Plain Talking Gary Glennell Toms

A Legend Flourishes in a Male Dominated Industry 

 The incomparable Jenny Costa launched her master-mixing career at the tender age of 16 by building an impressive catalog of music, which included Latin, Disco and R&B classics. Costa has often credited her father Angelo, a former orchestra musician, as the person who introduced her to the world of music. This was also the age that she received her big break as a professional deejay by mixing for the original “Disco 92 – WKTU” in New York City. Disco music was sweeping the country when she manned the radio station turntables, and each week her popularity soared as one of the very few female deejays on the airwaves. Costa was at the station since its inception and has received platinum albums for her role as a Billboard reporter and helping to promote artists who went on to obtain major success. One of the most noted is the music superstar Madonna.

Costa has always displayed an intense passion for her craft. Those who have experienced the frenzy she creates in many of New York City’s popular dance clubs are now dedicated fans and supporters. She has also developed a devoted fan base in Europe and the Caribbean, as well as other areas of the U.S., as a result of her amazing ability to mix different genres of music, such as Latin, dance classics, freestyle, hip-hop, house and current dance. Some of her favorite artists include Andre Bocelli, James Brown, Diddy, Luther Vandross, Whitney and Barry White.

Many within the music industry are keenly aware that the groundbreaking deejay harbors an intense love for Salsa music. Needless to say, Costa can “get busy” on the dance floor as well as in the deejay booth. She is a consummate performer on many levels. The “DJ Diva of Dance Music” reached a major milestone several years ago by accomplishing something that has never been done in the history of New York radio. She was the very first recipient of the New York Metro A.I.R. Award for Best Mix Show DJ. Two of the distinguished presenters and guest speakers in attendance were Governor George Pataki and Sean “Diddy” Combs. The event was held at B.B. Kings Theater in Manhattan. Costa is an extremely private person and rarely grants interviews, but the legendary deejay took time out of her hectic schedule for a candid discussion about her career, personal life and representing women in a male dominated industry.

G-Man: How did you become involved with mixing dance music?

JC: After sneaking into a club when I was a kid, it pretty much started from there. I fell in love with the music and the art of deejaying.

G-Man: Was there a specific deejay that influenced you?

JC: Yes. Actually, there were several. I really liked Paul Cassella, Tony Cintorino, Richie Kazar, Larry Levan and Tommy Savarese.

G-Man: Describe the first time you played live on New York’s original “Disco 92 – WKTU”.

JC: I was about 16, and I remember my hands shaking, being nervous and being so excited all at the same time.

G-Man: How many turntables or CD decks can you actually mix on at one time?

JC: Four.

G-Man: At what point did you realize you would make a career out of mixing?

JC: I realized I could make a career out of it when people kept asking me to deejay parties and nightclubs.


Costa started her career as a mix-master at the age of 16 in New York City and quickly developed an enormous fan base. International film star Raquel Welch became a devoted fan and friend. The duo is pictured at the legendary nightclub “La Shea”, circa 1987. 

G-Man: Have you faced scrutiny or intolerance as a female deejay?

JC: I always have, and I still do. I have to work harder and have more credentials than my male counterparts. With all of my accomplishments, I still don’t get the jobs, recognition or positions I should be getting.

G-Man: As is the case in many professions, do females make far less than male deejays?

JC: Yes. Although I do well, I know for a fact that men who have similar or lesser credentials or experience make more than I do.

G-Man: What is the one key thing that has allowed you to remain at the top of your profession for close to 30 years?

JC: Trusting God to guide me, first and foremost. If I could just mention two more keys to my success, I would say knowing how to read the crowd and focusing on playing for the people who come to listen to me deejay, rather than playing for myself. I make sure people are having a good time, and I try my hardest to make everyone happy.

G-Man: If you hadn’t become a deejay, what profession would you have chosen and why?

JC: I probably would have been a Broadway dancer. I have always loved dancing and entertaining people. At one point, I did become a ballroom dance teacher. I also was a dancer in a Latin band….back in the day. (Laughing)

G-Man: What has been your greatest accomplishment as a deejay?

JC: (Pause) I’d say it’s the fact that I’m still able to deejay and know that every new event is an opportunity to make that event, or nightclub, a joyous experience for people.

G-Man: What has been your biggest regret as a deejay?

JC: Wow! (Pause) I guess I’d have to say that I never really got a mobile deejay company started from early on. Even though I was approached by many people to start a mobile company, I always turned it down. The mobile business is booming and in high demand.

G-Man: Name some of the legendary artists you’ve worked with.

JC: You had to go there, right? (Smiling) Okay, here goes. Gloria Gaynor, Shannon, Tavares, Claudia Barry, Kool & The Gang, The Trammps, Evelyn Champaign King, Sister Sledge, Madonna, TKA, Coro, George Lamond, Lucas Prata, Judy Torres, Cynthia, Cover Girls, Expose’, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, Stephanie Mills, Johnny Kemp, Claudia Barry, Raquel Welsh, Donna Summer, Barbara Streisand, Lolletta Holloway, Vince Montana, Van McCoy, Tito Puente, Hector Levoe, Ray Barretto, and Eddie Palmieri, to name a few. (Smiling)

G-Man: I had to ask, right? (Laughing) If you could play Madison Square Garden for one night only with one legendary deejay, living or dead, whom would you choose and why?

JC: I would love to play with Junior Vasquez because I love his style and his work.

G-Man: Many Christians view dance clubs as “dens of sin” and believe no true Christian belongs in them under any circumstances. You being a devout Christian, what is your response?

 

The legendary DJ Jenny Costa

JC: If you think about it, every workplace is a potential “den of sin”. It’s up to us, as Christians, to bring light into our workplaces and everywhere else we go. There are so many scriptures in the Bible that encourage us to be joyful, make a joyful noise and dance unto the Lord. God would rather have me in that position than someone who didn’t know Him or have any Christian principals. I’ve been told by many people that they felt my mix show was like medicine. It just made them feel good and happy. Little do they know, I pray about it all the time. I ask God to show me how to bless His people and to help me make the right decisions, musically. So many people have approached me and said this, meaning music, is my ministry. It’s what I’m anointed to do, which is to entertain God’s people.

It’s not easy trying to please everyone, but I do the best I can. When I’m having a bad night, I always pray and somehow there is always someone there to encourage me and tell me that I’m doing a great job. There is one guy who always pops up out of nowhere and starts whistling and cheering. It’s the wildest thing! All I can tell you is that God is great! Sometimes, I pray that God direct me to do something else, but I’m always led back to what I’ve been called to do, and that’s performing as a deejay. I was listening to a teaching by this preacher named Joyce Meyers, whom I support and partner with. She was teaching about how she was anointed to do what she does, which is preaching. She stressed that everyone has their own anointing. When noting the example that some people have a singing ministry, she made everyone laugh by stating, “You wouldn’t want to hear me sing.” It’s the same with me. (Laughing) I can’t sing or even play an instrument. The bottom line is we all have our anointing, and God has shown me, time and time again, that mine is music.

G-Man: What was your most embarrassing or humorous moment as a deejay?

JC: I was performing at a club one night and a friend of mine removed the needle from one of my turntables. I had to pick up the needle on the remaining turntable and play the same song over and over again until he gave me back the needle. I got on the microphone, called his name, and asked, “Can I please have my needle back? Oh, by the way, your wife is on the phone!” Everyone in the club started laughing because he was there trying to pick up some girl. He wasn’t really married at the time. (Laughing)

G-Man: Name three things DJ Jenny Costa absolutely cannot live without.

JC: God, people and music.

G-Man: Complete this sentence: People would be shocked to know I…..

JC: Don’t like doing interviews! (Smiling)

Costa’s dance mixes can be heard on 103.5 FM (WKTU) every weekday at noon and every Friday night from 10pm to 12am.