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Déjà Vu: Redefining the Role of Women in Syndication

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I had been seasoned in radio for a minute and I had other job offers but I thought I was invincible at the time.

By definition, the word “deja vu” means a feeling of having already experienced the present situation. When it comes to the radio legend, Déjà Vu, she has that same sense of familiarity when we are talking about love, comfort, and likability.  Whether she is dishing the latest celebrity news on WBLS, motivating women to find the power of their voice on Sirus XM, uplifting her male counterparts with encouragement while hosting an event, setting the standard for interviews on the daily, or just talking to the people, you feel like Deja Vu is family.  She’s everyone’s sister, that cool cousin, or the wild yet wise auntie, who lives life to the fullest while dropping those little life nuggets that make each day a litter easier.

With a blossoming syndicated radio show, The Déjà Vu Show, on ABC radio, the radio queen is slated for success and significance. We had the pleasure of chopping it up with Deja Vu about a plethora of topics.  From motivational speaking, glass ceilings, radio politics, the hustle, to redefining the role of women in syndication, Deja Vu gave us her cleverly cool perspective on all those things and more.

Radio Facts: You often speak about and encourage women to tap into their F.R.E.Qu.E.N.C.Y. What do you mean by that?

Déjà Vu: That is really my life coaching stuff but I do use those principles when I got out and speak to people. It’s great to say hey you can do it but you want to leave people with something sustainable. When tapping into your F.R.E.Qu.E.N.C.Y, you have to focus on what your goal is, remix your thinking, engage and get your energy up, and you have to question what you want to do with your passion. For instance, whatever my demographic is, if I’m doing a hip-hop station, I’m talking to my people about what their goals are and what job they may be looking at.  If I’m talking to my seasoned people on Urban AC, I’m talking about retirement or putting the kids through college. I drop those little nuggets when I’m on the air. Of course, you have to mix in the entertainment stuff as well when you are air. You might say, hey look at the new clothing line someone is starting and then you say, what are you starting. It’s just a way of wrapping the life coaching stuff around what’s hot in pop culture.

You talked about the nuggets you drop on the radio and hopefully people take those and run with them to improve, however, we all know everyone is not receptive to change.  Was there a moment in your life where you reached that awakening point?

During the time I was getting my coaching certification, I was transitioned out of a radio gig and it caught me off guard. It changed my whole way of thinking. I had been seasoned in radio for a minute and I had other job offers but I thought I was invincible at the time. They say you haven’t been in radio until you have been fired at least once. I remember when it happened and one of my coworkers said it was my time. It really shook me and I said that I would never get caught slipping again. I was already doing my life coaching stuff at that time but I knew I had to really hustle. I started to become more strategic with it and I started booking more speaking gigs.  I even started to help others as well so they didn’t get caught out there the way I did.

You speak about your hustle and you also speak about coming from humble beginnings in Florida. How did you adjust to the New York hustle?

I came here with my eyes wide open. I would see all the people around me that were doing parties and in the streets making money. I did not know how to do that. I did the club scene but I wasn’t really building until I got fired.  Then I started to see all the things that were at my disposal. I figured out I could do events, not just clubs, but little speaking events, brunches, and I started doing joint ventures. We could make like 8 g’s in one day. I started to see it was about putting your mind toward what you wanted to do and capitalizing off whatever the trend is or what was buzzing in the city at that time.

You speak about working with others. How important is it for us to collaborate with one another to become successful and how do we eliminate that crabs in a barrel mentality?

I have two thoughts on that. I have worked with people and I’ve been stabbed in the back. I also had my ideas stolen, however, I still think we should work together because there is enough money out there for all of us. If we can be strategic we can make money together. As long as you have a vision and I have a vision we can make it work. I think we can make it further together than on our own because eventually, we all need help.  We should be able to utilize each other’s strengths to move forward and get this paper. You see it with many of the R&B groups. Look at SWV and Xscape, they are not besties like they used to be but that came back together to get this paper. Now is the time because I have been in the industry for a minute and I see a lot of young millennials gunning for what I got. As they should because I was doing the same thing. I have to keep reinvesting in order to stay around for the next five, ten, or twenty years.  Again, it’s about staying relevant and relatable to who my audience is because they are going through the same thing I’m going through so we have to keep growing together.

 You talk about reinventing yourself in order to be around the next 20 years. Do you think radio is dying industry and how important is it to diversify your options outside of your radio gig?

I do think it is important to diversify but I don’t think radio is dead. I do think radio is morphing into something different. Broadcasting will be broadcasting and it is still the most used medium. It’s bigger than TV, smartphones, etc. for now but that is just for now. I do think you have to be on the cutting edge of what is next in order be around in the future.  For instance, when we first started live streaming at WBLS, I was one of the first jocks to embrace that and it paid off for me. Different companies want to sponsor different things when I live stream because they see how I interact with my audience.  Digital is almost going hand-in-hand with regular radio so you have to be on the cutting edge otherwise you are going to get left behind. People who don’t want to be on social media, who say “I’m too old for that,” I’m like the child you better step up or get left behind.

With the advancement of technology, people can actually broadcast from their phones now. Do you think there is a gift and curse that technology brings where anyone feels they can be radio personality?

Deja: Absolutely Hassahn! Absolutely! Everybody thinks they can do radio. They say stuff like I do radio. I say no you are playing radio, I do radio! I really had to tell somebody that. It makes our jobs as announcers seem so easy. They are used to that little microphone but if we put them in a real studio, they wouldn’t know what to do. Like if your screen goes blank or the record is fading and you have to go off the cuff, you have to know what to do.  It is truly a gift and a curse. We have been given the opportunity to broadcast on several mediums now versus just being behind the scenes. From a regular person’s standpoint they have the opportunity to start where they are which is good for them, however, we must hold on to our intellectual property as radio announcers.

As a radio announcer and life coach, you are in the business of talking to people, helping people, and giving people a voice.  Being a radio personality, I’m sure you sometimes feel like you always have to be on but for those times where you do get down or need advice, who do you lean on or what outlets do you have?

I listen to a lot of business podcasts and inspirational music. I also read a lot of books like John Maxwell’s stuff. I talk to my mom and my top five friends to talk me off the ledge. I’m also really conscious about what watch and listen to in order to keep my energy right.  I also have the type of people around me who will check me. I had some stunner shades on the other day and my girlfriend told me I was acting brand new. You have to have people around you who know you well enough to keep you in check.

From looking at your website and listening to your radio show, there appears to be great attention to branding yourself. Can you speak to the importance of branding and the details you put into your personal brand?

Again, it goes back to being on the cutting edge of what is happening. Everybody is a brand right now, from my dentist, who is a dentist to the stars, my accountant, who can make you a million dollars, and everybody else.  Everyone has their own schtick.  As a radio personality back in the day, you were a superstar because you were the neighborhood voice who was on the radio. Now because of all the new mediums, you have to step your game up because there are so many people out here building brands. Just playing songs on the radio is no longer enough. It’s very important especially on the Urban AC side. I’m always talking to my coworkers about personal branding. We have our Circle of Sisters event and I’m always saying we need to have our own step and repeats outside of the station. We need to have our own booth in order to build our brands. We have to differentiate ourselves. Suppose I get let go from the radio station, now I will be ok because I have built the brand Deja Vu outside of what I do at the radio.  Back in the day when I got let go, I wasn’t thinking that way but now I am. Now more than ever, I have to carve out who Deja Vu is.

What next for Deja Vu? What are you excited about?

I’m super excited about the opportunity to work with ABC and Skyview doing this syndication. My goal is the be the female Ryan Seacrest/Steve Harvey because no one else is really doing it. My girl Dede Mcguire is doing some amazing things but there aren’t any women out here rocking it like those guys. I think it’s time that a sister enters the game and steps it up. Just like Steve Harvey had “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” I want to have the HustleHer movie, TV show, and everything else.  I want to do a tour with this syndication opportunity so I can tap into those markets and really understand each audience. We really have to ignite the hustle within ourselves. We have the gits and talents but now we have to dig deep and figure out how to repurpose those things. We must utilize those gifts and find what’s of value to our markets and figure out a way to attach a dollar sign to it.. All 2019 I’m talking about igniting our hustle.

How do you feel about the perceptions of women in syndication?

I think it’s the old school theory that women don’t want to hear women. We still have some of the older people in power who still believe women only work well in the middays. I don’t know if there is a glass ceiling per se but I do believe there is a perception of what women can do. You see Dede Mcguire out here killing it in the mornings but on a national platform, we haven’t been given the same opportunities.  It’s 20 freaking 19 so it’s time to make it happen!

Who is your dream interview?

Are you kidding me? It’s Oprah! I thought I was going to move to Chicago because she was there and then she moved away. I love her!

Any final words for the audience?

Stay tuned because I’m going to bring it like it hasn’t been done. We are going to bring this whole new flavor to the middays and afternoons. We are going to rock it for the women and men but also for you, the listeners. We want everyone to improve themselves and ignite their hustles. Stay tuned baby!

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