MiamiMan recently caught up with Fort Lauderdale’s Joy Strempack, aka DJ Joy Joy, who by day is a middle school teacher, while DJing each weekend at McSorley’s and multiple other places.
She doesn’t just excel at educating children and bringing the fun level of a party up, though. Joy also owns a graphic design company, and is an accomplished artist, singer, dancer, wife and mother. All of that within the same 24 hours in a day that we all have.
Aside from the obvious…weather, beaches, party atmosphere…what makes this area the perfect spot for what you do?
I would say maybe the feeling of diversity. There’s all kinds of people, and people are open to new ideas, a lot of creativity and it just feels like anything could happen.
You’re from Taiwan originally, right?
Yes, I was born in Taipei. I went to Taiwan University and I moved here to go to grad school in Ohio State.
So, what motivated you to pursue a master’s degree here and live here?
It’s a crazy story. My dad, he was a famous politician. I grew up in the most restricted household, famous dad, no freedom to do anything. When I was 17, I got a record deal with Sony Records Asia. It was huge. I was singing in a band and it completely got shut down by my family. I had to study and be the perfect daughter. The moment I graduated from college, I just tried to find a way to escape!
Are you on good terms with your father?
After that, yeah. I kind of semi-pleased them. They wanted me to be extremely educated. They actually wanted me to be a college professor, be the educator, which I did. “The daughter is a scholar in America,” they love that.
What’s different about living in America?
It sounds so cliché…but freedom of expressing what you want, do what you want and chase your dream. I think most Asian families, we have this perpetual ideal, you have to please your parents, to make the family proud. Everything always goes back to that.
I have a lot of family in America. My cousins who grew up in America, full-blown Americans, they’re living by rules of their parents. I would say out of 20 cousins, maybe one rebelled. The other 19, they’re doctors, they’re architects, they do everything the parents want. I don’t even know what they truly want.
I’ve been through that. I hope for a totally different world for my daughter.
Good for you. You’re a pioneer.
[Laughs] I’m a pioneer. I love that.
You said in an interview that you were recording an album and the producer died in a car accident. Not to diminish the tragedy, but can I ask what happened to the recording?
That was the record deal when I was 17. If that record happened, I would be the first female in Taiwan recording an English rock album. Talk about pioneer, that was unheard of.
In high school, I was in a band, and this producer, he watched the performance. He signed me as a single artist, not my band, just me. We started to record the album, all English. Halfway through, maybe five out of ten songs done, he went on tour with another band. They had a car accident, two people died, the drummer died, and he died, my producer.
After he died, within the record company, no one wanted to continue an English album. Plus, the resistance from my parents, I was getting no support, so I gave up.
I took the college entrance exam, got into the best university like my dad wanted, Taiwan University. That’s like Harvard in Asia. I got in, studied literature, put this whole thing on the side, doing what I was supposed to do, and planning my escape.
There are no lost sessions or anything like that?
Oh my God, I don’t know! I don’t know how I’m gonna find that.
So how did you get started in the DJ business?
Well, I’ve always been a musician. I play piano, I sing. The night club thing, it’s strictly about DJ and mixing music and working in the lounge. But I play piano, I can write, I sing and all that.
You know how spring break is really big in Fort Lauderdale? I have a friend who owns the bar on the beach [McSorley’s], and he just had me DJ there. I barely knew how to use the mixing board. I kind of self-taught, worked with a few people, and from there it was just crazy. Just gig after gig after gig.
A lot of DJs around this area, they play house music, club music, EDM music, they play that three, four hours. It’s completely the same genre, no change.
I played this rooftop pool once in Florida downtown. They told me, “Party atmosphere, EDM house music for five hours.” I prepared to do that, and that day when I walked into the job, this pool full of older people, the family, no one would want to hear music like that. So just completely on the spot changed to ‘80s disco.
Do you enjoy being a DJ the most of everything you do?
At this moment, I’m completely devoted and obsessed with the DJ part. It’s my calling. It’s not just about mixing the music, there’s also the performing part of it. I think the reason I keep getting continuous gigs in this area, when I play music, it’s as if I’m performing. I’m a dancer too, I was a hip hop dancer, I was a ballerina. When I DJ, I dance and observe the crowd, see what kind of mood the crowd’s into, and lead the people to dance.
Are you still in graphic design?
Yes. We’re still operating our outdoor advertising company. And everything that I have on social media or any kind of materials that we design, I designed it. So, I’m an in-house graphic designer.
And the graphic design skill helps you with that?
Yeah, because I think it makes me really different from a lot of DJs around the area. I got a lot of comments about that, I’m very organized, I have a marketing strategy. If you follow my Instagram, I have a way of releasing a promotion and then I design it on my own, I don’t rely on anybody. I have a billboard on I-95, I designed that billboard. I guess a lot of DJs have really no knowledge of that, they’re really missing out on a golden opportunity.
Right now, I have two original songs under a record label. The album cover, the single cover, I designed it. So yes, it helps me.
What would you say is your proudest achievement in all of this?
There’s one concept I’m really proud of in myself, and most people know that’s how I am. It’s when I want something, I won’t give up until I have it.
I will tell you maybe five examples. First one, the college entrance exam to Taiwan University. The acceptance rate is so low. I studied for it, I know I have to get in, and I got in. The second time, I was thinking that I want to be a teacher. To get certified to be a Florida teacher, it took a while. I was taking all the exams as an American person, but I’m a foreigner.
My own company, graphic design, learning all the software, Illustrator, all that. I think staying married, having my child, I’m really proud of that. And finally getting [two original songs] verified on Spotify, that’s my final big thing. [Laughs]
At my stage right now, music is my main focus. I really, really feel like music is bringing people together and brings people happiness. So, at least in my environment around here, every time when I play, some friends will come out, support, get together, and people keep commenting it’s giving them a reason to go out and have fun, especially after a pandemic.
And I see that as such a wonderful thing.