In the Mix! with Cleonette Harris

Interview with Los Angeles DJ and photographer. www.cleonetteharris.com

You are originally from Milwaukee, how did you end up living in Los Angeles?
I grew up in Milwaukee, WI and then moved around the West Coast a bit. First living in San Francisco/Oakland for 11 years, partying, taking photos, DJing and throwing events. After a while I felt like I outgrew those cites once I started to reach my 30’s. I realized that I wanted to move to New York but changed my mind to move to Los Angles. I moved away from The Bay initially to get more serious about my life and my art.

What was your initial response to the city, what were some of the things that shocked you?
When I first came to LA I was a bit excited.  Whenever I move to a new city I get stoked on what my life can become and all the possibilities that await me. The main shock to me about this city is how quickly people try to take you down when you’re just trying to better your own life and make yourself happy. I expected my life and making friends would be as easy as it was in The Bay and as it was in my hometown. But its definitely not, so that has been a bit challenging for me.

You have been DJing for quite sometime. How did you first get started out?
I’ve been DJing once I was able to get into bars, so easily for over 11 years. I’ve always had a love for music, from collecting records from junk shops and from my uncle’s record collections, to buying hella CDs and to downloading music on Napster.  DJing just kind of fell into place considering I had all the tools to do so, I first spun at a local bar in my hometown and have been going on ever since.

Which types of parties do you prefer to play music at, big clubs or small bars?
Honestly I’m into DJing at both, neither one is less fun than the other as long as people are there to groove with. I do have to say I love smaller parties with floor DJing because, like many musicians will say, you just feel more intimate with the party goers and it just all feels so real to just be in it and vibe with everyone. With DJing in bigger spaces it just feels very distant and you’re in your own world. There’s still a crowd connection but it’s just a bit more distant. They are two very different experiences but both worthwhile.

Besides music you are also involved in photography as well?
Yes, I’ve had a camera in my hand for well over 15 years. My Dad was very impressionable growing up; we’d go on road trips down south and everywhere we went we’d be taking photos of me and whomever else. I can recall countless times where he’d set the camera up, put it on a self timer and run over to be in the photo. He did show me a million photos in his many photo albums. I’ve gotten cameras for Christmas from him at one point I didn’t want it because I had other interests in mind. Either way at some point I always had a camera on me and was always taking photos. Be it a disposable camera, point and shoot, polaroid, you name it, I had it. 
What are some cool things that you like about Los Angeles?  What are some things you don’t?
The ramen, museums and the neon signs are couple of my favorite things I love about LA. There are 2 or more of each of them and they all are 10’s and have no complaints. I also LOVE the Downtown Library tour that happens on Saturdays and Sundays, so much hidden information, would defiantly recommend it. The things that I can’t stand about LA is how far apart everything is, the freeways, the bus system, the people that I have encountered and the competitiveness, I’ll stop there.

You are very involved in the LGBTQ community in LA, what are some of the events and parties you manage?
I was managing two parties in the queer nightlife scene. Club Fist and Club Clit. One was representing queer, sex worker, goth, BDSM, and punk vibes.  I just wanted to throw a party that I would never get bored at, where I could turn in a circle 360 degrees and be entertained, that wasn’t super expensive and just had mad diverse vibes and all positivity. Club Clit was a little more political representing femme, trans, and non-binary folks doing drag and empowering all of these genres of people. I noticed that my femme/trans/non-binary friends would do drag at gay bars and would get ridiculed by gay men excluding them because they weren’t men. So I thought to myself, fuck it I’ll just throw a club for these people and promote to everyone in attendance to come in drag, as a fuck you to the gay men in scene, basically saying that ANYONE can do drag. 
What type of images do you like to capture with your camera?
I’m always gravitated towards taking portraits. There’s something so captivating of a still shot of a person in a portrait. I’m very into color, light, and composition. I’m interested in such characteristics in my own work and others work as well. All of the above really seals the deal with me for a beautiful photo. Grabs your attention and gives you multiple reasons to keep looking.

Name some of your favorite artists right now that are really inspiring and pushing the boundaries of traditional mediums.
My girlfriend is my favorite artist at best. She’s a painter, fashion designer, filmmaker, photographer and the list goes on. She has very original ideas in everything she does and her hard work and her being strong willed encourages me to go harder. I’ve seen her sketch brand new ideas for fashion designs and make it by hand and look at it and I’ve have never seen anything like it in my entire life. I can appreciate this of her considering a lot fashion designers I’ve noticed are trendy, striving to keep up with what’s hot to the masses. She never does this and is always ahead of the game.
Which places in the city are your favorites to visit for when you need to relax and decompress?

I love to go to Malibu beach to chill, grill, and catch some sun and waves. Being at home is always a safe bet considering everything I love is there. I love taking care of my home and making sure everything is in its place. I’ve always been a person to care for ones home but now that I’m older its one of the most important things in my life. 

What are your plans for the future?  Will you continue living in LA?
My plans for the future are to have a huge traveling gallery show for my photo series Neon Paradise. I’d like to continue shooting for another series I may end up working on. Traveling the world and being able to be financially stable enough to take my family to places they’ve never been before. In the next year or so I will be living in New York City to further peruse my career in photography, film, DJing and whatever else I might get myself into.

Who would you like to thank for supporting you and your art in all these years? 
I want to thank my grandfather, my parents and sisters, my girlfriend, new and old friends, and you Alex! Thank You!