DJ Q-Boogie Is in Control
It’s 30 seconds before liftoff, and the crowd is impatient. Qiana (pronounced Key Ana) Coachman-Strickland, also known as DJ Q-Boogie, is ready. She has trained for this moment for decades. Her Pioneer DDJ-SX controller, and its violet lights, are on.
Three, two, one. DJ Q-Boogie firmly pushes a square button on her controller to launch the familiar party song, “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan, into the ether. We have lift off!
The crowd stampedes toward the dance floor, as if chasing the musical notes. With one black circular headphone held in place by tilting her head toward her right shoulder, and the other headphone resting under her chin, Qiana is in control. The music screams out of the two powerful QSC speakers—sitting on top of poles that look like the skinny legs of a teenage boy struggling to hold them up—that have been strategically placed in the room. The thumping bass of the subwoofer shakes the floor.
Qiana, 47, can’t help but dance because the music frees her soul—it’s like a religious experience for her. The job of a DJ is to entertain, and it never gets old. She is the music maestro orchestrating head bobs, swaying hips, moving feet, and flailing arms. Like a fortune teller, Qiana reads the room—predicting the collective music tastes of the crowd. When she is in the zone, the room has more smiles per square foot than Disney World.
She is in business to get paid, and there’s money to be made DJing, whether at corporate functions, special events like weddings, night clubs or virtual events. According to a 360 Research report, the industry for DJ equipment is expected to reach $600 million by 2024, up from $410 million in 2020.
The earning potential of DJs varies, starting at roughly a few hundred dollars on the low end up to thousands of dollars per event. Top DJs like Calvin Harris, Gianluca Vacchi, Tiësto and Steve Aoki, all of whom also produce and record music, can make millions a year, and are said to have a net worth up to $300 million. Las Vegas Locally posted on Twitter on April 15, 2021, that Tiësto and Zedd were paid $250,000 per set in 2021 for their Las Vegas residencies.
I had my son when I was 17 years old.
A Young Mother
With over 20 years in the DJ game, Qiana is living a dream behind her Pioneer controller. But her life wasn’t always one big party. Her teenage years changed unexpectedly in high school. “I was a young mother,” says Qiana. “I had my son when I was 17 years old.”
She grew up in Windsor, Connecticut, 7 miles north of Hartford on Interstate 91. She attended her last two years of high school at Weaver High School in Hartford. She knew that college had to play a part in her life, if she wanted to have credibility one day to tell her son to attend college.
Qiana went to the Hartford College for Women, which later merged with the University of Hartford, for legal studies. A speech class there scared her psychologically. One day, she thought she had nailed a speech in front of the class, based on feedback from her peers. Qiana remembers being “broke down” by her teacher’s criticism. “I felt torn down” from her feedback, says Qiana. Since that day, she has not been confident speaking in public.
After a few years at the college, her interest waned. She left school and got a job in insurance to provide for her son, Tyrus. Things were going well, so she enrolled at the University of Hartford. She took a few classes but left the University of Hartford to attend take nursing classes at Capital Community College. As if on cue, she soon left Capital Community College—her version of musical chairs.
Following years of starts and stops, she decided she didn’t want to be left out. She felt like she needed to accomplish more. The timing was right because she had been laid off from MetLife. Qiana completed the paperwork and registered at the University of Connecticut in West Hartford, which is now located in downtown Hartford. She went on to earn her degree in general studies from UCONN.
Qiana didn’t make a conscious decision to have a career in insurance underwriting—a profession not associated with fun. Her focus at the time wasn’t fun. “I just always looked at those jobs as a place to make money,” she says. “I never really thought of it as anything else, and I didn't really understand why, but honestly, I was so thankful and grateful to have gotten that position.”
I really knew I was going to be a DJ.
Her life would change again when she had her second child, a daughter named Soleil, who is ten years younger than her older brother. For the most part, Qiana enjoyed working in insurance. She loved the people. She was doing what she was supposed to do, which was supporting her family.
She worked at Chubb Insurance in Simsbury from 2012 to 2019. But something was missing. She was stressed at Chubb. She remembers sitting at her desk and thinking, “This is not how my life is supposed to be.”
It’s a long road from insurance underwriter to full-time DJ, but it is one Qiana chose to take. Her husband, Billy Strickland Jr., knew she wasn’t happy and spent two years convincing her to leave. It wasn’t until two years ago when something clicked. That was 2019. “I really knew I was going to be a DJ,“ states Qiana. “I feel like this is something I’m supposed to be doing.”
She made the decision to put herself out there, and say “yes” to opportunities. “I built up enough clients and courage to put in my two weeks’ notice. As soon as I left, I felt like God, the universe, everyone was just like ‘Where have you been?’” Doors started opening for her that she never could have dreamed of. “I never imagined being a full-time DJ and doing what I love for a living. I never thought I could do that.”
The DJ Dream
Ever since she was a young girl of six or seven, Qiana loved to dance. “When I was younger,” says Qiana, “I would always be in my parents’ basement playing my dad’s records. “I remember playing Boogie Wonderland. I loved that song. I remember playing it over and over and over.”
Looking back, she says that was the genesis of DJing. She would play with her Fisher Price record player. Reflecting on her youth, she says “I always felt like back then, I was a DJ, I just never knew it. I would be downstairs playing Prince, Luther Vandross—just everything, all of their records. I would play them and dance. No one was around, I would dance. I always loved music.”
About 25 years ago, she was at the Bar with No Name in downtown Hartford, and she found herself engrossed, watching the DJ. She shared her dream of becoming a DJ with her close female friend. Her friend dismissed the idea by saying “That’s so boyish.” That friend was someone whom Qiana respected. Those harsh words caused her to bury her dream of becoming a DJing.
Fifteen years ago, Qiana and her friend Vanessa Jennings created the Ultimate DJ Showcase to spotlight talent, skills and the culture of DJing. This would be the beginning of her master classes to learn the craft of DJing, from music, to techniques, to developing the style of DJ she liked. Vanessa would move on, but Qiana stayed with it and continued to grow the showcase.
I gave her a couple of vinyl records and I said just go to town.
At one of the showcases, she met Colin Smith, aka DJ Deem, who has 40 years of DJing experience. He would go on to train and mentor Qiana. She asked Colin if he had equipment she could use. Colin was able to get DJ equipment from his brother-in-law, who was not using it. In addition, Colin says, “I gave her a couple of vinyl records and I said just go to town.” They would spend many hours working together to hone Qiana’s skills.
DJ Bigg Mann, aka Eric Hollis, and the legendary DJ Showtime have been mentors and very supportive of Qiana from the beginning. “They are both like big aggravating brothers,” Says Qiana. “They pushed me and told me what I needed to do. ‘Q, you need to get on the mike more.’ But I was always nervous. They pushed me to come out of my shell.”
DJ Bigg Mann says, “I think at first, she was hesitant. She didn't know where to start. You don't want to disrespect the craft, but for someone like her, she had love for the craft.”
Back then, DJ Bigg Mann and DJ Drake wanted her to “show the world” her skills. Today, they both help each other, referring to DJ Bigg Mann. “It’s a beautiful thing.” DJ Bigg Mann says, “It's really a family environment with us because she'll call and ask me some things. ‘How did you do that?’ If I could do anything to help open the door for her, I'll do it,” says DJ Bigg Mann.
Natalie Philander, known as DJ Lovher, also has been supportive. She was the only female DJ that Qiana knew in Connecticut, at the time. In the beginning, DJ Lovher would go to events with Qiana. “She was one of the first DJs to showcase at the DJ Showcase. She’s a huge reason why I am where I am now.”
Qiana wants to give back to the craft that has given her so much. To do this, she created the Female DJ Association in 2022. “I had mentors but they were all males. They don’t go through the same things women go through. I wanted to create a space for us female DJs.”
When asked about the challenges she faced as a woman, she lets out a long sigh. ”I feel like people don’t really respect female DJs like they respect male DJs.”
Some of my idols as DJs, you know, in terms of what they contributed to the game, are females. Look at DJ Coco Chanelle and DJ Spinderella.
But DJ Bigg Mann is quick to say, “Some of my idols as DJs, you know, in terms of what they contributed to the game, are females. Look at DJ Coco Chanelle and DJ Spinderella. Those are pioneering female DJs. It's not a fad. It's all a part of the culture and it doesn't matter if you're male or female.”
Qiana gives an example of the problem. “I was DJing an event, and a male DJ came over to me. He was like, “You should play this, you should do this, transition now.” She kept her thoughts to herself. “I’m like, ‘Why do you think you need to do that? What makes you feel you need to do that?’” She has been in other situations where guys have challenged her, “Do this! I bet you can’t do this.”
Qiana says, “I wanted to create a space where female DJs can connect with each other, have access to tools and resources that would help them with their DJ skills, techniques, business, and to build their brand. These are things I wish I had when I was DJing 14 years ago,” says Qiana.
She has big plans for the Association. Her podcast, “She’s the DJ”, is expected to launch on February 28th. Plans are in the works to launch a female DJ directory. People ask about female DJs. Qiana says, “I’m like, we are out here! So why aren’t people seeing us? Why aren’t people finding us?” Her plan is to make female DJs more viable in an industry that has been dominated by men for decades.
She credits DJing with building up her confidence, after her personal low in that speech class at the Hartford College for Women. “DJing has definitely helped me get over that,” she says, reflecting back. Today, Qiana is more confident and has a different mindset.
“Saying yes to opportunities that I was afraid to say yes to,” is part of her growth. Hosting events with 500 people is among the highs. “I really feel that DJing has helped with my confidence,” says Qiana.
“And helping me to understand that it’s okay to make a mistake because no one is perfect. That was the thing I was so afraid of – that I would be criticized. That people would laugh at me. Now, I just don’t really care,“ Qiana states in a confident voice.
Qiana’s life continues to be a journey of lessons learned—and loud music. But she knows this isn’t the time to fade the music or stop the party. “I feel I’m going to DJ forever because that’s how much love I have for music and the arts.”
“I feel like I want to build a legacy,” she says. “I want my children and my grandchildren to be proud [of me.] More than anything, that’s what inspires me and motivates me to do all these things I want to do.”
She has big dreams. “I always say I’m going to be Mary J. Blige’s DJ, one day,” Qiana says. Playing that 90s hip-hop, R&B and 80s music. Colin Smith says, “She’s someone that can definitely make it happen. She'll make those contacts. She'll do whatever it takes to make something like that happen.”
DJ Bigg Mann says, “I think it's closer to reality than she even knows because she's really made a name for herself in a short period of time. So, I think it's only a matter of time before she gets that call.”
Looking back, Qiana says, “I want to be remembered as this person who made you smile, motivated you, inspired you, helped you get to where you wanted to be, a fun, energetic, loving person who really cares about people doing what they love to do, and figuring out what their passion is. That’s how I truly want to be remembered. And as a great mother, wife and daughter,” she breaks out in laughter.
Qiana is happy and at a good place in her life—even when the music is not playing.
“What I’ve learned is that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing for me. I had to build up my confidence and find my way.”
She gets inspiration from reflecting on the time when her mother, Germaine Coachman, was at a low point in her life. Her mother turned it around later on in her life by becoming a Hartford police officer. She went on to have a 20-year career as one of the first Black women on the force. “My mother is a strong, strong woman. She’s a go-getter. I’ve always seen her just make stuff happen.” Her grandmother is a go-getter too, Qiana says.
Her kids are proud and supportive. Tyrus is 29 and Soleil is 19. They have entrepreneurial aspirations that don’t include DJing. Qiana says, “It’s important that they need to do what they love to do, so it doesn’t feel like work. I think that’s so important. They have my back, as well as that of my husband and the rest of my family.”
“It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are in your life,“ Qiana states. “Don’t be afraid to step out and do what you love because it can happen. It has happened to me. It has happened to people around me. Just do what you love and make it happen. Push through the fear.”
THE UPSIDE BLOG2/20/2022
Paris: A Personal Journey
Christian Brown in Paris
Christian Brown, 25, is an entrepreneur on a personal journey to find his best self. On January 8, 2022, he boarded an airplane at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport in Georgia, and landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France, 15 miles northeast of Paris. For centuries, Paris has seduced many, and Christian has been under the city’s spell since visiting for the first time in 2016, one of three trips he would make to Paris.
In 2018, 40 million tourists visited the City of Light, or in French, “La Ville Lumière.” Today, Christian (also known as Visionary Ceej) lives in the city on a special French Tech Visa, the fast-track way for non-EU startup founders to obtain a residence permit for France. “I want to be the James Baldwin for technology,” says Christian. “He disrupted things and made timeless art.”
After graduating in 2014 from Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia, about a 39-mile drive east of Atlanta, where he was the starting point guard on the basketball team, Christian enrolled in Kennesaw State University, a college with two metro Atlanta campuses and nearly 43,000 students.
I was forced to find my path.
College was liberating for Christian. As a young impressionable teenager—like millions of students before him—he began hanging around with the wrong people and partying.
During his freshman year, his best friend was the “biggest drug dealer on campus. I happened to fall into that life as well, drugs, parties, women.” That same year, he hosted a party for his birthday and was arrested for illegal possession of alcohol. This was one of his first big mistakes that would have direct consequences and send him spiraling down the wrong path.
Without the proper focus and guidance, Christian was on the wrong path. In Kanye West’s song Jesus Lord, he says, “Man, it’s hard to be an angel, when you surrounded by demons (Jesus).” This was Christian’s predicament.
During his sophomore year, his off-campus apartment was raided and one of his roommates was arrested. Reflecting on the experience, he realized he could have lost his life, after those two run-ins with the police. “That’s when I had to change my environment and my mindset,” said Christian. He had learned that with personal freedom comes responsibility.
“Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch,” said James Baldwin. Christian was forced to find a new crowd, if he wanted to free himself from the negative environment and find a new path.
He dropped out of college and moved in with his friends, who were business students at Georgia State University (GSU). He kept hearing the word “entrepreneur.” This led him to an awakening. He started seeking people who looked like him and were entrepreneurs.
The word entrepreneur wasn’t in my vocabulary.
His GSU friends would inspire him to start a business called “Healthy Comfy Living,” which sold baby products produced by a Chinese manufacturer that Christian had contacted. Using his contacts and social media skills, the business grew. He would sell this business and move on to the next opportunity.
Looking back, “In high school, I didn’t know what the word entrepreneur meant,” says Christian. “The word entrepreneur wasn’t in my vocabulary.” Trial and error were his teachers.
Christian Brown outside the Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Spread Your Wings
Christian saw his friends traveling, so he wanted to try it. He went to Paris in 2016 and was hooked. To feed his new travel habit, he got a job with Delta Airlines. The plan was to use the “best flight benefits ever.” It was time for Christian to spread his wings.
The idea of being a modern-day explorer was exciting. “It’s funny, because when I was growing up, I didn’t have the dream of traveling. After that first trip, I fell in love with being a stranger in a strange land.”
Over the next year, Christian would visit 15 countries, including France (twice), Nicaragua, China, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, and Senegal. Hands down, he says, “Senegal is the best one on the list.” He was in his early twenties during this travel phase and loving life.
In Senegal, he admired the amount of hustle in the people. But the happiness that he witnessed on the people’s faces didn’t match their environment. Christian says, “I couldn’t imagine myself being that happy in an environment like that, a poor country.” One valuable lesson he learned was that “Happiness is in the mind and the heart. Your environment is your environment; it shouldn’t make up who you are.”
Podcasting & Publishing
After this wanderlust was satisfied, at least for the moment, Christian felt he was ready to return to college in 2018. It would not be easy to create a positive path forward and avoid the problems of his past. “I knew I needed a mentor, but I didn’t know how to get one,” says Christian. He started looking for a mentor in 2018.
After taking a year off from school, his first class was Entrepreneurship 1101. Mike Russell, advisory board chair of the university’s Entrepreneurship Center, was the guest speaker. During the class break, Christian asked Mike to be his mentor, and Mike agreed.
What I realized was, it wasn’t just me mentoring him, it was us mentoring each other,” stated Mike.
Christian Brown with his former boss and mentor, Mike Russell, Founder of ETS Solutions
“It was an opportunity for Christian to learn, bounce ideas off of someone, and it became a long-term relationship,” says Mike. “We set goals and KPIs (key performance indicators), which helped Christian realize his true passion.”
Mike suspected Christian’s true passion was writing, among other things. “At the beginning his primary goal was making money as quickly as possible. When he realized that wasn’t an option, we focused on his true passion and helped develop skills around that.”
“What I realized was, it wasn’t just me mentoring him, it was us mentoring each other,” stated Mike. “Christian helped me create my legacy.” Mike became the founder and Chairman of ETS Foundation in Kennesaw, Georgia, which was formed to help underprivileged people with educational expenses.
One reason this new relationship worked is because both are men of faith, with an emphasis on family. Referring to Christian, Mike says, “He’s a family man. I got a chance to meet his family and have dinner with them.”
Christian quotes Proverbs 11:14: “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Christian adds, “Relationships are so powerful.” His relationship with Mike would pay off in many ways but it was not transactional. It was based on mutual interest. Christian met with Mike every week for the next two years. Mike observes, ” Christian has great ambition. He’s a quick learner--just a true good overall person. And he’s a hard worker.”
Christian Brown vlogging from an undisclosed location
While in college, Christian started the podcast, “Your Visionary Podcast” in late 2018. The purpose of the podcast was to educate, inspire and motivate young adults. He describes himself as a “visionary,” using his travel experience, creativity, and knowledge of technology and business to make a positive, sustainable impact on the lives of others.
In its third season, the podcast has 50 episodes, with titles that range from “How to Identify Your Gift,” to “How to Overcome Writer’s Block in 3 Steps,” to “Taking the Leap of Faith, From Corporate Executive to Successful Entrepreneur.” Christian was able to garner over 2,500 subscribers within the first six months of launching, utilizing a social-media strategy.
Christian was never far from his journey and writing when he traveled. With so many new experiences, sights, sounds, smells, stories, and learning, he had lots to write about, turning his travel writing into two books: 1) Blue Dreams, about his travel to the Bahamas and 2) Negus, about Nicaragua.
Christian was 21 when he published his first book of poetry. Since then, he has published a total of three books; his publishing company has released eight books for clients, including 70 50 10: The Journey to an Entrepreneurial Legacy, a story about Mike Russell, his former boss and mentor.
Perhaps his idol had rubbed off on him. James Baldwin said, “Well, I had said that I was going to be a writer, God, Satan, and Mississippi notwithstanding, and that color did not matter, and that I was going to be free. And, here I was, left with only myself to deal with. It was entirely up to me.”
The Next Journey
No matter where you are, you can’t run from yourself because your psychological baggage comes with you. Christian has lived many lives, from nearly scoring a perfect score on his SATs, to college dropout, to college graduate, to world traveler, to writer, to podcaster, and publisher.
I think it’s cool that the topic of mental health is being talked about more now, says Christian
Christian Brown with Olivia, Start-up Manager, WeWork, Paris
Christian’s issues took a toll on his mental health. Professional athletes are starting to acknowledge the mental health challenges they face, like NBA players Ben Simons, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Lover and World Champion and Olympic gold medalist gymnast, Simone Biles. “I think it’s cool that the topic of mental health is being talked about more now,“ says Christian. He still feels there’s more room to eliminate the stigma.
Therapy to learn about his past behavior in relationships was necessary for Christian. He said, “Therapy helps to dissect the past.” He went through that process for a year in 2020. “It helped me so much with my mind,” says Christian.
In the future, his plan is to launch his mental health and wellness app, Blemish, “to build imperfect people for a better tomorrow.” The target audience is ages 13 to 30. According to him, this product is in the early stages and could evolve.
After Christian earned his degree in entrepreneurship in 2019, Mike Russell at ETS Solutions created a marketing position for him. He would work there for just under two years. Paris was calling again.
Like floating messages in bottles across the ocean, searching for anyone to read them, Christian began reaching out toward the end of his college career to people in Paris who were in the entrepreneurship space. He was looking for a way to get to Paris, even by teaching English or a graduate program. Most messages went unanswered.
One of his messages connected with a woman in the American Embassy in France. She provided information about Viva Technology, Europe’s biggest startup and tech event, which Christian could attend online. This would be how he would get to Paris, as an entrepreneur. The rest is history.
Christian’s life has taken more twists and turns than the Tour De France going through the mountain stages. He’s undeterred. “What inspires me to get out of bed is the opportunity every day to do something great,” Christian states. “There’s something about this city that inspires me. I think as a writer, it inspires me first because it’s like a writer’s paradise. I want to live in Paris and just write.”
His advice is concise: “Focus a lot less on how and lot more on who you need to connect with. Ask the question, “Who has done what you’re trying to do?” As his LinkedIn profile indicates, “You’re just one connection away.”
Purpose, intentionality and relationships are three words that are common themes in Christian’s life. The road ahead will be certainly difficult, like trying to avoid potholes after a long Connecticut winter, but Christian is too focused on the present and his future to backtrack.
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Anthony Price is an entrepreneur, writer and publisher of Mini Books, concise & inspiring stories for people who are curious about the world.