The pressure to show skin in Singapore's model-DJ industry

As more young ladies in Singapore take on model-DJ careers, many of them end up succumbing to the pressures of showing more skin in order to remain competitive in the local clubbing scene.

In recent years, Singapore’s largest DJ agency Altra Management has seen a significant increase in the number of ladies joining the industry. In an email reply to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, a spokesperson said that they now represent around 60 local DJs, with a majority of them being women.

While the management acknowledges the pressure of these DJs to show more skin due to the tough competition, Altra, which was established in 2014, insists that they do not dictate what their DJs wear.

“We do not control the way anyone dresses. Fashion is a form of self-expression and we support it,” said the spokesperson. Their DJs have manned the decks of popular local nightclubs such as Baliza and Canvas.

Debi Chloe, 24, is one local DJ who struggles with the competition.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, Chloe, who manages herself, said, “There’s so much competition and everyone dresses like that. If you don’t dress the same way, show the same amount of skin, do you think you’ll be chosen to play at a club?”

“While some clubs will go with whichever girl [who] can draw the biggest crowd, ultimately, it’s quite hard to base your selling point solely on your music alone unless you’re already well established. You still have to dress up, you still have to market yourself as a sexy DJ if you want to remain competitive,” she said.

Model DJs like Debi might sometimes face pressure to dress provocatively in order to remain competitive. (Photo: Debi Chloe)

While appearances are important, Chloe said that doesn’t mean model-DJs don’t have to learn to play well.

“You definitely need the bare minimum of appearance. I think that’s a given in the model-DJ industry, but you need to be able to play well in order to get the crowd to react… being a female DJ isn’t just about boobs,” said Chloe.

Altra DJ Sakura Soh, 20, agrees with Chloe that being a model-DJ is more than just looks.

“[While] there are so many female DJs in the industry, and [that] most of them are very good looking, it’s not enough to just look good. You have to really prove yourself,” she said.

“At the end of the day, whether you get gigs or not also depends on your music and the experience you have,” Soh added.

The model DJ industry has grown rapidly in recent years, with many local dance clubs and flower joints boasting of female guest or resident DJs. (Photo: Sakura Soh)

Besides Chloe and Soh, some of Singapore’s hottest DJs include DJ Jade Rasif, 23, and DJ Reiko, 23.

Rasif has been one of the most in demand DJs since hitting the decks in 2015, easily racking up at least five shows a month both locally and overseas. Rasif is paid an average of $1,000 for a one-hour set in Singapore.

When asked about her thoughts on looking sexy for the industry, Rasif seemed blase about it.

“You’re at a club to get drunk and have fun, if the female DJ is dressed in a certain way then let her dress in that way – it doesn’t matter,” said the NUS student.

“I think my music is good, if they don’t like my music just because of the way I dress, then that’s their problem,” she added.

DJ Jade Rasif said she will reject a client if they ask her to dress a certain way. (Photo: Jade Rasif)

Not fake DJs

Unfortunately, the pressure to show skin is only half of the battle these model-DJs face.

They also have to confront the common generalisation that model-DJs have no skill and talent, and that they are only meant to charm clubbers with their provocative looks.

Basically, many see them as fake DJs.

“A lot of female DJs work really hard and it’s really horrible for people to make generalisation… just because you show some skin or have big boobs doesn’t mean that you don’t have any talent,” said Rasif, a former Altra DJ.

“I put in a lot of effort into my music, if people don’t like it just because of the way that I dress then what can I do?” she said.

“If you don’t like my music, don’t come.”

Soh said it was quite common to get messages from haters saying that she was a fake DJ, or that she played a pre-recorded mix tape.

“You can’t please everyone – at the end of the day, I know I’ve put in enough effort for my music,” she said.

Chloe, who has been a DJ for two years and is known for spinning six nights a week at nightclub Luxi, said, “Some people think we’re just there to look good, but they don’t know that we spend a lot of time [on honing their DJing skills]… It’s not a one day thing, you just have to keep practising like any other musical instrument.”

It’s a common stereotype that even Altra has noted and realised how people tend to persist that these model-DJs are coasting on looks.

With that said, the agency sticks to their stand that these DJs do have the skills and talent, as well as passion and personalities for good showmanship.

“We look for passion over talent. We believe the skills can be taught if there is interest and passion for music and being a DJ. On the business side, we are also looking for ‘personalities’ that can be the anchor and energy of an event. We understand that a DJ is not simply a person who plays tracks but the maestro of the party,” said Altra’s spokesperson.

Related stories:

‘Supermodel deejays’ in Singapore (Pt 1): They’re sexy and they know it

Will female DJs ever be taken seriously?

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