When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that's when your passion is born. Orange Calderon recognized her spark and took it to the top. The Houston native has made a name for herself in the world of disk jockeys, opening up for legendary Hip-Hop group Outkast just months after pursuing the craft full time. Her hard work and incredible talent have recently earned her an award as the 2016 Flavor Battle Champion, proving she's a force to reckon with. We had the opportunity to speak to Orange, where she opens up about the budding stages of her DJ career, staying original, and more. Check out the interview below.
Your hometown of Houston, Texas, has such a big influence in your creativity. Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing in the south?
Houston breeds a different kind of creative. I think growing up in the South, where it was a little quieter, a little less active; there was a lot of time to hone skills and explore hobbies. The rich nature of the life back home has an effect on the way you process everything. From the clarity of the sky without the obstruction of over development, to the quietness of the night in the outskirts where most of us lived. You can see more clearly, you can listen more attentively, you can get lost in almost anything without much distraction. Not to get all poetic but there's a purity there, and I think at the most basic point, that kind of blank canvas lends itself to fruitful creativity. That, and growing up a tomboy in the hood when Hip-Hop was being dominated by Houston exposed me to a lot of amazing culture and healthy competition (laughs).
How does the city of Los Angeles add to that Southern influence?
I’ve been in LA for 8 years now. I came here a baby fresh out of high school and did a lot of my adolescent growing up here. I was def on the scene and running around with all of the LA staples before any of us knew what we were gonna do with our lives I think. It’s been dope to see everyone glo’ up and make waves in their lanes. In that regard, LA has had an immeasurable influence on me in that I finished school here. I got a real job and circled back around to pursue the life I really wanted. There’s a free-spirited nature here that no doubt watered the seed in my head to jump out the window and go for what I wanted.
Coming from a family of music, were you ever encouraged to pursue another career? How did you know this was it for you?
My parents are incredible. They provided my siblings and I with every opportunity. Every athletic pursuit, every music class; they would bring up things to me like, do you wanna try ice skating lessons? Do you wanna take this pottery class? Do you wanna join this acting program? I literally could’ve done anything and they would have figured out how to help me be the best. But my family is actually more academic than musical. My father and brother are in law, my mother and sister are in medical, and I did well in school but always showed promise in the creative fields. It wasn’t too much of a shock when I decided to circle back to music. They are very excited about it all really, they’ll call and I’ll be in NY or ATL or Paris and they just love to hear about what I’m up to; why I’m here and where I’m going next. It’s really a lot of fun to share the journey with them, they are both my best friends.
Did you face any challenges during the beginning stages of your entrepreneurial life? How did you overcome this?
I think everyone probably faces “challenges” when figuring out how to structure a new business. I think namely the financial stability I was used to, or rather the level of income I was used to obviously took a hit when I stopped working a corporate job and started trying to piece together strings of meaningful performance opportunities. But in all honestly, I didn’t spend a lot of time focused on it. I took it with a grain of salt; chalked it up as an inevitable part of the building phase and just busted my ass to get through it and out the other side as quickly as possible. That’s the only thing I can think of that really “challenged” me. Outside of that, there were the typical sexism obstacles/frustrations that come with working in a male-dominated industry. Losing opportunities to social influencers who don’t actually DJ because of the numbers game, etc. But that was water off my back. I knew I was gonna have to hustle to earn the respect I want for myself - that’s with anything. I’m not sensitive about being challenged or threatened with hard work. If anything I feel very fortunate to have grown as quickly as I have and know there are many more challenges ahead. So I’m just in the trenches like, let's go!
“If something is for you, it’s for you. You’ll already have the tools buried somewhere in your subconscious and the challenge will just be to find them and learn to use the medium that will help you best express that gift."
What has been the most gratifying moment of your career so far?
Yikes, that’s hard to put a pin in. I’ve had a lot of really amazing moments and they seem to just get better as the phases evolve. One that really stands out in my mind and brings a smile to my face would be, Opening for Outkast at the Kodak Theatre in NYC during my 3rd or 4th month of DJing. I was busting at the seams with fear, excitement, disbelief, and anticipation. My friends were there and everyone was backstage chilling, drinking, smoking, and I was silent. Sitting in a room full of energy and laughter, just frozen (laughs). It’s funny to think back on because it went so well that I got another booking out of it. But I just remember that feeling, it was something I’d never felt before.
A couple of others would be my first gig ever at a primetime party in LA, and the realization of “why have I not being doing this my whole life?" And a party I DJ’ed in Tanzania that was a scene out of a dream. But I’ll save those stories for another time!
What is the key to maintaining originality as a performer?
I think if something is for you, it’s just for you. You’ll already have the tools buried somewhere in your subconscious and the challenge will just be to find them and learn to use the medium that will help you best express that gift. With DJing, you’ve got to have a real relationship with music. For me, the unique combination of all my experiences, early interests, and personality traits are what cultivated what I believe to be what's different about my style. I’m very detail oriented, a perfectionist, was raised by a gifted musician, and studied music theory. When Djing, this translates to the way I manipulate the layering of records in a blend.
I hear things in records when I’m mixing that others seemingly pass over or disregard. I rock with that, I'm proud of that because that’s my gift. I don’t think I need try to be any one of my other amazingly talented DJ friends, just because they are amazingly talented. I take pointers here and there by studying what I think is tight about other performers and if it’s a natural fit, I might figure out how to pull that out of myself. Or I might just appreciate it as something unique to their artistry. Be in tune with yourself as an artist, know what you’re good at and what you're better than others at, and zero in on it, because that’s what's gonna provide longevity. You see too many people looking for a “formula” and that's why everyone is the same right now. It’s wack but it’s temporary. That kind of short cut comes to a dead end sooner than later.
Name 3 of your favorite songs you enjoy playing at an event/party.
It varies depending on where I am in the world and who the crowd is, but I love the reaction I get from Lil Boosie's "Wipe Me Down" and Mase and Puff's "Money Aint a Thing." Right now I also love what Bruno Mars' "24k Magic" does for the energy in a room, it just makes people happy and start 2-stepping.
In the midst of traveling so much because of work, how do manage to squeeze in time for your personal fitness?
I mean it's tough sometimes I can’t even front. Sometimes I’m out of the country for months at a time and being on a regular gym routine is just not an option. I eat clean and drink as close to a gallon of water that I can every day. I try to take resistance bands with me and find time to go for runs. It doubles as a way to explore my area and learn whatever city I’m in. But when I can’t do that I do my hotel room workouts. You’d be amazed at what you can do with a couple of face towels and resistance bands.
Name 3 of your favorite hidden gems in Houston.
1. Dinner at Coltivare - An American/Italian joint from Revival Market’s Chef Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber. They use ingredients from the garden behind the restaurant. No reservations and a max party of six. The black pepper spaghetti is to die for.
2. Drinks at Julep - A cocktail bar on Washington. Small, great interior, and amazing drinks. It’s a vibe.
3. Photo Op: Smither Park - You just gotta see it.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
Confidence for sure. I think MISSBISH represents a woman who loves being a woman but isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and work hard for what she wants. She isn’t afraid to own her position or lay claim on her status when she’s earned it. She’s a young boss carving a path in a new field or in a new way.
Photos by: Mikey Zee