DJ Tina T's motto is “Less skin, more skill.”
“I never wanted people to say I got where I am because of who I was sleeping with,” she says recently, sipping an iced green tea on the patio of Sunset Boulevard's Tender Greens.
After excelling in various L.A. DJ contests, she relocated to Las Vegas in 2009 and now spins a weekly residency at the Cosmopolitan Hotel's Marquee nightclub. Along the way she's released half a dozen mix CDs, but she's most psyched for her latest project: a DJ camp for kids, Camp Spinoff. She founded it in 2010, and it's held every summer in Ojai.
It hosts 50 kids, split evenly between boys and girls, and the accommodations are traditionally rustic (wooden cabins and bunk beds), but dining options are more posh — soups made from scratch and real fruit juices instead of corndogs and Jello.
The 30-year-old Tina T looks barely older than her campers. She's soft-spoken, her face scrubbed clean and her tiny frame zipped into a robin's egg-blue hoodie. The only indication she might not work a 9-to-5 is the peroxide streak in her brown ponytail.
“People tell me I don't 'look' like a DJ. What's a DJ look like? 'Gold chain, a dude.' Sometimes I'll be setting up and girls will come up and say, 'It's so cool you do this; I could never,” she says. “What puts that in someone's head?”
No one ever told her she couldn't DJ. As a 15-year-old in Seattle, she borrowed some turntables that belonged to a local battle DJ, who eventually invited her to practice with his friends. “And that's all I did until I left for college,” she says, laughing.
Camp Spinoff came about from her love of working with kids; it also was a chance to bring her DJ friends together on a project. (L.A.'s DJ Reflex sometimes shows up, and this summer Samantha Ronson will be telling stories 'round the campfire.)
Having grown up going to summer camp, Tina T suspected it “would be the funnest thing ever, even for the adults!”
Other activities at Camp Spinoff include a DJ battle, break-dancing workshops, spin art and jam sessions, alongside traditional camp fare like zip lines and climbing. “The biggest challenge is finding an equal number of girls to attend as boys,” Tina T says.
During the year, she speaks at self-esteem workshops for girls, and asks them to guess her profession. When she tells them she's a DJ, they're shocked. “Hopefully, seeing that this average, normal-looking girl is doing this makes it more realistic they can do what they want to do, too.”
Camp Spinoff takes place July 29-Aug. 2. Visit campspinoff.com for more information.