On The Record: DJ Betty
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
While the records revolve and dance floors overflow, one can credit DJ Betty’s resilience and resolve for her relevance in local nightlife circles past, present and future.
The pint-sized powerhouse is one of a handful of local female DJs with more than five years of active service on the Honolulu club circuit. Name the situation and Betty has either affectionately embraced it or sparred a few rounds with it at one time or another.
“To me, being a DJ is similar to being in a relationship,” she said. “There will be good times and there will be bad times, but if the love is real and your willing to put the work in, it’ll never end.”
Is it the classic case of being overrated because she’s a female DJ? Yeah right.
Overexposed, in-your-face sex appeal possibly? Not her style. She’s a sarcastic spitfire.
Marketable DJ name? Only if your name is Barney Rubble.
For 11 years, Honolulu club crowds have been quite the beneficiaries of her amplified club tuneage. Betty comes fully loaded with guts and passion. Tough skin has been the saving grace that has allowed her turntable talents to shine. An avid raver at the tender age of 13, Betty arrived on Oahu with her family from China when she was 8 years old. She was already picking up important nuances of the DJ trade before her 16th birthday.
“When you jump into the industry at such a young age, you grow up fast because you’ll see the good, bad and the ugly, on a nightly basis,” she said. “I’ve seen people OD while my classmates were in D.A.R.E class.”
Currently holding down residencies at Bar 7 and RumFire Waikiki, Artist Groove Network’s go-to spinstress admitted, shamelessly, to bouts of stage fright at every gig. Once the nervousness subsides, however, her unbridled enthusiasm pours out for all to experience. Warning: dance floor flooding may occur.
“Everyone wants to be a DJ nowadays but they don’t realize the struggles we go through,” Betty said. “Our job is very unstable, even the best of the best will go through hard times.”
Hard times equate to long stretches of not having a regular place to spin, no insurance, pension plan or sick days. Best believe, it isn’t easy.
“Nowadays, some of us have to be promoters, ticket sellers, blah, blah, blah,” she said. “With the explosion of new DJs lately comes with an explosion of egos. Respect is earned, not expected.”
Please excuse the 25-year-old McCully resident’s blunt assessment of the DJ landscape, but having spent more than half her life in the industry, she’s very much entitled to her opinion.
“For people who don’t work in the industry, they assume the nightlife is this glamorous world filled with glitter and sprinkles. On the contrary, the nightclub scene is sometimes a breeding ground for some of the shadiest people you will ever meet.
“I consider it a blessing in disguise because once you’ve been exposed to the bad, you learn to appreciate the good and there are a lot of good people who work in the industry. The blessing is the ability to recognize it,” Betty said.
Once a work in progress, DJ Betty is now a polished veteran who happens to be entering nursing school. Still, she’d rather bestow praises on her DJ ohana for helping her harness her rage-inducing tendencies.
“I would love to take sole credit for what I’ve accomplished,” she said. “But then I’d be lying.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.