While other women were watching the game in the industry, DJ Celeste Alexander dared to play it.
Wife, mother, DJ and co-owner of a music label, Celeste manages to balance these responsibilities while delivering and creating some of the deepest, soulful mixes in today’s house music landscape.
Celeste was introduced to DJing by the legendary Steve “Silk” Hurley in 1982. During that time, dance music was still young, being shaped into a culture and genre that is now known worldwide as House Music. Celeste was learning her craft with the likes of many Chicago’s pioneers in the industry such as: Terry Hunter, Maurice Joshua, Ron Carroll, Ron Trent, Vick Lavender, Jamie 3:26, Mike Dunn and Gene Hunt, along with countless other DJs and producers from the Chicago area that have grown to giants in the industry. Celeste was the daring female in an otherwise male dominated industry, holding her own and making a name for herself in the Chicago music scene. She, to this very day, remains the only female who has played with the late legend Ron Hardy in his home, “The Music Box”.
Celeste’s motivation is to continue to play while debunking the myth that mixing was gender specific. Through mentorship and tutelage of such icons as Frankie Knuckles & Andre Hatchett, and the unwavering support of such noted DJs as Wayne Williams, Celeste has and continues to be a force to be reckoned with. Celeste took a hiatus for about 10 years, returning in 2006 with the desire to again be a part of the culture she left. She fell in love with how house music had progressed and wanted more than ever to play again.
In 2007, she didn’t miss a beat. With an offer of an opportunity to have her own internet radio show on Cyberjamz.com. This was the springboard to give Celeste a worldwide platform to express herself. Her show, The Celestial Odyssey is still going strong since its debut Cyberjamz.com. As a part of the Cyberjamz family for more than 13 years, she now is using The Celestial Odyssey as a personal brand on various internet mediums.
In 2009, she joined forces with Vick Lavender and Steven Stewart to become co-owner of Sophisticado Recordings, which is one of today’s most quality labels in the industry. To her credit, she has released several tracks under the Sophisticado name. “Nasty Bitch”, her collaboration with legendary pioneer Terry Hunter, was released that year and hit top 10 on the charts. Two years later, Celeste was named one of the top 100 most influential DJs in Chicago house history.
In 2013, she joined forces with BlondBabe Promotions. Under this management, she successfully maintained a residency at Chicago’s Underground Wonder Bar with “An Evening with The Lady of House” and quickly became one of the best experiences of music and dance on the Chicago House Scene.
In 2015, she was inducted to the DJ Hall of Fame and received the Frankie Knuckles Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Chosen Few Picnic.
Celeste has played in various clubs in various cities nationwide and has shared the decks with names like Ron Carroll, The Chosen Few, Jihad Muhammad, Ian Friday, Boo Williams, Lou Gorbea, and Grammy winning DJ Louie Vega, among many others. Today, she is the Musical Director/Talent Liaison for The Summer Oasis Festival in historic Idlewild, Michigan. She has played various festivals including Being the first female to play The Chosen Few Picnic, The Chicago House Music Festival, Divas of House, Herstory @ Chicago’s Dailey Plaza, several of The Silver Room Block club parties, The Attic Picnic, and at Coney Island in NY. She recently had a feature article in the re-launch of “Faith Fanzine” and closed out The Ron Hardy Tribute and fundraiser in grand fashion. She has partnered with Tastemaker Duane Powell in Sound Rotation events and been featured several times with the Honeycomb Music Radio show featuring Josh Milan, all while maintaining her internet radio show every Saturday now exclusively on Twitch.tv
“When I first started playing public, I would wear baggy clothes and a baseball cap so the people wouldn’t know it was a female playing,” says Celeste. “After I got them dancing, I would take off the sweatshirt, and baseball cap so they could see that they were dancing to a female playing. I love the shock factor!”
Staying true to her craft and shattering stereotypes remains to be Celeste motivation and dedication to an industry that is far more main stream than many give credit to.
Funky, Fearless, and Forever one of Chicago’s First Ladies of House!
GO BANG! Magazine: When did you first get started as a DJ, and what did you like most about it?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I started learning in 1981. My first paid gig was in spring of 1982. My first love was learning the technical side of mixing and blending. At the time it was thought mixing was gender specific, that females could not grasp the skillset. I was really into shattering that stereotype.
GO BANG! Magazine: It is truly incredible that you were introduced in to Djing by Steve “Silk” Hurley, the 4-Time GRAMMY® Nominated Remixer. Please describe how you two met and how he eventually introduced you to the 1s & 2s.
DJ Celeste Alexander: Steve and I went to college together (Loop Jr. aka Harold Washington Jr. College). I had quite the crush on him back then. We had a couple of classes together and use to hang out in the lunchroom together. He always talked about “hot-mixing”
I asked him what it was, and he described it to me. I asked were there any girls doing it, he told me no. The myth was that women couldn’t (as in we didn’t have the coordination for it) but, he knew it was a myth because he had taught his younger sister how to do it. That whole part about females not being able to do it kind of stuck with me. It made me want to dig deeper and learn. Steve was the catalyst to me wanting to learn more about the craft. Eventually we ended up playing a lot of parties together and doing a lot of record shopping together.
GO BANG! Magazine: While pursuing your DJ career, you broke down a lot of barriers that were up against women. You were literally one of the first lady DJs. Please describe to our readers how you felt at the time, when you were trailblazing a path for women in DJ’ing.
DJ Celeste Alexander: Most times, especially after being accepted by some of my male counterparts, the experiences were great. I had a lot of fun, both honing my skills, learning the craft and playing parties. There were other times when it was difficult. Being a “first” woman breaking into any male dominated field ALWAYS has its difficulties. I didn’t consider myself a trailblazer at the time, by the time I was in regular rotations, and grinding with the rest of the fellas, I was learning, creating, partying and having fun. I don’t think any of us thought this culture would be as large as it is now back then. We were just out having constructive fun.
GO BANG! Magazine: As a resident of Chicago, the home of House music, you are recognized as one of the first female DJs. You were also one of the only women to perform with the late Ron Hardy at the legendary Music Box. What influence, if any, do you feel you have had on DJs and the House music scene? Also, how has House influenced you?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I was the ONLY woman to play with Ronnie at the Music Box, lol. And to be honest I can’t say what influences I may have had on someone else. I do know that I have mentored both women and men who are either breaking or grinding on the scene now. House music and the culture is one of the biggest influences of my life. Music has ALWAYS provided me with a place to be free. The underground dance scene is the place where I grew up, became an adult. House/Dance music has always provided a space of comfort and expression.
GO BANG! Magazine: In the past, female DJs were more of a novelty, and not taken as serious as their male counterparts. Do you think that image has changed and why or why not?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I have Never considered myself a novelty period. My grind is hard. I’ve ALWAYS strived to improve upon skillset and work ethic, I am constantly seeking out music and how to present it. Now a non-believer may consider me a novelty upon a first encounter, until they experience me playing!
Truth is presentation is everything. If you present yourself as a gimmick, that’s how you will be received. There are MANY Female’s in the field that are the REAL DEAL, because that’s how the present themselves, back that up with mastery of your skills, how can anyone NOT take you seriously? BUT, there are still many women that represent themselves with everything, but seriousness and true craftsmanship. If you show up like a joke, who is going to take you serious? Yes, some of the overall imagery has changed, but that’s because the glass ceilings have been broken in many areas, and many more women have stepped out and been extremely successful in doing so.
GO BANG! Magazine: You mentioned that in your early DJ years, you used to wear baggy clothes and a baseball cap, so that people wouldn’t know that it was a female playing. Then you would do your reveal and shock them. Please describe to our readers, one of your most memorable times when you made your revealed.
DJ Celeste Alexander: Until I had established myself as a DJ/mix-artist, I always wore baggy clothes. The baseball cap was added because when I did my first party, I showed up with lipstick on and clearly female when you saw me, I was not received well at all. In fact, I was booed and never actually given a chance to play. I was taken off the decks after my 3 songs, all based upon being female. The patrons had never seen a girl play before. I clearly was not a part of the scenario of their expectations.
I figured if the crowd didn’t know who was playing and assumed it was a guy playing, I would at least have the chance TO play. See, I needed the MUSIC to speak if allowed. So, after a few songs and the crowd doing what they came to do, DANCE, I would turn my back, to look for another record and return forward without the cap. After a couple of more songs, I would do the same and remove my sweatshirt, (with a tank top or tee-shirt underneath of course)! By then I had them there was nothing left to do but dance cause by then the crowd was rocking!
GO BANG! Magazine: In 2015, SolKat established “The Queens of House Picnic” here in Chicago. How does it feel to see the seeds that you planted years ago, currently sprouting and prospering in the House community?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I am proud to see the ladies finally getting the shine they deserve. I have played a couple of the Queens of House Picnics myself. It’s good to see women that are finally getting the respect, and to watch those seeds prosper and thrive.
GO BANG! Magazine: There are several DJ’s out there with mad skills, both male and female. Which ones do you personally like and which ones would you love to DJ with, but haven’t thus far?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I’ve been blessed over the years to make some awesome connections to other DJ’s I admire in the industry, and even more fortunate to have played with many of them. There are quite a few I would love to play with again. I have a plethora of personal favorites, too many to name them all. I think my desire is to play more-so in places I’ve never been, to cultures I have never experienced. For me it not Who I want to play with, its more Where I would love to play at!
GO BANG! Magazine: In addition to being a DJ, you’re a successful businesswoman. Please introduce our readers to your internet radio show on Cyberjamz.com.
DJ Celeste Alexander: I was afforded an opportunity to have my own internet radio show on Cyberjamz.com back in 2007. I was given a shot by my NuBang Collective brother Sammy Rock. Cyberjamz was at the time the first and only independently owned radio station totally dedicated to House Music platforms. My show The Celestial Odyssey ran every week until the end of 2019. In 2020, I went independent with the brand and started doing shows on FB Live and now exclusively on TwitchTV. 2020 and COVID bought a whole different set of challenges to many DJ’s. For the past 9-10 months, we all have been trying to find platforms to consistently showcase our talents. Fortunately for me, I had Cyberjamz, so live interactive video/audio/chat was not foreign to me as it may have been to many so the adjustment was not as major as it may have been for many. As of right now, you can catch The Celestial Odyssey- The Journey Continues live, every Saturday from 3-5 pm (CST) on Twitch.tv/Celestethedj I also have audio podcast on multiple platforms including PodOMatic.com, Apple Music, Google Music and soon to be on Amazon music. I will always be grateful to Sammy and my Cyberjamz family for the times spent on their station. If it weren’t for it, I would never have broken the siloed patterns that many Chicago DJ’s had fallen into. Due to my exposure through cyberjamz, I have been able to make connections to music lovers, other DJ’s, producers, artist, musicians from across the world. Cyberjamz opened up the world for me and made it my oyster.
GO BANG! Magazine: You’re also “Married with Children.” Has business or the music bug rubbed off on your children, or are they not interested in the entertainment industry?
DJ Celeste Alexander: Both of my sons love music of all kinds, my eldest probably went to more House music events than the average Househead growing up. Lol, my youngest is in college and dabbles in studio work currently, but loves the hip-hop culture.
I helped teach my husband how to play. He is one hellova DJ in his own right!
GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve joined forces with Vick Lavender and Steven Stewart to become co-owner of Sophisticado Records. How did this partnership come about and what is the mission of the record label?
DJ Celeste Alexander: Vick and I became very good friends after meeting at the WMC in 2008, I think it was. We have been very close ever since, he’s like a younger brother to me. While he was trying to get his label off the ground, I helped in any way I could. My contributions to the label would be more of the business and contractual side of the brand and business. I have however learned a whole lot about next level facets of the music industry through our connection. Vick is an incredible and very creative talent. He has a vision of his music and how he wants it presented. It has been a pleasure to watch him grow and flourish in the industry. It has been even more of a pleasure to be a part of it. ~ If it ain’t Soul, we don’t do it~
Go Bang Magazine: Are you currently working on any new projects that you would like to mention to our readers?
DJ Celeste Alexander: I have a couple of things in the works musically. I am the Musical Director for The Summer Oasis Music Festival held in Idlewild Michigan annually. Of course, COVID did a job on us this year, but we are already in the planning phases for 2021 and beyond. Now that I am an “Empty Nester” I have the freedom to spread my wings a little more, we will see what 2021 brings.
GO BANG! Magazine: The world just recently lost DJ Angie Stone, another DJ Queen. What do you remember most about her? If you have a fond memory of her, please share it with our readers.
DJ Celeste Alexander: I miss Anji. We were sisters and friends. I mostly appreciated her tenacity; she reminded me very much of myself when I was a younger DJ. The word “NO” was not acceptable; she would make her own way successfully. She was determined to make her own “Yes” and she did JUST THAT! Rest in Musical Paradise My Dear Sister of Sound.
GO BANG! Magazine: In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?
DJ Celeste Alexander: One day at a time. A lot of prayer. Keeping busy inside as much as possible. Staying positive that this too shall pass. Staying diligent with my weekly show, the music and any music related projects that I have been able to immerse myself into. Trying to keep myself busy and my brand relevant, because one day the world will open back up, and I want to be ready to go jump in and play!!!
You can follow DJ Celeste Alexander:
FB: fan page https://www.facebook.com/celestethedjknowshouse
The Celestial Odyssey- TJC -Every Saturday from 3-5 pm cst onhttps://www.twitch.tv/celestethedj
PodOmatic: Celeste’s podcast- The Celestial Odyssey- Celestethedj Alexander
Apple Podcast /ITunes: Celeste’s podcast- The Celestial Odyssey- Celestethedj Alexander on Apple Podcasts
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