On heels and an upward spin
This ‘self-made artist’ tames the often hairy challenges of being a DJ in drag – in style
DRESSES and make-up may be his style at gigs he spins at around Cape Town, but the man behind the drag of Spinsista Mitzi waved at me from across the street with sufficient manly stubble and unruly curls.
Nico van Tonder is a far cry in civilian clothing from the glam DJ Mitzi.
The Good Weekend spoke to him this week before the Poncho Party he is playing at tonight at Keenwä, a Peruvian restaurant on Waterkant Street.
Van Tonder’s journey began at Bronx on Somerset Road, which he joined in 1994 as a waiter, and then as DJ. He also did drag shows with colleagues. “While the other girls were performing I would be in the DJ box. I still wanted to do drag and that’s how I combined the two.”
He moved across the street to play at a club called 55 until it closed in May 2003 and left him unemployed.
Van Tonder then got a job in the cargo industry and in 2008 landed his current IT job.
“I lost everything, but I am solid now. I had to learn to play hard ball with clubs who would not pay basic rates. I transport myself to gigs. When it comes to my music, I can’t do much during the day. I use the night to organise my life and do podcasts.”
Mitzi describes his music as uplifting and commercial. He uses funk, old school, sensual and vocal elements.
“I’m a self-made artist, I didn’t study sound. I’d love to do producing.”
Mitzi has been busy this year, and played four charity gigs pro bono: The Pink Ball at Cape Town Stadium, Positive Heroes’s Bloom Fashion Show, the annual Mr Leatherman SA show and the Dibanini Cape Town celebration.
He described the Bloom show, held last month to raise funds for Aids awareness, as a touching experience since he knew a lot of Hiv-positive people who had died.
“I got to wear a designer dress, babe. Scar did my hair. I f***ing bought my own hair (referring to his hairpiece).”
Dressing up to DJ can take up to three hours.
“I have to do a lot of shaving. I’m very hairy. Some drags have it good. I have to do a lot of construction.” And being a DJ in drag has challenges. “Wearing headphones and a wig, I sometimes get hair down my throat. Hairpieces are more practical. I slick back my hair and tie it down. During the day I like to look like me and not be teased at work. I have thick, dark eyebrows. I use FX make-up and I draw new eyebrows.”
You would think he has a large wardrobe of drag clothing, but no.
“I’ve outgrown stuff, some (outfits) have been lost to fires and thieves. I have 20 wigs, 12 dresses and four pairs of heels. I am not into supplements – you know, hormone replacement stuff. Even in drag I am still me, just with more colour and glitter. Spin is just a little more flamboyant.”
And for tonight’s Poncho Party, how does he plan to wear a poncho in this heat?
“I want to put the glam into poncho. Mine will be a play on a Versace style, one I can go straight from the beach to the bar in. I’m going to have to find a pair of cream shoes to go with the colour scheme. I’m going to wear my hair long and black like a Greek girl.”
And to top it off, Mitzi says he is playing at MCQP next Saturday.
“I won’t be using a vast costume as I am in a work environment. I must be comfortable.”
As for New Year’s Eve, we’ve all lost out. He’s been booked for a private gig.
For updates from this DJ diva, follow him on Twitter using the handle @I_am_spin.
The Poncho Party is at Keenwä, 50 Waterkant Street, at 7.30pm and Mitzi plays from 9.30pm. Tickets cost R200 and include a three-course meal from a set menu and a cocktail. If you wear a poncho you get a drink and if you bring a mirror for the bathroom wall you get a Pisco Sour shooter. Contact Keenwä’s at 021 419 2633 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can book Mitzi for events at 072 762 6905 or email@example.com