Justine D., DJ, Nightlife Personality, and Food Blogger
Back before Misshapes and models were cluttering up DJ booths, there was Justine D., a DJ, event promoter, booker, and NYC-nightlife all-star. The former Justine Delaney of Queens threw the best parties, corralled the shiniest stars of local music, and set the stage for a whole generation of stylish and smart, self-promoting party girls. She was (and remains) the original. But party planning isn't all that D does these days. Surprisingly, she's transitioned over to a new passion, baking, and manages what might be the most colorful food blog ever. Between the DJ booth and the kitchen, we caught up with Miss D. to talk about how she got her start, the effect laptops have had on her profession, and, of course, style.
We remember you spinning at the best parties way back in the early aughts and sort of setting the tone for the generation of DJs who were also style stars. How did that all start?
“My music career as a teenager started by collecting records and going to clubs and live shows in New York. I was a goth in high school, listening to way too much Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure — with a ravenous appetite for underground subcultures and the music surrounding them. I looked pretty severe and probably depressed (though, I actually wasn’t). I refer to my former self as a ‘happy goth.' While I don’t look like a freak anymore on the outside…happily, I am on the inside.”
Yeah, but how did that translate into something professional?
“It organically morphed into a career. The combination of sincere vision and good taste caused me to be taken seriously in the NYC music community. I’ve always put music at the forefront of my DJ sets, parties, and bookings. I never compromised on that. For 14 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with amazing musicians, DJs, and record labels. It really has been the dream job. Getting to work with friends, heroes, and sources of inspiration is exhilarating. It’s been a blast!”
You’ve been a DJ, event producer, live-talent buyer, blogger, and much more, but, as you’ve told us, you only focus on DJing now. What makes it so special for you?
“For me, DJing is social engineering. I’ve DJed to thousands of people and to intimate groups of 50, but the concept is the same: read the crowd, watch their body language, and facial expressions. The DJ is the one in control of the environment."
And when the environment isn’t exactly great and the crowd just isn’t all that into it, what do you do?
“Without throwing them the obvious hit in a moment of panic, you have to slowly make them succumb to your intelligent track selections. To get a crowd moving, I always like a New Order track. Everyone responds well to that.”
“DJing and socializing has definitely changed due to the obvious utilization of technology. While I love the convenience of DJing and promoting through computer-based methods, it really has given everyone the opportunity to become a DJ or an online ‘personality’ without much legwork.”
Part of your presence was always your style — you’re still a bit of a muse. What’s your style strategy when you’re DJing.
“I’ve been told by countless colleagues, ‘You’re never casual.’ I don’t like wearing T-shirts…ever. At night, I almost always wear a dress or jumpsuit, and I’m not afraid of prints or color. I actually prefer them over a black ensemble. I wear 3-4-inch heels at all times. Flats never happen at night. I usually sport red lips, cat eyeliner, and always wear my hair down (since I have so much of it). I adore Phillip Lim, Thakoon, LOVER, SUNO, Loeffler Randall for shoes, Eddie Borgo and Philip Crangi for jewelry.”
Now, some people out there may not know this, but you’ve created a pretty amazing side career.
"Yes, baking! It started in 2008. After coming home at 5 a.m. from countless DJ gigs, I would immediately start baking while listening to my favorite records. I became a pastry chef in 2010, graduated from the French Culinary Institute, and studied in the South of France for a bit. I’m pretty much in heaven while baking to the perfect soundtrack!”
Styled by Lauren Edelstein; Hair and Makeup by Bethany Brill.
3.1 Phillip Lim jumpsuit; Loeffler Randall shoes; Joomi Lim Open Ring with Skulls, $85, available at Opening Ceremony; Joomi Lim Set of 3 Crystal and Spike Rings, $124, available at Joomi Lim; Noir Darjeeling Bracelet, $275, available at Noir; Valentino Lucite Rockstud Clutch, $3,395, available at Valentino.
Photographed at Apothéke, 9 Doyers Street; 212-406-0400.