Rory McAlister, to name a few.

Toni has also been known as Hollywood’s publicist, having established herself as a popular celebrity commentator. From being a commentator on InsideBlackHollywood.com to working on the “10 Worst Hollywood Divorces” feature for E! Entertainment Television, she has successfully covered it all. She has also worked with a variety of celebrities, provided coaching to others entering the business, and been in the spotlight for events held in her honor. She was also a background singer for Ramsey Lewis’ video “Tonight.”

Whether in front of or behind the camera, Toni has a way of charming those she works with and touches. She has also been recognized several times for her humanitarian efforts, including providing mentoring and helping Hurricane Katrina victims find housing and helping the homeless. Philanthropy is an important part of her life, and she tries to instill that value in others. She has also been a pageant judge for Miss Illinois, and has been featured in numerous publications, commercials, and on billboards.

She has also received awards for her humanitarian and charity work, including the “Women Who Make a Difference” award, as well as being a recipient of the award dedicated in her honor, the “Toni Shelton Humanitarian Award.” She has won additional awards, including the “Trail Blazer Award”, “The Coalition for Enhanced Humanity”, and a “House Music Award.” Toni has also been featured in spots for Miller Genuine Draft and Seagram’s Gins, as well as working with the Make A Difference Youth Foundation. She has also written three books on modeling and the entertainment industry, has been featured on billboards, in commercials, and more. She was also featured in Lift Magazine on an article titled “What Success Looks Like.”

When Toni is not working with celebrities, grooving to House music, or providing on- or off-camera commentary, she hosts events, does public speaking, and combines her strong work ethic with her compassion for others, in order to give back and make a difference. She also worked with actress Lisa Raye to help Hurricane Katrina victims find housing.

As an entrepreneur, Toni has made her mark by owning Tonae’s Hip Hop & Jewelry, and Tonae’s Entertainment Group, both in Chicago. She started out working for the City of Chicago, working on the back of garbage trucks for the department of sanitation. Her childhood got off to a rough start after finding her mother dead at the age of seven, after having been murdered. She went on later to lead a rally after her brother had been beaten in the streets, which brought the community together, and led to the imprisonment of his attackers.

Toni has won numerous awards for the many things she is involved in, and has also been featured in numerous publications, including the likes of the Hyde Park Herald, Chicago Maroon, Sun Times, Chicago Defender, Sister 2 Sister magazine, N’Digo, Ebony Magazine, and more.

As a mother of four, and a five-time serial entrepreneur from the Hyde Park area of Chicago, nothing can slow her down. Toni believes in the beauty found within us all, as well as in our ability to use it for doing good and giving back. At the top of her game, she looks forward to seeing what else is yet to come!

GO BANG! Magazine: Can you please describe your childhood and how the devastating death of your mother, at an early age, affected you and how it helped to shape who you are today?

Toni Shelton: How my mom’s death affected me? My mom’s untimely death shaped me to be the woman I am today indeed. I found my mom dead at the young age of seven years old. I had to grow up fast, take charge, and start thinking about my future at a very young age, while other kids were being a kid.

GO BANG! Magazine: I hear that you owned a business in Hyde Park early in your life. Please tell our readers more about this exciting venture.

Toni Shelton: My business in Hyde Park was called Tonae’s, it was a Hip Hop shop, 1995- 1997. I sold hip hop clothing, skateboard gear, gym shoes, tee’s, (nowadays called Streetwear), jewelry, etc. It was one of the first stores to carry FUBU and other urban brands, before “Streetwear” was a trend. I donated to the community clothes, food, etc. It was a hang-out spot for the neighborhood kids. I hired from the neighborhood. We had all kinds of events, fashion shows, local rappers perform, and local young artist came in to draw/do paintings. We had celebrities stop by like Bernie Mac, KRS, TLC- Chili, Common and others. Tonae’s was featured in Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Defender, Hyde Park Herald, and the University of Chicago Maroon newspapers.

GO BANG! Magazine: Being blessed with beauty, it was only natural for you to be involved in the modeling industry. How was your time in the industry, and what did you learn from that experience?

Toni Shelton: I was signed with Ford. I left Ford, did a lot of freelance and music videos, one was with Ramsey Lewis, as a background singer. I also did print modeling in Ebony, Essence, Sister to Sister Magazine, Billboards, and more. It’s not an easy industry to get in to, but you must stay diligent and believe in yourself. I wasn’t even the normal height and proportions being only 5’7” and 165 lbs., I was heavier and shorter than most models. I wouldn’t change my experiences in the industry. I learned a lot; how to manage myself and push.

GO BANG! Magazine: During your high school days at Chicago’s Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, you became well-known and even nicknamed “Disco Toni.” How did you get that name and how did you become involved in the House scene, particularly in the promotions area?

Toni Shelton: I lost my mom at a very young age. I used House music to take me away from the pain and loneliness as a child/teen. One of my friends at Kenwood gave me the name “Disco Toni” in my second year of high school. I didn’t know it would stick. I hated it at first, but I learned to embrace it.

I started giving House music parties in 1980. Andre Hatchett, Tony Hatchett, Keith Fobs and Wayne Williams were my main DJ’s. That was before Chosen Few DJs popularity. My ‘logo’ has always been my photo, carried over until today. I modeled for many years, so a photo was easy. I’ve always promoted my own events and I’m always solo. I used radio ads in the early days. There was no social media, so I footed it…me and my crew.

GO BANG! Magazine: Years later, you would become what some would say a legend in the House community. How do you feel about possessing that title?

Toni Shelton: I did not give myself that title, but, I embrace it and the name “Disco Toni.” I was one of the few female House music promoters back then, to date over one-thousand parties. I do not know any other females to date, that have surpassed my record.

GO BANG! Magazine: You relocated to sunny California and raised four beautiful and talented children, each possessing their own goals, accomplishments and talents. What prompted you to make that leap and move to California, and what brought you back to Chicago?

Toni Shelton: My kids are all in their own career paths, I am proud of them. Jen is 35, lives in NY, and is an artist; David is 33, lives in LA., works in promotions; Imani 26, lives in ATL, is in the entertainment industry; and Carl is 21, lives in NY, and is a pro-skateboarder.

Cali is always home and I’ve kept a place in Chicago as well. I love LA! The sun comes out 350 days out of the year. I raised my two youngest in LA, Carl – (my pro skateboarder) and Imani – (Degree in Sociology, 2019.) Jen has been in NY since graduated from Howard University, 2006. David’s been in LA since age 17.

GO BANG! Magazine: You’re also an author and a businesswoman. What advice would you give to someone that is interested in getting into the business side of entertainment?

Toni Shelton: The business side of entertainment… First you need to decide what your specialty is, promote/advertise your expertise/gift and stay diligent. It’s a hard egg to break. Then, you must find your specific niche and value that you can add to the industry. Finally, networking is KEY. You are your best product, so make sure you are in a constant state of enrichment.

GO BANG! Magazine: There are only a few women involved in the promotion and marketing of House music events, including yourself and Ronda Flowers. (1) How does it feel to be amongst the ones trailblazing a career path for young women of the future to follow, and (2) what advice would you give a young girl that may be interested in pursuing event marketing and promotions?

Toni Shelton: A career in promoting and marketing is rewarding, but not an easy job, especially for a female. I started when I was 17 years old. At that time, there weren’t many female promoters. As far as I know, I’m the only one from back then, that’s still riding that wave. The few that were around did two to five events. I’ve been blessed to have a following for as long as I have. I’ve done over 1000 parties since 1980. I would say it’s a lot easier now because we have “social media” and that there is “The Key.”

My advice would be to give the people what they want. Build on that and stay true. Don’t get all commercialized and start to sell socks and jewelry, just for example. If your thing is House music, stick to House music or whatever your forte is for your production. Last, be consistent, personable, and loyal with your people.

That goes along way!

You can follow Toni Shelton on social media @ToniShelton




Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram

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