Laura Stylez on How to Be a Boss Bitch in Male-Dominated Hip Hop
When it comes to radio, you might not be able to think of many women who are as popular as their male counterparts, but Laura Stylez is challenging everything you know about women in radio.
The L.A. native moved to NYC with basically no money, and climbed her way to the top through hard work and being an overall boss bitch.
We talked to Laura about her own come-up, and asked her for tips on how to kick ass in every male-dominated fields.
Growing up, what kind of music did you listen to?
I listened to everything: hip-hop, salsa, merengue, you know just classics. I grew up in Mid-City LA, which is predominantly black and latino. I got everything from lowrider to backpack hip-hop. Whatever was mainstream, and I’m was Guatemalan so that kind of influence also. I listened to Hole, Courtney Love.
At the time, did you ever think that your voice would be so important?
No, no way. When I was younger I wanted to play the music, I knew I loved being on the mic, but I couldn’t rap or sing. My friends would have like little shows and they started asking me to do record drops for mix tapes, and I enjoyed being part of the music that I never thought I’d be able to be a part of.
Were there any women particularly that you looked up to? Like career-wise?
It got to a point where I was in search of people to look up to. You know, there was Howard Stern and other hosts, but as far as women, there wasn’t that much to go off of. I really got into Nautica de la Cruz. She was a radio personality and I was a big fan of hers. She so sounded cool to me, she was relatable. Also, another person I really owe a lot to is Angie Martinez. She was really there for me when I was coming up. She helped my career and taught me a lot.
What was it that got you into hip hop?
Specifically for hip hop, my friends were the beat boys, you know doing graffiti. I wanted to be a DJ and my friends were just throwing small shows that I would host almost. Also, just going to see the shows in LA. I would go to shows to see Tupac, to see Snoop, but then also alternative music too. I was into Nirvana, Hole. But hip-hop was the common ground I had with my friends.
How did you get into radio broadcast?
Well I wanted to be a DJ, and I never thought about it as a career really until one of my friends told me that I should audition. There was an ad in the paper, for a local radio station and honestly I thought she was joking. So I applied, and they had a little tour of the radio station and I was so in love. I lied and I told them I was 18 when I wasn’t. Fast forward to when they actually hired me, I charmed my way in. I had my first day and it was great, until they figured out that I had lied. They let me go and said come back when you’re 18.
So I started looking at other options, like how can I figure out an internship in this field. When I decided to move to New York, I told myself that I am going to work for Hot 97, and here I am. I wanted to aim high, I looked up to Angie Martinez, and I thought if she could do it and everything, that so could I.
Was you family supportive of you decision to move across the country?
No, not at all, my dad stopped talking to me for like a year after I moved. They thought me pursuing my dreams in radio was all BS, and they thought I needed a real job, like nursing or something. My friends were supportive, but in the way that they were kind of like “good luck!” I was determined to follow my dreams. I came to NYC with a little bit of money. Sometimes when I tell people that, they don’t understand that was my real story, it sounds made up and like a movie or something.
Was there ever a moment during your come-up that you were like “I really have to prove myself,” and how did you do that?
Yes, all the time. When I finally got internships, it was very male dominated and it was really all about me proving and that I could be better than the next guy. Honestly, I had to educate myself about programming and a lot of the technical parts of broadcast because I never wanted to be looked at as just someone who got coffee. I wanted to be the boss, you know. And I had to put in that extra work, and I had to put in extra time.
Aside from just being a girl in general and all those implications, me as a Latina also has its own stereotypes. Sometimes, someone will look at me and they’ll say something, like they thought I should be looking more Latina. And you know especially in hip-hip, a lot of people just said I wasn’t black enough or Latina enough. They were like ugh, are you sure we should send her to this event? They weren’t sure if I could handle myself.
Now you’re one of the biggest radio personalities in hip-hop, and you work with two other legends. What is that like?
Ebro is spectacular, he has been doing radio since he was 15. He knows way more than anyone else and he has been such a strong voice in the radio community. He gave me my first job at Hot 97. Those doors don’t always open, but he was welcoming. I was lucky to even be hired and you know, hit fast forward, it’s so crazy that now I’m on a show with him. Rosenberg, I have known him forever, and I couldn’t ask for a better support.
How do you balance two jobs? Hot 97 and SiriusXM?
You know, to me it’s not just two jobs I’m juggling. I’m always working, I go on auditions, and I do a lot so to me it’s not just two jobs. But I love it, so it doesn’t feel like a job. Sometimes I do get overwhelmed because I go to one show, and knock it out, and I sacrifice a lot of sleep. That’s the worst honestly.
Talk about your upcoming podcast, what’s that going to be like?
So our podcast is called “Improper Etiquette” and my cohost is Leah McSweeney, who is the creator and CEO of Married to The Mob. We have been friends forever, and I have always admired her way of thinking. The podcast is just really raw and open, probably the most honest podcast out there, and we just have great conversations. She had been a guest on other podcasts, and people said you should do your own podcast. We wanted to do something different and geared towards women.
We talk about anything from waxing, to later hair removal to sexual partners. We talk about everything. Super candid conversations. They really just feel like two friends having dinner. The funny part is I get men stoping me in the street who tell me I’m their dirty little secret, they listen to us and no one else knows. We get emails and tweets and it’s really just growing. I’m so proud of it.
Who has been your favorite person to interview on the show?
So many people ask me that but I don’t have a favorite. So many legends have walked through these doors.
Jamie Foxx was here one time, and I remember just being so high off that interview because he was so incredible and he painted pictures with his stories. There was one about him being with Mike Tyson that I loved. Really candid Hollywood moments and we can catch them. We had Tracy Morgan for one of his first interviews after that awful car accident. Chris Brown too was an interesting interview. Being open about his relationships and these artists have deep connections with their music and I love being able to talk about things freely.
I’m assuming that you have had to deal with a lot of sexism, whether directly or subversively. How did you overcome those problems and people?
The sexism I dealt with wasn’t that direct, but more like I was kind of being overseen. Like if I were being sent to cover a hip-hop concert, some would say “Oh, that’s too rough to her.” Then there would also be like projects and things, and I’d be like “Why didn’t they pick me for that?” To get away with it, they’d be like we didn’t know that’s your style.
It’s people assuming things, they’d rather send me to like a Mariah Carey show. I felt they were being sexist, or they would be like no, let’s not her have on these hours. It was never so blatant, and it stopped once I started really proving myself and killing it every time I was given an assignment.
What was the most valuable advice someone has given you?
DJ Enuff told me one thing while I was working a red carpet. He told me “congrats, you’re hot right now, but that’s not the hardest part. It’s staying hot, you haven’t accomplished anything yet. People come and go and I have seen them fade away. It’s about staying relevant, and learning what the youth is doing. If you want it that badly, you have to evolve. I have seen people just fade away and become irrelevant.” I took that to heart. This job, it’s not guaranteed and I have to work hard to do something I love.
Another thing is just making sure as a woman that anything I do, I have to stand by it. Do I want to be perceived as less? I was always asking myself why can’t I be both a boss and a woman, but once I started owning myself and looking at it that way, I felt confident and everyone else started noticing.
What would you tell other girls who are trying to get into male-dominated fields like radio?
I would tell them to be fearless in anything you have to do. I always tell all the girls who come take a tour of our radio station that you have to be fearless, but you have to makes sure you know how to edit. Understanding programs and pieces of equipment. With the internet, you have everything at the palm of your hand. Teach yourself. More and more, I see people coming here prepared and everybody wants this job. I tell everyone that it’s been tough but it’s not impossible.
If you set a goal, and you’re realistic about that goal, you can attain it. I was realistic and I was willing to put in the time and make sacrifices. I didn’t go to school for it, but I wanted it that bad and I think that’s key for success.