Being a DJ during a pandemic is a difficult task, as Honey Dijon will attest. When you add a near-daily barrage of horrifying global events on top of that, it becomes easy to lose sight of joy.
“It’s what’s happening in Afghanistan; it’s what’s happening with natural disasters; it’s what happens with governments being overthrown; it’s happening with white supremacy,” Dijon tells Billboard. “I mean, it’s just like every day you open the news, there’s some bombardment of something that really just is giving us a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness.”
So, when the DJ was approached to do a new collaboration with creative goods marketplace Etsy, she decided it was an opportunity to inject some joy into people’s lives. Launched this week, Dijon’s Etsy Creator Collab, which she curated and co-created, features an array of artistic goods, specifically inspired by museum gift shops. From scarves to incense holders to art prints, the collection is aimed at providing some relief at a time when it’s become a limited resource.
“I love museum gift shops — it’s always one of my favorite parts of museums. So it felt right to be doing this kind of a collection with Etsy, where my collection feels sort of like an online bazaar,” she says. “I am a proponent of joy, so I hope people bring these things into their lives that can bring them joy and good vibrations and color and vibrancy.”
Throughout the collection, Dijon sprinkles queer culture references, specifically from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. This time period — when change seemed to be the only constant in LGBTQ history — inspires the transgender icon not only in her choices for this collection, but in her music and art, as well.
“What really draws me to that is when fashion and art reflect that social change, in the end, you have marginalized people creating their own music and culture,” she says. “I mean, two generations ago, we lost so many of the most highly creative people and the audience that appreciated these high art forms. So I try to investigate these times, not in a nostalgic way, but in a critical way, saying, ‘How can we still celebrate these people in a modern way, and celebrate our culture in a modern way?'”
It wasn’t just the modern LGBTQ rights movement that was born in this era — thanks to genres like disco and electronic music, dance music as we know it came from the work and sacrifice of queer Black artists in the ’70s and ’80s. So when Dijon looks at the modern landscape of the genre she works in, she’s disappointed to see a complete lack of representation for her people.
“Dance music started from this community. Dance music and disco started from safe places for people — for women to be women and not be harassed, and for gay people to be gay and not be harassed,” she says. “Dance was the soundtrack to these people’s lives, and it became colonized and turned and went from culture to entertainment. So there is still so much work that we need to do. I mean, let’s face it — how many trans DJs do you see today?”
Creating safe spaces for her community has been tough with the world on lockdown. Recently, however, Dijon has begun slowly returning to the nightlife scene, performing sets in America and the U.K. where live music is returning. Even still, the artist says she’s still trying to manage expectations. “It’s been great to play music again, and it’s been great to see people living their lives, you know, and celebrating again,” she says, before adding with a nervous laugh, “I just feel like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
As for the slow-rising tide of calls for diversity within the music industry, Dijon says that she’s tired of hearing only about queer artists, or “diverse” festival lineups, rather than seeing diversity permeate the vastness of the music industry itself.
“I always say it’s better to have your name on the door instead of the invitation,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk about diversity in lineups, but that to me is just culture-washing as far as I’m concerned. Until we have promoters and festival owners and talent buyers and production crews that are reflective of the diversity that everybody is starting to show in front of the lens, then to me, it’s just lip service.”
Honey is quick to point out that the work of talented queer artists is what’s still giving her hope and inspiration for the future, tipping her proverbial cap to artists like Kiddy Smile, Sippin’ T, and most recently, Pose star Michaela Jaé, whose new song “Something To Say” just dropped last week.
“I love her and I love the song. The b—h came out tight,” she says of Jaé’s new track with a laugh. “It’s great, because a lot of times, our queer brothers and sisters come out with something, and it’s not as tight as it should be. So, I really am glad that she’s out here representing and she’s doing it well — it’s together, and it’s polished, and it’s professional. I love it.”
It’s for that reason that Dijon decided to work directly with women of color when putting together her new Etsy collection — the DJ says it’s one thing to support a community esoterically, but it’s another to actually put that support into action. “I thought that it was really important to show up, and support and give life to these artists,” she says. “It’s really easy for artists like myself to get up here and talk about being advocates of these cultures. But I think it’s more important to show engagement and really support them.”