By TJ Armour
A fixture on Chicago radio for over two decades, The First Lady is an internationally known pioneer DJ and beloved media personality.
As one of the original female House Music DJ’s, beginning her career in mixing back in 1980, she helped blaze the path for a lot of popular House Music and EDM DJ’s of the present day. In 1986 she landed at Chicago’s powerhouse station, WGCI-FM 107.5 and took the market by storm with her infectious personality and genuine love for music.
Throughout her career of over 35 years, she’s worked in the top radio markets such as New York (WBLS-FM, KISS-FM and HOT97 FM), Chicago (106 Jamz and the aforementioned WGCI-FM), and claimed #1 shows in both cities. She’s also had popular shows in a number of other large commercial markets such as Milwaukee (V100 FM) and Indianapolis (WTLC AM/FM). She’s been the recipient of numerous accolades over the years including winning the Billboard Hip Hop and R&B Award for APD/Music Director of the Year award.
N’Digo recently sat down with The First Lady to discuss her start in radio, the best advice she ever got from the late great Doug Banks, and all the exciting projects she has in the works.
Did you always dream of a career in radio and media?
I was actually a child model here in Chicago. I started modeling when I was a baby. I never thought about doing anything beside entertainment. Actually, I always wanted to be an actress. I did several commercials and print work as a child and a few films as an extra. I started DJing when I was 13 because I wanted to get closer to my boyfriend at the time. My Father worked in radio but I had no interest. I wanted to be on TV. My love for radio didn’t kick in until I was 18.
How did you get your start in radio?
I was taking an acting class in college. My instructor, radio legend Bonnie DeShong told me I had a great personality and should consider radio but I was initially reluctant. Believe it or not, later that week I ran into my good friend Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, who was already mxing for WGCI-FM. I asked him why they didn’t have any ladies mixing on the air. He told me to make a tape and that Thursday night my mix was on the air and I became The First Female DJ On Chicago radio. I started interning there a month later and the rest is history.
What’s one of your fondest memories of the legendary Doug Banks?
OMG!!! Uncle Dougie… Love Love Love him. I have so many memories but I would have to say the two things that really stay with me is that Doug Banks was a man of his word. He told me that he would make sure that Myself and Rick Party would be a team and he assisted in that happening. We went on to become the most successful male/female duo urban music night show in Chicago. The other thing is that “Uncle Dougie”, always made you feel like family. He was approachable and friendly to everyone he came in contact with. I am the same way. I have never forgotten the advice he gave me over the years. Most important things I learned from him was by simply watching him. What an amazing person. I glad to have had the chance to know him.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on so many things my head is spinning just thinking about it. *laughs* I am an International DJ now so I’m preparing for an event in Amsterdam. Of course I still also play parties and special events here in Chicago like The House of Blues Foundation Room and The Promontory. I’m about to start a new weekly residency at The Bureau Bar in South Loop every Sunday. I’ll also be working as the Special Event Coordinator for The Hot Mix 5’s upcoming 35th Anniversary House Music Festival that’ll take place on June 11th . Of course I’m still working in radio at V-103 here in Chicago, as well as teaching radio at the Illinois Media School. Lastly, I have a few new music projects with my husband, Hugo H (Foxxhole Radio Sirius/XM), The King of House Farley “Jackmaster” Funk and legendary house music producer Joe Smooth.
What is it about House Music that you think gets to people?
House Music is literally the soundtrack to our lives, then, now and forever. It is all things new and old, blessed and cursed, black and white, beautiful and ugly. House Music speaks to each persons spirit, their soul, and their heart in ways only gospel music has been able to do.
Isn’t it funny how some people outside of Chicago don’t realize House Music really is an institution?
Yes, absolutely! I mean we live it and we love it. We are House Music and House Music is Us. I am ever so blessed and proud to be one of The First Female House Music Vocalist and The First Female DJ To Play House Music. House Music is the groove that keeps the world moving.
What celeb was your most favorite to interview and who was you most difficult and why?
I actually have a three way tie for my favorite person to interview. Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and Will Smith were all really great to interview. My most difficult interviews that come to mind were Eric B. of Eric B. and Rakim, he gave continuous one word answers, and Flavor Flav, who I couldn’t get a word in once he started talking *laughs*
In your opinion, what’s a common misconception people have about radio?
Oh my God believe me when I tell you that there a lot of common misconceptions that people still run with to this day. And I’m talking about really crazy ones like everyone makes millions of dollars in radio industry or even that when you call a radio station to make a request that it will actually get played.
Best advice for those aspiring to break into radio?
You have to have extremely thick skin in this business. Be prepared to work hard and have patience. Stay focused and learn the rules in which the industry plays by.
What’s next for The First Lady?
I try not to make to many plans for my career. I just keep moving in the direction God guides me. Any plan I
have ever made has never been better than the one He has had for me. I have always lived my life that way and it has never failed me. I do know that I will continue with radio, music DJing and possibly some TV until God calls me home.
Starting April 24th you can catch The First Lady from 4pm-12am at her weekly iGrooveSexy Sunday residency at The Bureau Bar located at 75 East 16th Street in the South Loop. The event is free and open to the public.
Connect with her on Facebook.com/ILoveFirstLady2 and find her on Instagram, Soundcloud, Twitter and YouTube at @ILoveFirstLady.