18: Jasmine Solano – How Sacrifice Creates Success

Creativity, Hobbyist, Money & Business, Podcast, Relationships, Weekend Warrior

“If you’re not inspired, you need to go get inspired. Now. Tonight. Tomorrow. It’s what is going to keep you happy and motivated to live a good life.”
– Jasmine Solano

Hey guys! Welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (formerly NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!

Today’s guest is my awesome friend Jasmine Solano, an extremely talented DJ. Jasmine and I met a couple of years ago. I saw her spinning at a MILK Gallery party and loved what she was creating. Two days later, she ended up on my set in a Nike shoot. We became fast friends from there and have collaborated on a handful of photoshoots.

Jasmine has a great story, deep knowledge, and an appreciation for music. What I love most about Jasmine is her drive — she’s an all-around hustler who’s put in the hours to get to where she is today. She gets the dance floor moving and has spun for some of the top names in the game: Khalifa, Beyonce, Talib Kweli, and many others! 

In this episode, we’ll go behind the scenes of what it takes to become a DJ, what it’s like to be a female in the industry, and about the importance of having a passion for music knowledge. We’ll also hear about the time she almost capsized at sea –– it’s a wild story you don’t want to miss. Let’s get into it! 

Who Is Jasmine Solano?

Jasmine is a DJ and founder of Unity In Color, a global photography series and platform showcasing inclusive solidarity for Women’s Equality. She hosts a radio show for Radio Lily out of New York on Tuesdays. In 2008, Jasmine partnered with MeLo-X to create a monthly DJ party under the name Electric Punanny

“I do things that involve music, be it deejaying, making music, curating music, touring, all the production that goes into having a musical career and a  DJ career –– including blogging and marketing. My hands are in a lot of different pots.”
– Jasmine Solano

In other words, Jasmine is kind of a big deal. In 2010, she spun on Wiz Khalifa’s Deal or No Deal tour. In 2011, she DJed for Beyonce for her Target album release. Jasmine has DJed for tons of big names in the business, but she’s an amazing artist in her own right. 

“Even when I was on the Wiz tour, I would DJ a little bit, and then I would come out from behind the turntables and rap, and then I would go back behind the turntables and DJ and intermission for the opener. I really love the stage. I think I always have. I feel really comfortable on the stage, between the deejaying, performing, rapping, hosting and talking to people.”
– Jasmine Solano

What I love about Jasmine’s story is how hard she worked to get to where she is now. She’s a Creative Alchemist whose craft is a combination of hustle, talent, passion, and more hustle. In our interview,  we talked about how Jasmine got her start in music, how she came up through radio, and how travel impacted her creativity and shaped her taste in music. Let’s get started. 

Jasmine’s Origin Story

I always like to hear about a creative entrepreneur’s background –– I think the story behind a person’s vision can be deeply inspirational to other entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It’s also just interesting to hear what influences have shaped Jasmine over the years. It’s clear that Jasmine’s parents played an early role in molding who she is today: 

“I have an interesting household. My dad is from Indonesia. He grew up on a farm, so he knows how to do everything. He has a gazillion friends and has made a crazy successful life from having very little. He’s got this zen-island thing about him –– he’s very happy. People love him. He’s always laughing.”
– Jasmine Solano

While her dad is the definition of “chill,” her mother adds her own unique flavor to the family:

“My mom is a fourth-generation Russian American Jewish [woman] from Philly. Her dad is from South Philly, her mom’s from the Bronx. She’s really soulful, kind of cynical, and so down to earth and cool.”
– Jasmine Solano

Jasmine says that while her parents come from very different backgrounds, they share a deep love for music. Her dad used to be a singer for a band and in charge of entertaining guests on a cruise ship. Her mom is a massive fan of soul-train and classic soul music. Jasmine was singing James Brown, Otis Redding, and Aretha Franklin songs by heart by the time she turned five. 

Jasmine also says her parents modeled hard work for her as she was growing up. They didn’t come from much, and she watched her parents go back to school, work night shifts, and take classes to constantly learn and improve their position in life.

“Both my parents are not afraid to work hard. My dad has always instilled in me the importance of discipline and working hard.”
– Jasmine Solano

Jasmine took that work ethic with her when she went to college in Boston. And that’s where she started to realize that the more she hustled, the more it paid off. Jasmine was a student at Emerson College when she got her so-called big break. 

“I was working at that radio station, 88.9 WERS… I said, listen, if you ever want me to do my own show that’s R&B and soul, I’ll create it, run it, and do it … One year [later,] I got my opportunity. They were like, ‘Okay, we’re going to give you the Sunday night slot. It’s going to be [from] 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM.’ I think I’m kind of a nerd, but I used to spend 10 hours a day working on that show. I put so much into it that the ratings went up just on that little time slot.”
– Jasmine Solano

Jasmine says she’d work eight to ten hours a day prepping for the show. That year, she was nominated at the Urban Music Awards in New England for best radio personality, a big category that included personalities from popular New York City stations like Hot97. For Jasmine, it was a turning point –– she was hooked, and her career exploded from there. 

The Power of Music

Jasmine’s traveled the world with her music, and she says traveling is what showed her how powerful music can be. 

“I’m so overwhelmed by how people cannot even speak the same language, and you put on a certain drumbeat — all of a sudden people are best friends dancing together. They don’t even have to know each other. They don’t have to speak the same language, It doesn’t matter what your political or religious beliefs are, all of a sudden there’s this undeniable overtaking, an end-all-be-all language. Music has changed minds, sparked revolutions, [and] brought people together. I’m so amazed by it that I never get tired of learning about how [music] does that.”
– Jasmine Solano

As I heard Jasmine talk about how she’s experienced the power of music, I could feel how passionate she is about her career. It’s not just a job to hear –– music is life, energy, and connection. Jasmine has found a way to live in her creative energy every day, and it’s so inspirational. 

“Sometimes your passions haunt you because they’re so intense. But I also think that if you don’t have a passion, you’re not going to really feel what it’s like to be alive –– having that passion and chasing it is what is going to bring life into your soul. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, and it is going to be painful. There’s going to be euphoria. There’s going to be reward. There’s going to be failure. Those are the qualities that make you feel alive.”
– Jasmine Solano

She’s right –– the highs and lows of creative work are what make it worth doing. I’ve always loved being behind the lens and connecting with the people I get to work with and photographing life in color. So, Jasmine is massively inspiring to me –– but I also know she’s sacrificed a lot to get to where she is today. 

What Do You Sacrifice for Passion?

I asked Jasmine if there’s anything she’s sacrificed in order to pursue a career as a DJ. Her response is something I know a lot of creative entrepreneurs can relate to. 

“I think I’ve sacrificed the money. A lot of people, when they graduate school, go on to get high paying jobs. Maybe the job doesn’t have to do with their passion. Maybe it does. But, if you’re kind of going for the gold right away and you weren’t handed a silver spoon, you’re reinvesting your money all the time because it’s your business and your brand. All the money I’ve made has pretty much gone right back into all of the music and art that I produce. I often think about how much money I could have saved by now. But then I think, wait a minute, I am a full-time artist.”
– Jasmine Solano

Jasmine says she doesn’t really consider not making money to be a sacrifice: At the end of the day, she’s doing what she loves. There are people out there –– most people, really –– who lead a life that’s devoid of passion. They’re basically in survival mode, worrying about their next paycheck, making enough money to afford basic necessities, or just stuck in a job they don’t love. No matter what sacrifices we make as creatives, there’s so much gratitude that we’re in an industry where we can pursue what we love. 

“I’m not saying that everyone should quit their day job and join the circus. But I think that there’s a way that you can start to fantasize and wonder what your passions are. What you can’t stop thinking about on the side? What really makes you feel like you have a purpose here? When you start asking those questions and finding those answers, there are ways to then incorporate that in your life.”
– Jasmine Solano

If you’re feeling a little stuck right now, focus on what makes you feel alive. Speaking of alive –– this brings us to Jasmine’s near-death experience at sea. It’s a crazy story that I just have to share with you guys.

Lost at Sea

Remember when I mentioned that Jasmine spent some time traveling the world? Love of travel is something we have in common, and it’s deeply influenced Jasmine’s work as a DJ. Jasmine participated in a program called Semester at Sea, a study abroad program that takes place on a cruise ship. You travel around the world and take courses on the ship, and then get off to explore a new country for four to seven days at a time. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

“It was just unreal. I lived in the Amazon for five days and we slept in hammocks on a ferry boat. I swam in the Amazon. I had a five-hour conversation with a Massai warrior in Kenya –– I’ll never forget him. We talked about women’s rights. He told me about how Massai warriors have to kill a lion when they turn 18. That proves that they’ve entered manhood. I’m just sitting there and looking at this man, like, ‘I’m in love with you right now.’”
– Jasmine Solano

It sounds like an incredible adventure, and while there were many unforgettable moments, perhaps the most memorable was the night the ship got caught in a storm crossing the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver to Korea. 

“The more we’re going, the more the seas are getting rocky. But this is the first time we’re on the ship, so I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this is just how it is, I guess. It’s just really rough.’ It was rough to the point where you had to hold onto your plate during dinner because otherwise, it would slide off the table … Around 2:30 in the morning, we were woken up because our beds slid into the wall. We were on a 40-degree tilt. I remember getting up and saying, ‘We gotta get the fuck out of this room.’ I was thrown into my door, and it was really hard to get out of the room. We’re all in a panic.”
– Jasmine Solano

It got so bad that the ship captain announced that they were going to abandon ship. Jasmine and her classmates were told to get their life jackets and return to the middle of the ship where they would be divided into lifeboats.

“An 80-foot wave knocked out our bridge window and completely wiped out our navigation. I think if we had been only like five more degrees on a tilt, we would have tipped over and probably drowned. The waves were 80 to 100 feet. We were in the middle of 11 storms.”
– Jasmine Solano

Luckily, the storms pushed their boat slightly south, and after a few hours the sea had calmed down long enough for the ship to stabilize. They ended up about a day away from Hawaii, where they docked for two weeks to assess the ship and make sure they were OK to continue. Jasmine said she definitely thought she might die that night. 

What a thing to go through. It made her realize just how small she was — and how big and powerful the universe really is. 

Be a Creative Alchemist with Jasmine Solano

Before we sign off, Jasmine has two pieces of advice for aspiring DJs. First: do your research. 

“I think the best way to learn about the DJ game is research, research, research. Watch videos of Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash — there’s a movie called Scratch that’s really good. It shows the history of deejaying and turntablism. Learn about where it started. You have to learn about what’s been before.”
– Jasmine Solano

She also says that if you want to get in the DJ scene, immerse yourself in as much of the music as possible. Go to shows, offer to intern for a DJ, go to festivals, and dive bars. Become part of the community and learn from people who are already doing it. Stay humble and stay open — this will help your Creative Alchemy.

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Creative Alchemy as using the process of creativity to create a lens of which to perform alchemy. These principles not only apply to artists and creatives in their own creative processes but to anyone who wants to create an extraordinary life in color for themselves. I’ve found that 80% of creating is alchemizing the thoughts, emotions, and other inner blocks that keep you from putting the pen to the paper. Navigating to the act of creation takes alchemical processes.

Guys, thanks for reading this post about my interview with the incredible Jasmine Solano. There’s so much more that Jasmine and I talked about, I encourage you to listen to the whole episode. She has a wealth of inspiration, and I love hearing about her creative journey. Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram and Facebook and check out her website for future tour dates. 

If you enjoyed this episode, then go over to Apple Podcasts and leave us a good review so that we can spread the word and inspire even more people in the world to share their inner creativity. Also, we’d love to see where you’re listening to the podcast! Snap a photo on Instagram and use the hashtag #liveinspiration, or tag me @nickonken, and share your greatest takeaways from the interview!.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I’ll catch you next time — now get out there and find success by pursuing your creative passion.

Nick Onken

“If you don’t have a passion, you’re not going to feel what it’s like to be alive.”
– Jasmine Solano

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • What it takes to spin for Khalifa, Beyonce, Talib Kweli, and many others.
  • How she got her start as a world-famous DJ
  • Where her spark of entrepreneurial creativity came from
  • About being raised in a family of music lovers
  • Cultivating the creative hustle
  • The Story of the Secret Spot and how she blew up the Sunday 11:00 pm – 1:00 am time slot
  • The makeup of an 8-10 hour workday
  • How to get thousands of people moving
  • On the DJ craft
  • Does a world-class DJ still get nervous?
  • On overcoming fear
  • The balance of people-pleasing vs. playing what you love
  • How to find amazing music
  • How pro-artists manage the finances
  • Why everyone on earth should do a Semester at Sea
  • On the Flip Side, the story of almost dying while on the Semester at Sea ship
  • Transitioning from College to a big girl schedule
  • What it takes to jump off the cliff and do work for yourself
  • How important is it to invest in your own art?
  • What to do to get the ball rolling on a life of inspiration
  • Advice for getting started in the DJ game

Links mentioned:

Connect with Jasmine: Instagram | Twitter | Website

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