5 Questions with Poizon Ivy The DJ
Pro basketball’s first black female DJ talks tech
Not only are women finally getting in the door of many male-dominated industries, they are also propelling those industries to new heights. Enter Poizon Ivy The DJ, a.k.a Ivy Awino. Poizon is the official stadium DJ for both the Dallas the Mavericks and the Dallas Wings.
Music is in Poizon’s DNA. It’s not only what she does; it’s also a part of who she is. From the piano to the cello and turntables and controllers, her music knowledge is expansive. The Bridge recently talked to Poizon to get a glimpse into how technology continues to influence the world of professional DJs.
1. What inspired you to become a DJ?
I often say the blood that runs through my veins flows to a rhythm. My grandmother bought me a 12-key baby grand piano for Christmas when I was about 5. I played piano for more than 10 years, cello for around 3–4. I thought I'd grow up to be a pop star. I then thought I'd work on the music business side of things. While in college at Marquette, I worked for various record labels holding down street-team duties and had a relationship with several DJs in the Milwaukee/Chicago area. I loved watching them work. It was amazing to see how by playing a series of songs, they would infuse the crowd with so much energy. A few of my frat brothers were some of the biggest DJs in Milwaukee at the time. One day, I jokingly asked one to teach me. I figured it wouldn't hurt to add one more skill to the repertoire. The next day, he dropped off turntables and a mixer at my loft and told me to figure out how to set them up. That was the birth of Poizon Ivy The DJ.
2. How did you become the official DJ for the Dallas Mavericks?
It’s a storybook narrative of sorts. I was a ball girl for the Mavs from 12 to 18. So, I spent quite a bit of my childhood in the building that I now am back in. I’ve loved ball all my life so it made for the coolest childhood experiences. While working in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, I connected with [pro basketball player] Skylar Diggins and begun working with her as the official tour DJ for her Shoot 4 The Sky Basketball Camp. Coincidentally, her WNBA team announced they were becoming the Dallas Wings and relocating to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2015. I cold called the Dallas Wings office and expressed my interest in potentially joining their organization as the in-arena DJ. They were gracious enough to hire me for the position and my first season with the Wings also marked the WNBA’s 20th anniversary so it was an honor to be a part of league history. Halfway through the Wings season, I received word that the Mavs were searching for a new game day DJ and were interested in talking to me. And the rest is history.
3. What technology is essential for what you do?
At the College Park Center, which is where the Wings play, I run a typical DJ set up. A computer, a controller, and I plug into the house sound. Over at the American Airlines Center, I use two PCs and run software used in several arenas and stadiums. But the kicker is that there’s always room to incorporate all types of software and hardware depending on need. For example, because I wear a headset to communicate with production crews, I am considering finding an in-ear monitor because it’s rather difficult and cumbersome to wear two over-the-ear headsets. So, I’m always on the hunt for technology that will make me more efficient on all fronts, enhance presentation as well as performance. I’m a techie at heart, but sometimes moving too fast presents its own set of problems because of compatibility, etc. However, I’m all about what’s hot, new, and cutting edge. I’m big on presentation. I frequent a lot of tech sites. I try to attend conferences and trade shows, etc.
4. How does being a black woman in a predominately male dominate industry affect you personally and professionally?
I always preach about the power of perspective. I look at everything as an opportunity. So, working in a predominantly male dominated industry is an opportunity for me to be at the forefront of change. Becoming the second ever female DJ for an NBA team, first black, and first ever for the Mavs is such a blessing. I’ve essentially made history, and I look at myself as a torchbearer, a trailblazer. That’s the only pressure I see. I must make sure to set an excellent example for those who will follow. I look at it all as motivation to be greater.
It’s still shocking to me when I meet people who proclaim they’ve never seen a female DJ. I’d like to see more women respected for their skill level and not other factors. It would be nice to put an end to the new school vs. old school DJ divide. Let’s never forget the basics, the culture, the rich history, but also let’s embrace the new direction that the art is headed. Every time I play, I try my darn best to leave an excellent impression so as to not become a negative stereotype, which then transcends to other women. I practice, study, and love my craft.
5. Do you have any rituals you use to get ready for shows?
I like to retreat and be alone in silence. I use this time to pray and channel the energy that I’d like to bring during my set. When I get nervous, I get sweaty hands so you’ll probably see me cleaning my hands with hand sanitizer. It’s a little trick I learned when I used to play piano recitals. The alcohol dries out your hands.
Describe your magic.
My magic is in embracing my quirks and being unapologetically me. I make neither apologies nor excuses for who I am and what I stand for.
*Responses edited for clarity and length.