Meet Bambi, the model-turned-DJ taking over Hakkasan

From hard to commercial, Bambi’s got the beats.
Photo: Erwin Loewen

You might recognize 22-year-old Bambi from the pages of Cosmopolitan, GQ, Glamour and Purple, but these days you’re just as likely to see the model-turned-DJ’s face on the side of Hakkasan at MGM Grand, where she’s been playing alongside fellow resident Tiësto, Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and more since the club opened in April. We spoke with the Dutch Canadian wunderkind on a rare day off in Vegas about breaking out in one of the Strip’s most buzzed-about nightclubs.

How did your residency with Hakkasan come to be? Angel Management heard me playing at Haze a couple of years ago, and I was just kind of doing it for fun. Then Alex Cordova from Angel Management wanted to try me out at HQ in Atlantic City, because they were just opening this new club in the casino over there, and then it started going really well. I was headlining since the first gig. I have a little bit of a following in New York, so it kind of picked up really fast, and then I was there every month—I’m still there. So he just came up to me and said was doing this club in Vegas and that he wanted me to be a resident. I was like, “Yes!” (laughs)

As someone who’s still in the early stages of your career, what kind of opportunities does this present for you? It’s huge, because there are people from all over the world flying in, and it’s a really good way to get your name out. Especially because my own original music productions that I’m making aren’t out yet, so just going off of DJ gigs is a good way to get exposure for that. And being the hottest club in Vegas right now, it’s definitely really good promotion. They’ve been putting all of us, the DJs, in magazines and on the side of the MGM.

You started out as a model. How did you get into DJing? When did that interest start? I have a lot of musicians in my family. I’m from Toronto originally. I always liked music, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it. I took dance classes, I took singing, I took every instrument and I liked a lot of it, but nothing ever really clicked with me immediately. So I just started DJing for fun, like, six years ago, and I would play once in a while in Canada, but house music wasn’t really big in New York when I moved there. When I moved there I was modeling. I wasn’t DJing at all, and I didn’t consider it a job. And then DJs just started blowing up in North America. Some of my friends started encouraging me to start DJing again because of that, so I started, and it just kind of took over.

How did you learn? When I was a teenager in Canada I was dating a DJ. I always found it interesting, and I learned it from just watching being around it. He noticed that I picked up on it quickly, so he would let me take over for a little bit at his gigs. It was a really good way to learn, because you can teach yourself in your bedroom or whatever, but once you’re in a nightclub, it’s a completely different story. It was good for me, because he was there to guide me and also because I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I was doing a lot of house parties and small things, so it was a super gradual and natural process.

With Vegas so much at the center of the dance music world right now, how does performing here differ from, say, Atlantic City? I feel like on the East Coast, my style is very hard, kind of aggressive. I don’t usually play very commercial stuff when I’m doing a set there. I’ve found that on the West Coast it’s a little more commercial. I don’t know if that’s just Vegas, but it might be because people there are from all over the place, so there’s not one type of music that people really like. Every weekend is different, and I’ve played here almost every weekend lately. So you have to be kind of flexible with what you’re playing and try to pay attention while still keeping your own style, because I think that’s important, too. I think Vegas is one of the most difficult markets I’ve every played. I’ve talked to a lot of DJ friends about it too, and they all say the same thing. If you’re like, Calvin Harris or something, he can do his own stuff and he can do no wrong basically, because everyone loves him. But for somebody like me who’s new, you’re trying to figure out what the crowd wants, plus trying to keep to your own style and having them see what you’re all about. In my opinion, if you just keep doing everything that everyone else is doing, then you don’t establish your own sound. So it’s really hard to find that balance.

You and Nervo are the only female headliners at Hakkasan, but it seems like women are starting to have a little bit more of a presence in dance music in Vegas than a few years ago. How are you seeing the role of women change in EDM? There’s definitely never been that many female DJs or producers. I can’t even think of any female DJs that are also doing the production side of it, in my style of music. I think there’s always been female DJs though, like Nicole Moudaber, DJ Heather, a bunch of them in Europe who have been around. DJing is really an aggressive thing. It’s really tiring, and there’s a lot of traveling. I think that it’s something more men are attracted to in general. But females are always involved, whether they’re singing or writing music, I think it’s always been there. DJs are just more popular now, so you get to see more of the females out there.

But from what I’ve heard, it’s harder for women to land residencies. It seems that for a while women were being treated more like accessories behind the DJ booth rather than as respected artists. Yeah, for sure. All the time I get this, where even if I’m in a car and I’m talking to the driver or something, they’re like “Oh, do you do bottle service? Are you a dancer?” They don’t assume that you’re on the other side of it. It doesn’t really bother me. I always was doing things that guys typically do. I played football growing up. I just didn’t see it as being different or as if I couldn’t do it. It was kind of shocking at first to hear that people wouldn’t think a girl would be headlining a major club like that. I mean, I play at Pacha and music festivals and things like that. But in the beginning I’d get a lot of offers for lounges or fashion events or things where the DJ wasn’t really the focus. They just want a girl who can be more of a look than the actual music. But I think part of the reason that I was able to start headlining these places is that I really stuck to my style, and I would turn down all the stuff that I wasn’t comfortable with. I wouldn’t know how to play a lounge or a relaxing place like that. It would be horrible. So I just kept saying no to stuff like that, and the more that I played at these bigger venues, the more people heard what I sounded like, and it just went like that. It doesn’t matter what you do or what style you do. If you stick to what you really know how to do and what you’re comfortable with, you may lose out on some gigs for a little bit, but at the end of the day you’ll get where you want to get faster than if you just take whatever comes your way.

Bambi With Fergie DJ. August 3, doors at 10 p.m., $20-$30. Hakkasan, 891-3838.

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