Interview: Sky Nellor – From Catwalk to DJ Booth
by Yvette Travillian
Photo’s courtesy of Abby Greenawalt for W Washington DC
Being a successful female DJ is not an easy feat these days. It’s no big secret that it’s still very much a male-driven industry, so when I got put on to Sky Nellor a few months ago I immediately became an instant fan. The Australian born turntablist got her start in biz as a fashion model landing the cover of Spanish Vogue and banging out the coveted Guess campaign; but after an unexpected trip into the DJ booth she discovered that she had a ‘niche to scratch’ and decided to pursue it full time. Now as the only girl member of the awesome S.K.A.M Artist Management crew (whose roster also includes D Nice, Lil Jon and Jermaine Dupri) Sky has become a well-known DJ and has banged out some of the hottest parties all over the world.
Sky recently made a stop here in DC on the 4th of July to spin at the new W Hotel and I was able to catch up with her (and she’s hella cool) and chat about her life as a dope DJ. As an added bonus I also got the opportunity to hear her spin and I was happy to confirm that she can in fact spin some serious hotness. From Michael Jackson to ACDC her ability to read the diverse crowd was on point and she literally had everybody on their feet. And the whole time she looked fly while doing it. Peep the interview below.
What’s up Sky? Thanks so much for meeting with us. Is this your first time coming to DC (to spin)?
Well, the first time I came here was as an infant because my middle name is Washington and my dad wanted me to see the Monument and everything else that goes along with America. I’m half American most people don’t know that, so yeah my middle name is Washington and my brother’s is Lincoln and we got a tour of this town so I know it. [But as for DJ’ing] I’ve come here a few random times to play clubs and parties but this is my first event at the gorgeous W Hotel.
So this is like your ‘big debut’? And it’s perfect because it’s very hot out and people are going to be ready to party.
Yes this is very sexy. Out of the clubs and into the sexiness. So yes we’re just going to get naked and jump into the pool (haha)!
So you were very successful at modeling but how and why did you decided to transition into being a DJ? It seems to be somewhat different than the fashion industry.
Well it depends. I mean music has always been a huge part of my life. Ever since I was born my father played music, our house was filled with it. When I left home I took every piece that I could record onto tape, because we didn’t have CD’s or anything else back then. And I think it’s been the only thing that has gotten me through really hard times and great times. It got me through school too. I studied for all my exams to Depeche Mode, The Cure, Boy George and The Smiths, so I got a hell-of-a lot of A’s. So becoming a DJ was a pretty easy transition. But I was just complaining (about the music) in the clubs to like DJ’s, promoters and event coordinators and they were like “why don’t you just get in there? If you get in there then you will just shut up and we’re all gonna be much happier if your happier”. So it was more like a dare and I was like ‘OK but I probably need a shot first’. And I sucked at first. I was like ‘what does this thing do – and that thing do?’ Then I went home and practiced forever because I felt like if I was really going to do it then I’d like to know what I was actually doing.
So when did you officially break into the DJ industry?
When my boyfriend broke up with me because I wanted to be a DJ. Yup it’s true. He broke up with me by email. He didn’t want to date someone who was going to ‘be at clubs’ and that sort of thing. And that’s fine. I didn’t necessarily want to be out in clubs but I wanted to play music and I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t do a job or gig because it took place in a nightclub. So when he broke up with me I went full blast into DJ land.
What year was this?
That was about nine years ago.
Wow and now here you are, so haha to him!
(laughs) He’s probably just like ugh, you’re still doing that shit?
So was it pretty tough to break through the DJ doors? Not just because you were a model first but just as a female DJ in general? It is still a very male-driven industry.
I don’t even really think I’ve broken in. I mean I think I’m doing OK for a female, but it’s like being a female sushi chef or a female fucking president; it’s a man’s world. So you’ve just gotta be like ‘ok, ok thank you so much’.
So you feel like you’re still breaking through the doors in a sense?
Oh yeah. Like 80% of the clubs 80% of the trips we go on the DJ who is on before me looks at me like ‘ugh’ and I’m just like OK…
And then you kill it?
Well I try to kill it. So at least if they try to burn me I try to burn them back. So for the most part it’s a boys club, I mean I have a great management company behind me so I have like 30 boys who have my back, but again it’s a boys club and they don’t like a girl in heels walking into the DJ booth.
That really sucks because you would think by now with so many successful women killing it in all aspects that it would be more acceptable.
Oh no. It’s like walking onto the golf course in a cute little shirt and skirt… they don’t want it. Their like you play on Tuesday’s and we’ll play the rest of the week.
So where will some of your upcoming gigs be taking you?
I’ve got New York, LA, Vegas, Atlantic City, Miami and The Hampton’s. It’s all summer stuff in the States because my mom is coming here so that means no overseas trips. I had some invitations to Spain and a few other places, but she’s travelling half-way across the world to see me so I just can’t right now.
Who are you currently pumping in your headphones?
I always go back to the music my father played. I mean I do listen to current artists but a lot of it is disposable. You know I’ll play it this week but next week I just want to throw it in the garbage. So for me it’s like Prince, Rick James… old school anything. I can have a Rolling Stones moment or Roy Ayers, I can get lost in all of that and forget what I have to play tonight. So I really have to read the crowd before knowing what to play for them.
OK last question: Because you’re a model and your dress is so cute, I have to ask who you’re wearing?
I’m wearing Black Halo, my girlfriend Laurel Berman is the designer and half of my wardrobe is filled with it because it’s perfect and easy and I love it.