Like a lot of local DJs, Maria Romano started her career playing at birthday parties for her friends. The unusual part? She was 11 years old.
When she was 18, the Pennsylvania native worked her way up to DJing at high school dances and graduation parties before finally getting her own turntables. Romano quickly took off in Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene, but there weren’t a lot of clubs around for her to perform, she says. So she set her sights on Vegas.
“The level here is so much bigger than it is back home,” Romano says. “Everybody is on vacation and ready to have a good time.”
Romano, now 25, is just the person to make that happen. Her favorite artists are Drake, Cardi B, Post Malone and G-Eazy—so you’ll hear them frequently when she’s on the decks at Drai’s. But as an open format DJ, Romano is accustomed to playing a little bit of everything.
“Drai’s started the whole trend in Las Vegas with bringing the hip-hop artist back onto the Strip and paying them good money to perform,” she says. “It’s good for me, because hip-hop is my base, and it’s probably the No. 1-played genre right now.”
When Romano isn’t at Drai’s, she also opens at Omnia’s Latin night, Deseo, and spins at MGM Grand’s Hakkasan. But hip-hop is still where her heart is.
“[Drai’s] is built open, so the vibe goes very far. When you play there and it’s a packed house you really can feel the energy, because there’s nothing blocking it. It’s just me and the crowd.”
Romano says she’s now focused on moving up the DJ ladder here and in other markets. “I want to be able to move around and not always stay put,” she says.
When she isn’t DJing, Romano tries to keep a relatively normal life by going to the gym, hiking with her dog and going to new restaurants—relaxing and taking in the calmer things Vegas has to offer so she can save her energy for the evenings. “My life is pretty much based around nightclubs. I don’t like to miss out on anything.”
And when she’s in the booth, nothing can distract her. “I grew up an athlete, and when I’m at Drai’s, it’s game time.”