An Interview With . . .Houston PridePride 2024Trans Visibility

The Queen of DJing is a King

Exploring Amarji King, an emerging Black, transgender woman DJ.

Amarji King (Instagram)

Amarji King (She/Her/Hers) is a DJ blowing up across the South. She has been creating a lane all by herself with her fresh perspective on music and the engaging way she mixes on her turntable. Music has been her great connection between culture and movement because it creates a palatable mix of messaging and activism.

As we celebrate the rich expressions of joy in our community during Pride Month, we sat down with Amarji to talk about her work in ballroom and the DJ booth. During this interview, she shared some of her biggest accomplishments and greatest inspirations for her work. 

OutSmart: Tell me a little bit about who Amarji was before you became an amazing DJ across the South.

Amarji: I was a choral singer studying opera! I’ve always been an artist and have loved music, but as I reached college, I realized I wanted to contribute to music in the form of dance music (rather than opera, as I initially thought). I like to think it was a fantastic choice.

So you wanted to bring dance music as your contribution. Is that what inspired you to become a DJ?

I’ve always seen DJs as an extension of the community they represent. When I was growing up, I never saw Southern Black trans DJs, which is why I never saw Black trans women when I went out. I saw a need for representation, so I filled in the gap.

Representation definitely matters. How has being a DJ been a radical form of advocacy?

I’ve been the first trans DJ in many of the spaces and lineups that I’ve been in. Being the first in these spaces created opportunities in the city for other queer artists to be seen. Advocacy, for me, looks like making once-inaccessible spaces accessible to others. I pray that there’s a time when I’m not the first in most spaces, but until that time comes, I try to represent trans DJs the best that I can—not just for my success, but for my sisters’ success.

You’ve performed on some massive and impressive stages. How was it performing at SXSW and Boilerroom?

SXSW has been a fun experience! I grew up wanting to go to SXSW but was never old enough. I feel fortunate that the first year I was even old enough to attend, I went as an artist. Boilerroom was actually one of the highlights of my career as a DJ thus far. I think any DJ can say that an opportunity to perform at a Boilerroom event is one of the most nerve-racking experiences ever. I took the responsibility of representing Southern ballroom culture very seriously, and to this day, I think it’s the best set I’ve ever done.

With June being Pride Month, what does this celebration represent for you?

In my opinion, Pride Month is about celebrating the organizations, creators, community centers, patrons, etc. that are queer year-round. I see it as an opportunity for people to be recognized for their contributions to queer liberation. I’ve seen organizations that struggle year-round get shoutouts from prominent news outlets, and suddenly business is booming. That is the power of the media spotlight, and is something I wish could happen year-round.

With all your gigs across the South, you still find time for other cultural activities in the community, including the ballroom scene. Why is the ballroom scene so important to you?

As a trans woman, the ballroom scene has been about finding community. Before ballroom, I had no idea where to begin hormone therapy, medical care, get legal advice, and all kinds of things that aren’t a simple Google search away. Trans sisterhood has saved my life, and I was able to access it through ballroom.

You are doing incredible work, and your visibility matters. We are better for your existence. What more can we expect from you?

I’ve seen my life and the lives of my sisters completely change because of the work that we do in the city. I know there are so many other people to educate and so many other goals that I have for myself that I can accomplish. The work never stops, but I think knowing that people’s lives are changing because of what we do will always push me.

Keep up with Amarji King on Instagram @amarji_king.

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Ian Haddock

Ian L. Haddock aspires to be a conduit of joy in all things activism and art. He is a published author and writer and leads a team of nontraditional activists at The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc.
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