As the Original Fag Hag knows all too well, it's not easy being a girl in a gay boy's world. You have to work twice as hard and be twice as fabulous just to get by, and Kimberly S does exactly that. She's been a San Francisco favorite for years, particularly at Fresh, where she'll be spinning this weekend's holiday celebration.
DJ Kimberly S got her start spinning for the girls, but it was at Jeffrey Sanker's White Party that she got her big break on the boys' gay dance circuit. Today she performs regularly at some of the circuit's biggest national parties, including New Orleans' Mardi Gras, One Mighty Party in Orlando, Miami's Winter Party, and Chicago's Fireball. She also entertains dancefloors the world over, with international headlining appearances that include the Philippines, Bangkok, and Brazil.
Kimberly S specializes in soulful house, pulsing tribal beats, trance, and vocal club anthems. Her fans recognize her exceptional mixing skills and superior set programming, but what many don't know about Kimberly S is that she is also a certified martial arts instructor, with her own martial arts school that she runs with her partner, whom she recently married. She credits her experience as a black belt as well as her sobriety with giving her the discipline to succeed as a DJ.
True T-dance lovers worship Kimberly S. She readily admits her love of disco and won't even pretend to play dark. She gives it up to the gay boys for giving her the most room to be creative in her sets, and iIn return she promises to keep the bassline bouncy while consistently delivering love on the dancefloor.
What's most challenging about holding your own as one of the few female DJs on the gay dance circuit?
I know there's always going to be times when I get passed over for male DJs because promoters think a certain kind of party calls requires a certain image to draw its audience. But ultimately, the public knows who they like and why, and they know whether it's because they love the music and the charisma or just the image.
It should always be about the music, because this scene is about entertainment, period. That's the bottom line, and that's where the talent lies - when the DJ is keeping everyone happy, for the most part.
I put in a lot of hard work maintaining club residencies around the country and doing everything I could to get myself out there. I'm proud of myself that I've been able to work full time as a female DJ and make a decent living without having to remix. I've got no complaints about that.
Why have you chosen not to do remixing, like so many of your peers?
I tried, but I'm just not interested in it. I just really enjoy DJing as performing. I love the challenge, the rush, and the concentration it requires. I love having control of the dancefloor.
For me, the joy is in being able to share any kind of music with anybody and touch them. That's why I prefer playing live as opposed to being in a studio. I just know that if I split my time and interest between DJing and remixing, I wouldn't have been able to go to as many places as I have.
How does your 16 years of martial arts training play into your DJ artistry?
Martial arts is about being completely responsible. It's about discipline, perseverance, and having a thick skin. Martial arts taught me a lot about staying positive, and helped me to keep me going. I just try to do the best job I can do.
You're known for not being a diva. How do you consistently deliver what your fans expect?
I don't have time for ego. I know it's not really up to me all the time. It's really up to my audience, and I'm about them and what I can give them.
Music is an extremely emotional tool. I know it is, because it's ruled my emotions many times. It's a great path for me psychologically, and the thing that inspires me stays the same for me. It's finding new songs, being attracted to new sounds, and rolling with the generations.
I also think it's really important to allow myself to be educated. I can play everything, because I started playing for lesbians first, and they're so finicky. I just know that I'm always gonna deliver a high energy, positive vibe.
What would you play if you could play anything?
My heart is always gonna be in house music. I love to play more strict, deep house, the more funky sexy stuff. In the gay scene, you get that at lounges, not at clubs or for dancing so much. I haven't had a chance to play too many house sets. I find that I have to venture out to afterhours, or special events, to get something a little bit different going on.
Lately there's been a big shift toward popular music and Top 40, and toward remixes of songs in those genres. The trend toward more mainstream music has affected a lot of my sets as well as those of other DJs. I've always played a lot of vocals, but now I feel more obligated to play even more of that.
What kind of music is inspiring you right now?
Well, it's a matter of evolution, and that's the beauty of life. Sometimes I want to hear Coltrane. Sometimes I want to hear Abba or something, because I'm a disco whore. Give it to me! Disco was amazing, with all real instruments and real bands, but electronica's amazing, too. It just depends what kind of mood I'm in.
I could listen to Jack Johnson anytime, but that doesn't mean I don't love dance music. I know the history of dance music. I've studied it and immersed myself in it, especially working in retail music for 13 years. All these different kinds of music enlighten our souls.
What keeps you coming back to San Francisco?
My most memorable moments in almost 22 years of being a DJ will always go down as many, many Freshes. It's the most incredible party I've ever played in my life. It's so consistent, and there's something so magical about it. I love that I can always play classic T dance at Fresh.
Also, I'm a true Californian at heart, and there's something about the feeling that I get on the West Coast. There's so much love, I couldn't ask for more. People appreciate what I do here, and they have always been very gracious and generous.
One Fresh from this past year really stands out to me, when I had technical difficulties and couldn't use my music for my set. I'll never forget how everyone came together. I really want to thank everyone that supported me and helped me, including DJs Byron, Luke Johnstone, and Rob Kaftan.
I'd also love to give a shout out to the GAM SF, the Gay Asian Mafia of San Francisco. I'm the godmother!