T H E S H O R T…
Name: Quiana Parks
Astrological Sign: March 20th, Pisces
Born & Raised: Patterson, NJ
Currently Residing: New York
The Last Song You Played? Passionfruit, Drake
Lyrics That Changed Your Life? “All Falls Down,” Kanye
Hidden Talents? I’m an ill graphic designer
If You Weren’t Doing Your Current Job, What Would You Be Doing? …
T H E L O N G…
Where are your from, where you grew up?
I grew up in Patterson, New Jersey, right over the water. I’m a praise and worship leader who became a teacher. I grew up in a Pentecostal church and praise and worship is the person who like leads the choir. My grandfather was the head of the church– he was the bishop. And then I went into this mid-twenties crisis when my grandfather passed away, me and my ex-boyfriend broke up and then it was just like, “I should go out!” That’s when I found out what Meat Packing was. Then I went out for like three months, seven days a week and fell in love with the idea of being behind the DJ booth and seeing that power. And also being able to wear whatever you wanted. I was like, “yeah I’m down for this.” So that’s how I became a DJ.
So tell us more: Are your parents from a musical background? Like what was music like in your household or growing up?
Well, growing up where [we did], my grandfather basically ran the church, but he also played the organ. My cousin played the drums and the me and my sister sang and danced and then my mom, she didn’t really go to church with us at all. We would just go and she would just stay at home. But she sang in a band. So sometimes we would travel with her. Not far, just around the Tri-State. She was in a cover band singing Anita Baker or covering like Brownstone songs. Music has always just been a part of my life. Even though my family was very much into gospel and R&B., I was very much the opposite. I always wanted to listen to Jazz or Rock. It was always Jazz or Rock. It was never in between.
So, you started going out in your twenties and your were exploring clubs… How did it make you feel? I would imagine that you hadn’t experienced that before…
Yeah, I was sheltered.
So what was that like? What was it like exploring those worlds?
It was incredible. In college, I didn’t like going to the club so much. I would go with my friends here and there. But I thought you had to wear tight clothes and just dress like how I didn’t like to dress, so I didn’t like to go. Then when I started coming out here to New York, it was like, “Oh! I could wear whatever I want!” And it was around the summer time so it was like, “I’ll just wear my t-shirt today.” Some things weren’t so amazing. I didn’t really understand the whole bottle service thing. But I didn’t really have to take part in that because I was behind the DJ booth.
So when did you start DJing?
Four years ago.
So at that time when you were clubbing you weren’t djing?
So what was it that inspired you to go, “That looks cool I want to do this?”
DJ M.O.S I hadn’t heard him before. It was just crazy because I was always going dancing and bringing my friends. It was just one night, he was just going in doing all these different tricks and doing a bunch of word play with songs and I was like, “Oh, shit!” And then he played Brittney. If you play Brittney, it’s over. He just did a super open format mix and I was just like, “This is incredible!” It was just like I have to learn how to do this. I want to be a part of this culture. My step-dad is a DJ also. He had turntables and he would always tell me I should learn and I was like, “Whatever, I’m not going to ever learn how to do that. It looks too hard.” And then I was like I have to learn and I went down to the basement everyday for like three months for like 5 or 6 hours a day. I would go in with practicing. Then I moved back in with my mom and was like this is what I want to do with my life. I just like quit everything.
I wouldn’t have guessed four years… It’s funny how everyone has their own style. But like, based off your style, I would’ve been like, “Oh, she’s so comfortable! She’s been doing this forever.”
Yeah, but I wasn’t always though. Kiss used to make fun of me. When I first started DJing I would open for her. There’s pictures of me where I’m completely serato face. It’s like a completely different Quiana now. I was stone cold and I was looking at the computer. Even now my manager says, “Quiana look up!” Because if it’s like a big thing… like when I did Boiler Room for the first time I did not want to look up. To have the camera right there and all those people there, I was just like why are you looking at me look the other way.
I’m just learning how to kind of relax. And, honestly, I learned a lot just watching Austin Millz. Austin gets so into his sets and he just has fun with it. I just started to watch myself too and I’m like, “You just look so boring.”
I must catch you on times that you’re not. Because I’ll look over and I’ll catch you when you’re dancing…
I mean, now. But before, I wasn’t. The first time I did 1992, I was DJing for like two years then. I know the first year was pretty rough because I was like, “Don’t look at me. Do not talk to me. I am not a multi-tasker. I can only do one thing at a time.” Also, now I just know my music more so I’m not that nervous anymore. Now I feel a lot more comfortable in it. I noticed I started to relax when even if I’m doing a bad set, if I’m dancing and I’m enjoying myself and it’s a song no one else knows, if they don’t see me enjoying that song [then they won’t either]… And I’ll see the difference. If I start dancing they’ll be like, “Oh yeah we’re supposed to be dancing!” It reminds them.
I used to do that a lot where I would freak out about making a mistake and I would literally show it. And Deemeelow would be like, “Dude no one noticed it. And you’re showing that a mistake just happened so everyone knows. So just keep it cool and act like nothing happened and no one will notice.”
I fuck up all the time now. Before, I was always so on with everything. It was just like I would practice all day and was just so intense with it. I kind of just let go of that. It’s just like I know what I’m doing. Everyone’s fucked up and no one is thinking about it but you. Now I feel like my sets are so much better.
Tell us about your journey with blood cancer.
I found out I had blood cancer in my second semester of college. It felt like a pea, it was right on my collarbone. It felt like a small little pea. And within two weeks, it grew to the size of a gumball. It was huge. At the time, I didn’t realize how serious it was and what I was about to go through. I went to the doctor they tried a bunch of different things. Then, eventually, I had to get a biopsy. Then they’re like, “You have Hodgkin’s disease. Then I kind of like zoned out like, “This is bad.” Then I’m like “Wait, we can go on Oprah.” I swear! I tried to find a positive thing to think about. So, my mom is listening to the doctor now. All I heard them say is Hodgkin’s disease and blood cancer and then I kind of just zoned out. And then it was like, alright we’ve got to write a letter to Oprah.
It was pretty difficult because I was only nineteen years old. I knew what blood cancer was because my brother had it but I didn’t know too much information. I mean I was eight years old when he passed away. And he had Leukemia. I had Lymphoma. They’re sister cancers but two very different things. His was way more intense. And I had it for a summer. I was super blessed because of the way I found it. It was pretty crazy how I found it. My best friend’s mom was talking to me. Whenever I get nervous, I rub my lymph nodes, I don’t know why. I was rubbing my neck and I felt it. Then I ran into the room and went to my best friend and was like, “Dude I have cancer.” And she was just like, “Shut the fuck up.” In that moment when I felt it, I knew. I knew what it was. It didn’t hit until…
Honestly, I stayed strong like the entire summer. I’m a nineteen-year-old kid! People were giving me money. I was going to the Hamptons. It wasn’t a regular summer because I was sick but my best friend was amazing. She was a great distractor. Like we went to Martha’s Vineyard in the Hamptons every weekend. I did my treatments and then I had like a job that I worked during the summer but I didn’t really do anything. So that was just like a huge distraction. If you have a friend or a family member who has blood cancer or cancer period, it’s great to take them outside a bit– Which a lot of people don’t do because it’s like you look at them like you’re a cancer patient I can’t do this or whatever. But I did a lot that summer actually. I was sick but I enjoyed myself at the same time. But it wasn’t until the end of the summer when I was done.
It was my last chemo treatment and all of my hair fell out. I kind of just went through this whole super depressed time. It’s scary because it’s just like this thing just took over your body. And then you really realize that you were just violated. And after the chemo was done and I went to the doctors, they’re like, “It’s a 90% chance it’s going to come back.” I freaked the fuck out. I was just like, “Dude what do you mean?! I’m only nineteen! When is it going to come back?” Then for years, I was just afraid to move on and actually live my life. It wasn’t until I started DJing that I started to enjoy life and not think of things having limits on them. I could have jobs, I could do better but it was like let me just stay here. I just kept it safe for years until I started DJing. That was kind of my experience with it. It was really intense but right now it’s over.
Can you talk about how music played a part in your life?
I remember during the chemo, I had to get cat scans and they took like an hour and also the chemo would take hours. I would be there all day and I would listen to Kanye West, College Dropout. I would listen to it over and over again. And the song that he had that I would really replay is “All Falls Down.” That’s like my theme song. I’m starting to get over it now. But that was like my theme song for years. I would just listen to his album over and over again.
Then also Amel Larrieux, who is like one of my favorite singers- has been since I was like 12. She has albums that talk about being a strong woman. And at the time, she had came out with the album called Bravebird, which the timing was just crazy. And she had songs about being strong and being brave. It was amazing to have those songs in my head constantly. I’m the type of person I’ll wear the same sweater over and over again. I’ll listen to the same album over and over again. I don’t need the switch up. I’ll play something out until you can’t play it out anymore. And that’s how I was with those two albums.
And then for fun I would listen to The Emancipation of Mimi. That was like my other favorite album at the time. Even when I would go to the cats scan, I would give it to my doctor and they would put it on the speakers so I can listen to it. I like “All Falls Down” because he was like bearing himself. There was one line when he was like “hair so ling that it look like weave. Then she cut it all off and now she look like Eve.” And I’m like, “That’s me!” Because my hair was so long! During that time, that song helped me get through it. And then I got to meet Amel Larrieux, like a year after, shared my story with her and now we’re like cool.
Talk more about the charity you started.
DJ For a Cure started 3 years ago. This is the third event we’re having. I started because I was just like I felt bad telling my story without doing something to help others. I couldn’t wave a flag like, “I’m a survivor!” and there’s other people who aren’t surviving and I’m not helping them. I was surrounded by all these amazing DJs at the time. I was still very much always working with Kiss and M.O.S. and I met this other DJ KalKutta and I was like, “Let’s do an event!”
I put this event together, me, my sister and my best friend. We just came together and put this event together. The turn out was just like way bigger than expected. We just thought it was going to be something small that we threw before Kiss’ party. Kiss did this party every Wednesday. We were just going to do like an hour before her party. And then it turned into this huge thing. It was like, “What the hell is going on???” Then I got to share my story at the event. People would see me there every Wednesday but they didn’t know me or my story. They just knew I was Kiss’ assistant. I shared my story and people were crying. Then I realized the impact that we could really have.
DJing and music alone just really helped me. Even after, in order to get out of that slump thinking my cancer is going to come back, music was everything. MIA, hearing her and her cocky ass I was like, “I want to be like that“ and it helped me. I was like. “Let’s see what we could do” and then it built from there. And then we met this baby. She was a baby at the time, Lennie. And Lenny was diagnosed with blood cancer at three months. And she had this whole movement, Love For Lennie, and her and her parents moved away…
Oh my God! That’s my friend! Those are my friends!
They’re incredible people. I met them and Lennie and I was like, “Ok. We have to do more.“ And we just kept doing more DJing for a Cures and just doing anything that we could and it was just like incredible. And going through that and seeing Lennie now? She’s like my first hero. She’s everything to me. To watch her from doing the chemo, and then she was like on the feeding tube, and then I started going over and like babysitting.
But that’s why we started DJ for a Cure because it was just easy. It was just like all these great DJs. And we see it growing into festivals. We have so much more planned. We just had the most amazing meeting so I’m so hyped. A lot more to come.