venus x changed new york and now she’s coming for the world, one party at a time
i-D caught up with the DJ and founder of GHE20G0THIK to talk culture, partying, misogyny and Rihanna.
Venus wear Faustine Steinmetz jacket and jeans from Slow Waves and Pageant bikini.
Jazmin Venus Soto AKA Venus X is a rare voice of activism and truth in the music industry. Without the support of managers, publicists and consultants, she speaks out on misogyny and the often parasitic relationship between major pop stars and corporate brands. Her status within the world of nightlife and is undeniable: if it's hot, it's likely Venus X is involved. She's the woman behind New York's iconic GHE20G0TH1K parties that i-D's Emily Manning described as, "there's cult status and then there's occult status."
While she turned the lights off at GHE20G0TH1K last year, Venus made it clear she's just getting started. On the horizon she sees a pop-up shop, a residency in Tokyo and a million and one projects that are all about making New York City's late nights thrilling again. Considering her clique is arguably the city's most relevant crew, she's certainly the woman for the job.
After a two week run of shows in Japan and Australia, i-D sat down with Venus X to discuss the future and the importance of speaking up when everyone wants you to be quiet.
You came up with a creative circle including Shanye Oliver, of Hood by Air, and the Fade to Mind crew. As all your profiles have risen, have you felt any kind of commercial pressure?
That pressure is good, we have to challenge ourselves and not just do things to impress and serve our friends. It's an exciting time now that there is so much visibility and interest in what we do: we should meet that demand. But it's also bridging cultural gaps, like 'how do we get rappers to a Boychild show?' I love rap and going to the strip-club but it's not all I want to do; in the same way that I don't want to only listen to club music.
I admire that you speak up about the things in the industry that no one wants to discuss. It's increasingly rare a person will say, 'this is not okay.'
People still fall for all the bullshit, we don't want to be sheep but now more than ever people are just followers. It's well documented that I had an issue with Rihanna and everyone was like 'whoa!'—because society has particular celebrities on a pedestal. Rihanna is cool, but she has millions of dollars and a whole team to make her cool: she's a machine it's all business. That's great but business should not get in the way of people who are out here in the world and on these streets surviving, especially when her creative team are stalking my crew to see what's hot next. We are one of the last relevant groups of kids who are seeking out and working with new artists and always in dialogue with the city—young and old from everywhere—not people who have already been labelled cool.
Are you ever concerned about losing that edge?
We know when we need to step back. We could go really hard and wear it out, but instead our attitude is to take a few months off, re-energise and look out what we're doing and contributing to the culture.
During the period when you were DJing for M.I.A and getting a lot of shine, it was refreshing that you kept your parties democratic. If Maya and Diplo or whoever wanted to get in they had to pay like everyone else.
At that time the party was only $2, so they could definitely pay. Our parties are open to all and that's why they become cult: because of the mix of people. Guest list and celebrity exclusivity would have ruined the whole vibe.
Let's talk about your openness about the layers of bullshit that come with being a woman in the music industry.
People don't want to talk about how women are still treated like objects in this industry, it's that simple. I have business ideas and strategy and creative input that needs to be heard but I'm not looking for someone to take 80 percent of that. It's essentially a pimp and ho mentality, where a guy wants to find a girl, feed her music, make her work and take that 80 percent. And she's trapped because so much of the structure of a female artist is being dependent on a man.
It's interesting to look at Kesha and see how mistreated she was for trying to do something about that in her own life.
The fallout of that case is so damaging. Imagine a black girl or a poor girl seeing that someone with privilege cannot get justice, it's like 'what chance do I have?' There's so much pressure to keep quiet and be the 24/7 fun girl who is pretty and takes cute photos. Women don't get to vocalise what is happening in the industry. And yet, male success is built on co-signing, connections and passing the baton onto the next dude. Women aren't even a part of that conversation and miss out on the mentorship.
Nightlife has historically been indicative of what's happening in the creative culture at that moment in time. Do you feel like you're documenting this generation?
There are a few things that tie this generation together: Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, but there's no space and sound that define it. Before our generation retire into parenthood, it's important to document our culture in terms of an actual space. Through our parties, kids share with us what's happening in New York and that becomes a vocabulary for the city and beyond. Wherever there are young people, wherever there is diversity, anxiety, aggression and a desire for expression—I'll be throwing a party there.
What does the future hold for Venus X?
Music comes from culture, so starting next month I'm doing a six week pop up store in Bushwick called GHE20G0TH1K. It's vintage and curated wears that I've collected from all over the world and it'll be open weird hours. I'd like it to evolve into a permanent space.