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Gxrl Code

Meet Mona-Lxsa: The 26-year-old DJ and founder of an Irish all-female creative collective

The Spice Girls have nothing on Gxrl Code.

“EVERY CHILD IS an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”- is a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, the ground-breaking 20th century painter. 

Texaco Children's Arts competition PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

Whilst cultivating and maintaining creativity in all children is a fundamental problem of our test-focused educational system, when it comes to pursuing artistic careers into adulthood there’s a gender disparity with men dominating. The research shows that both women and men associate creativity with typically ‘masculine’ traits, such as daring and independence, rather than ‘feminine traits’ like sensitivity and cooperativeness. 

However, one woman in Ireland is attempting to shake up the Gender snow globe and has cooperation written across her heart.  

Meet DJ Mona-Lxsa, who last week was featured on RTÉ’s ‘The Big Picture’ documentary.  

The 26-year-old is a successful DJ has progressed steadily in the music scene Ireland, playing several times at both Longitude and Electric Picnic. Speaking about her first experience DJ’ing at Longitude, she says:

There was a huge crowd so I was really scared. I was really nervous, even though I love being a DJ but I got so scared to be in front of everyone. Thousands of people were there, but they were enjoying themselves. There were people coming up to me afterwards and their satisfaction was amazing.

You can’t be selfish as a DJ, you are in control of everyone’s emotions so I get nervous cause I think ‘What if I can’t do it?’ but as soon as I step behind the decks and press play I’m on the go. It’s an amazing feeling… you’re able to uplift people and change something in their life. It’s putting out good energy. It’s great to be in control and know that you’re make people happy.

But instead of focusing solely on her own artistry, Mona-Lxsa is drawing on her own experience and insider knowledge to help other female artists who want to make it. 

Mona-Lxsa saw firsthand how difficult it was to break into the music industry when you only have talent, but no contacts. Her experience sparked an idea to create a creative collective and platform for females across the artistic industry. After two attempts that didn’t take off, the tenacious Mona-Lxsa got her collective off the ground in May this year and launched GXRL CODE.

gxrl code Shekinah BB Photography Shekinah BB Photography

Explaining the ethos behind her collective, Mona-Lxsa says:

I wanted to give [female artists] the support that I never had when I started off Dj’ing. I want to help them reach their goals. I know what it feels like to be in their shoes and try to make it. All [empowering them] does is help them get a step further, it doesn’t dim my light. I have the resources so I might aswell help them for the good of us all.

Since launching six months ago GXRL CODE has grown from three to 23 girls. Most of the girls are still in college, and are talented across lots of a diverse set of artistic spaces. 

Everyone’s into music, fashion, photography, dance, graphic designers. We have business owners -  entrepreneurs – girls who own hair-brands and clothing brands. Everyone comes from a different country: we have Irish, Narobi, South Africa, Rwanda. We get to learn about each other, learn about each other’s culture, and connect and be creative with one another.  

Mona-Lxsa says her job is to give the girls a base or platform, both as support and manager in so far as teaching them the business side of the industry.

For example, if I know Thinkhouse are looking for someone to do something, Ill say “‘one of my girls can DJ for that” or “one of my girls can be a graphic designer for this”, which then helps her build her portfolio up.

Thinkhouse, an Irish marketing agency, have been a huge support for them: 

We wouldn’t have gotten Longitude or EP without Thinkhouse, much appreciation to them. They believe in the vision and know where we want to take it. Our first event was sponsored by Benefit and Hennessy also, so very thankful to them.

Mona-Lxsa is supremely composed on the phone, but there’s a genuine warmth which radiates from her. When asked where her beautiful spirit of collaboration springs from, she immediately cites the influence of her grandmother and mum. 

Her family is originally from Malawi in southeastern Africa, and Mona-Lxsa says that her mother helped many women who arrived here without connections:

Coming here from Malawi, it’s a whole different world but a lot of people come from Malawi and they’re my age and they don’t know how to begin or start, so my mum would bring them into the house until they found their feet. Then, when they have the money to get around the city and know what they’re doing, they set off. Girls can do their own thing. 

Someone empowering you and showing you the ropes – be it in a new country or an industry -  is the missing link of success. We are fed stories of individual’s success, but it is the people who support you along the way. 

For the women who were the pioneers in entering the workforce they were probably so exhausted from breaking into the boys’ club, and feeling that their positions were precarious, that they didn’t have the energy to reach out to support other females.  

Hilary Clinton on German Talk Show Guenther Jauch DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

Hilary Clinton has often been blamed for not being a champion of and embracing other women in politics. But Hilary’s attitude is contextual: in 2016, she spoke about her experience of being one of a small number of women taking Law School admissions tests in the 1960s:

[Some men yelled] You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.

Whilst in a western context we don’t today see that outright and direct level of discrimination, there are still barriers to entry. Mona-Lxsa calmly talks about the structural favouritism and bias in the creative industries:

There’s hardly any support [for girls] They aren’t taken seriously. Little girls come up with ideas, but people wouldn’t take you seriously. It’s a male dominated industry, that’s for sure, everyone knows that. But we want to change that. We don’t have a limitation. It’s not about the art, but it’s to be something to do with business. 

Like other millennials, Mona-Lsxa grew up in the post-feminism era of Girl Power, which taught us that we just as good as the boys. So as an adults, when we hit structural barriers, we accept the situation whilst looking for creative ways to dismantle, recreate and expand the pie. 

I’m inspired a lot by Solange: respect the work and the artistry and as a woman owning a record label by herself. So hopefully in the future, [GRXL CODE] could be a record label. We’re open to anything. That’s the direction we might be going.

In terms of her plans for the future, Mona-Lxsa is hoping to organise a GXRL CODE festival which will be a all-female production.   

…but everyone is invited. Not trying to exclude anyone but the whole production side would be all female. 

She has four sage pieces of advice for young women who want to be in the artistic world:

You have to remember that you need to enjoy what you’re doing because then it’s not work anymore. Secondly, stay true to yourself and true to your character.
Don’t forget to support other people who are coming up, even if you are still coming up. If you have a stepping  stone, pull someone up with you. Finally, practice a lot and invest in yourself. 

Well, that’s your New Year’s Resolutions sorted then.  

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