DJ Lina Bradford didn’t start out wanting to be a DJ. She grew up in Manhattan, across the street from Carnegie Hall, with a grandmother who was an opera singer, and a family who accepted her as a trans girl from the very beginning. Starting out in the New York gay underground club scene as dancer/gender illusionist/performer “Girlina,” she quickly became an underground superstar when in 1994 she performed in Wigstock. More recently, she shed her Girlina label and became a DJ on a dare. DJ Lina, who has toured the world, has not been back in Provincetown for more than 20 years. She’s booked to host this year’s Black and Gold Halloween Ball at Town Hall, and so she took some time to catch us up on her past, present, and future.
Provincetown Magazine: When was the last time you were in Provincetown and what were you doing here?
DJ Lina: The last time I was in Ptown was 1996 and I think it was at some place called the shack. I don’t remember.
PM: You’re mainly known as a Fire Island person. What are the differences and similarities between Provincetown and Fire Island that you’ve observed?
DJ Lina: Well after my 10-year anniversary, I left four years ago. So it will always hold a very dear place in my heart; it’s a very magical island, I love them both. I find it very charming that you can get on a bike, though, in Ptown and ride. It’s a different experience, but most importantly it’s all about the community and being around your brothers and your sisters so that’s the similarity and everything shouldn’t be the same. It’s nice to switch it up.
PM: How was it at Wigstock this year (in comparison with the past)?
DJ Lina: Wigstock was amazing – being able to perform and be with my sister Candis [Cayne]. It just brought back so many fond memories, and Wigstock, it’s always been about community, so it’s very perfect with the timing and bringing all of the different age demographics together under one roof because that’s how it should be always and not just one time a year. Hooray Lady Bunny.
PM: Things seem to be changing quickly for LGBTQ acceptance, and I know you’ve said before that you were raised in an environment that was very supportive of your trans identity. But things aren’t perfect. Where do you think we still have a long way to go as far as LGBTQ rights and trans rights in particular?
DJ Lina: I think that we can never stop thinking that the fight is over, we have to continue to keep being proactive in every part of the different dynamic diversity under this rainbow and I find a lot of times we tend to not look so unified under our own house that it makes it easier for everyone else to come for the rainbow so I would advise us to be stronger to each other and more supportive and respectful therefore it makes everything more unified.
PM: What makes a great DJ in your opinion?
DJ Lina: I’ve been blessed in this part of my career as a DJ for 21 years, and it never gets old or tired to me because every time is a special time when I get to play music and bring people together. Being able to be eclectic, feeling out your crowd, never having a playlist, and keeping organic and 100 [percent] with yourself and your audience, and then you will see, 21 years later, wow, it still feels like the first time.
PM: What is your process for creating a DJ set? How much do you leave open, versus set in advance?
DJ Lina: As I mentioned, I keep it organic. I never have a playlist. I just go with the energy in the vibe that I’m feeling and then I create, and that is always the best. You have to know how to cater to your audience and take them on a ride. From the first song to the last song it’s a journey, and never ask a DJ for a request. We’re not jukeboxes. You go out to be elevated and taken to a different place, so why should you want to hear what you have on your iPod. I don’t come from that school where you would go up to a DJ and make a request. It’s about getting schooled and turned out.
DJ Lina will host The Black and Gold Halloween Ball at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St., on Saturday, October 27, 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. The event is presented by Salt Hotels, and proceeds benefit the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. For tickets ($45 – $95), visit salthotels.com/halloween.