This week’s That Girl is Eve Speciall, superstar DJ, ultra cool model and former Disney Princess – that’s right, we have a triple threat in the house!
We chat with Eve about her perfect night out in Hong Kong, her most memorable DJ gigs, what five essentials we should all have in our wardrobes and whether she’s encountered any sexism in the DJ world.
Fill us in on your background and where you grew up? How did you end up in Hong Kong?
I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and after school, I postponed my uni degree and started travelling around for modelling and dance – my first big job was at Tokyo Disneyland as a Disney Princess in 2008! I returned to Tokyo as a model in 2009, followed by Toronto and Hamburg, before finally settling in Hong Kong – by chance, one of my model friends (Lyden James) showed my picture to his agency here in HK and they brought me over!
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Quarry Bay with my boyfriend, Francis, and our dog, Butters, in a stinky old walk-up with great square-footage and terrible fluorescent lighting. In a vain attempt to improve it, we recently put up foam-board prints of Francis’ photographs from his travels, which do actually make it feel more homely (note to self: don’t print on foam boards, they bubble in the HK humidity!). We turned the second bedroom into a little DJ space and office, which is ideal for me… But the whole “apartment renting” lifestyle feels so transient. I honestly don’t want to put the money or effort into a full-blown redecoration until I own the property. Plus, I travel a bunch and am often paying double rent in two cities, making it impractical to live lavishly until I really have the means to… so yay to Japan Home Centre!
How would you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
My style changes daily, depending on whether I need to dress for a photo-shoot, a DJ gig, an upscale event or a long-haul flight – I have about four different people’s wardrobes… Literally! I wear some really ratchet, ghetto-fab stuff, but then I only travel in soft black cotton and leather. I love acid wash, printed suspenders and platform shoes, but can’t go to castings without my black Alexander Wang bowler bag. I’m surprised I can actually form full outfits from my wardrobe – nothing goes together!
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
Mino Mart in Causeway Bay is a hidden gem for quirky imported brands, plus they stock Japanese snowboard gear, which is the best for riding and skiing. I also love Monki; it’s so affordable and a little left of centre.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I’ve switched to facial oils for cleansing and moisturising and noticed the difference right away; even on my gnarly combination skin that’s prone to breakouts AND flakiness, it’s so good. I use a small organic Australian eco brand called Bloom, and Jurlique Love Balm on my lips, hands, cuticles and under my eyes during flights. I swear by The Strand for hair (go see Emma for beautiful pastels, ombre and colour correction!) and Flawless for manicures and their Super Facial.
Give us your itinerary for the perfect night out in Hong Kong?
I’d start at Il Moro for the amazing food, wine and the entertainment value in their owner, Escobar. Then head for frozen margaritas at Socialito because you get a whole lotta tequila bang for your buck in those bad boys. Then to Fly for a dance, stopover at Paisano’s for pizza sustenance (get the ranch dressing dipping sauce with your cheese pizza… game-changer), followed by XXX or Volar to see a guest DJ. Finish off with Mcdonald’s Quarry Bay (with a fist pump to the sky!) for some glorious 4am hash browns.
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
Food: Pizzeria Jacomax, Taco Truck, KJ Lobster Rolls at Island East Markets on Sundays, Il Moro, Q-Bay Burger.
Bars: Racks, Lily, that 10 shot challenge bar in LKF for the lols [Geronimo]. One time, I had an exotic beverage at Honi Honi… I should go back!
Tell us how you got started in DJing – and how you got from your first gig to where you’re at now?
I bought some CDJs [CD players that allow analogue control of music from CDs] a few years ago and taught myself. I practiced a lot in my bedroom and then when I came to HK, I was offered a residency playing hip-hop on Wednesday nights by Fly, who had no idea that I was a very beginner DJ – fools! That was the start of everything really… more people heard about me, more sets came up, and the rest is history!
Nowadays, so many random celebrities seem to do “guest DJ” spots; what skills separate the wheat from the chaff on the DJ scene?
Whenever popular celebrities get behind the decks, they will have a crowd due to their pre-existing fanbase – whether they can mix or not. That’s fine for the fans of the celebrity, but it doesn’t guarantee decent music for the night. If you really love your music, chances are you are not fan-girling over Paris Hilton getting an Ibiza residency. In saying that, I’ve never seen Paris play live… For all I know, she could be the BEST DJ OF ALL TIME EVER.
How do you select the music for different events? What’s the key to making sure the music fits the mood/crowd?
For an event, I spend time studying the brand and understanding what drives its vehicle of ‘cool’. This is really important to me, because if I owned a 40-year strong brand that was hugely successful, I wouldn’t want some self-serving DJ coming in and playing whatever the hell they wanted, even though it didn’t fit the brand profile. Sometimes I have meetings to discuss music direction with the clients and they give specifics, but many times I have to make the call on my own – so I do my research and use taste and common sense to decide on what music matches the vibe. When I play club sets, it’s much more driven by my own taste: what I like, what I’m listening to and what I think the crowd will respond to.
What have been some of the most memorable events you’ve DJ-ed at?
DJing the opening of TOPSHOP in LA at The Grove was amazing because the crowds were enormous and they shut down The Grove to put the DJ booth in the middle of it! Demi Lovato also needed a DJ during her performance so they kept me up on stage to play for that – her fans are SERIOUS. It was the first time I witnessed teenage girl fandemonium from the stage perspective… it’s awesome!
Recently, as Music Director for Hong Kong Fashion Week, I did the Vivienne Westwood runway show; it was amazing and terrifying because the show of such an iconic brand is suddenly in your hands. After Day 2 of running the music for Fashion Week shows, I was called to race backstage and get into hair and make-up for the I.T shows as they needed a model last minute and knew I was on-site! Last year, I also DJed the I.T show live on the runway and then stepped out from behind the booth to walk as the final look in the show. It was TERRIFYING doing both live DJing and a runway walk – no one should ever put themselves through that!
Recently, at Miu Miu on Peking Road, I was seriously ill – like so sick, I couldn’t go more than two minutes without my sinuses geysering everywhere. They put me in gorgeous sunglasses to hide my red watery eyes and I was swaying and feverish, but I didn’t want to let down the brand and pull out last minute. Everything was worth it though when I had the Milan bosses of Miu Miu jump behind the decks with me to dance to Diana Ross…!
Similarly, what have been some of your most memorable shoots as a model?
I did a dog show once… but let’s never speak of that.
You’re originally from Australia, have lived in LA and worked everywhere in-between! How does the DJ/clubbing scene in Hong Kong compare to the rest of the world – what are we doing right and what could we be doing better?
I think Hong Kong has the least commercial radio presence in comparison to other cities, so a lot of HK locals aren’t exposed to new music daily through radio culture (which I think is a vital part of the Australian and LA music scenes). As a result, you see a lot of local people going to the same mainstream clubs – perhaps because they don’t really know what else is out there? Or maybe they just love EDM!
Hong Kong probably has the most thriving club scene of just about anywhere in the world. I love that every night something is happening in HK and you don’t need to wait for the weekend to go out. As with any city, HK nightlife can be threatened by overzealous police presence. I’d like to see more warehouse parties and underground venues continuing to pop-up and government restrictions relaxing on music festivals – I think that’s the vital part of the soul of a scene.
Have you ever faced any sexism on the DJ scene? If so, how have you dealt with it?
Sexism is rife in the DJ world. None of the top 50 highest paid DJs are women. Luckily, I’ve only experienced it a little… I’ve had criticism that I’m only getting jobs because I’m a girl (to the dudes who bitched about me booking gigs just ’cause I’m a model – I know who you are and being bitter won’t book you those jobs lads, but being prettier might… KIDDING!). But for the most part, I get an amazing response from other male DJs and bookers. DJs like Thugli, Oneman and Chris Haycock & Kutmah from The Do-Over have all given me really great feedback when I’ve opened for them, and that means more than anything to me. There’s certainly more than enough room for more female DJs to come up and make their mark; I really look up to Annie Mac and Kito, they are extremely important to the scene and will continue to have more and more impact.
What are 5 of your all-time favourite tracks for getting the party started?
Where’s Your Head At – Basement Jaxx
Nu Slaves DJ Snake Remix – Kanye West
B.O.B – Outkast
Go Deep – Tchcami x Janet Jackson
Give It To Me Baby – Rick James
… And what 5 things should we all have in our wardrobes?
1. Nike Airs
2. A black leather Alexander Wang bag (there’s one to suit everybody!)
3. A great watch. Or five great watches… I like Nixon, TW Steel and Swatch
4. Those Mickey Mouse ears from that one time you went to Disneyland
5. Peter Alexander pyjamas (order them online)
What tips would you give to anyone wanting to get involved in DJing? Is it easy to make a living just from that?
My tip would be to just give it a go and see if it’s something you like. Contact a friend who has decks and ask them to teach you the basics, or buy decks if you have the means and know it’s something you’re committed to working on – second-hand is usually the way to go. However, it’s not easy to make a living purely off DJing; I have a day job (modelling) and I also know DJs in HK and in LA who have day jobs and are waaaaaaaaay better than me. If you want to make it purely as a DJ, you have to be better than everyone else… So put in the work if you love it!
You’ve lived and been to so many different places – what makes Hong Kong unique?
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“No more bao – you are gluten intolerant,” by my doctor. This was the best advice… but the WORST news!
All photos in the That Girl article above were taken by the hugely talented Martice Milton of Martice Milton Photography – get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the rest of our That Girls here!