photos by veronica sams
make-up by ashley simmons
styling by jordan marx
Not long ago, entertainers considered an extended run in Las Vegas to be the beginning of a long, painful decline to a career. You still had the cache to fill a ballroom with drunk tourists six times a week and earn a damn fine living, but any cultural relevance was as dead as the bodies buried in the desert. In 2022 the entire perception of entertaining in Las Vegas is flipped, especially if you’re a DJ. To put it bluntly, if you’re a DJ and you haven’t secured a residency in America’s playground, nobody is going to remember your name.
When Charly Jordan landed a coveted residency with the Zouk Group, she wasn’t just settling into a steady gig in her hometown, she was firmly planting a flag and telling the world she is not to be taken lightly. In landing the gig, Jordan not only gained instant credibility in the EDM world, she also became one of the very few women to ever achieve the feat.
“All the best performers and shows are in Vegas, so having a residency there is key,” Jordan says. “There aren’t too many female DJs with residencies, which is another big motivating factor for me. I want more female empowerment in the music space, that’s something I really push for. I love seeing a whole front row of girls every single night at my shows.”
Chances are that each time Jordan gazes over her turntables and into the crowd, she’s seeing many of the same girls dancing and sweating in that front row. Playing consistently in the same space allows her to build a relationship with the audience, an aspect that is difficult to do when bouncing from city to city as many DJs do. Having the residency gives Jordan a home base, a place to experiment and try new music with an audience she knows and trusts.
Having that opportunity is essential to Jordan’s musical growth. Given her accolades—she’ll also be playing a prime slot at this year’s Lollapalooza—it’s easy to forget that she’s still a relative newcomer. It was only a handful of years back that her notoriety stemmed entirely from her Instagram account where she posted gorgeous pictures as she trotted the globe. By doing so she unwittingly became one of the first notable travel influencers.
“It’s so funny, for years I got criticized and scrutinized for doing it,” she says. “Everyone just thought it was a joke, and now it’s being taken so seriously which is amazing because I’ve been working on it for years. It’s really cool to see everyone recognize how powerful it can be.”
Jordan was raised in an extremely conservative family and her passions have not always lined up with the expectations put upon her. Social media opened up the world to her, introducing her to countless others with both the same enthusiasms and similar struggles.
“It’s really hard, I think everybody struggles with finding approval from what you grew up with,” she says. “I grew up in a LDS (Mormon) family so everything like tattoos or drinking or traveling or stepping outside the box wasn’t much of an option, especially as a female. I was expected to get married, have kids and have this whole other life. So I definitely wanted to prove that there was a better way of living than that.”
By sharing the way she was living with the masses, Jordan not only created a job title that hadn’t previously existed, she also ended up building a brand for herself. This was never her intention and she would bristle at the accusation. Since she put all of her heart and emotion into what she was doing, it sounded crass to hear her actions summarized in such a way. For her, social media was the way she connected with the world, not a tool to get famous.
“People sharing their thoughts and opinions on things they went through was a big part of the reason I was attracted to social media,” she explains. “There were things I had really struggled with—mental health, depression, anxiety—and I would always ask my family about it and they didn’t really have any answers for me. When I got on the internet I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, there are people out there who experience this and struggle with this.’
“I think that was the whole point of the internet at first,” she continues. “Those relatable experiences. That cathartic and empathetic feeling of, ‘Oh, this person’s cool, this inspires me to do this,’ that spread of information.”
Even the most optimistic among us are cynical about going online after seeing how toxic certain corners of the internet have become, but Jordan’s journey shows the intrinsic value social media can have to people struggling to find their place in this chaotic world. Just a couple of decades ago a person growing up in a small town or a strict household wouldn’t have an easy way to see the possibilities of a different life.
“[Social media] definitely propelled me to change my life,” she says. “To literally walk away from what you grew up with in hopes of finding people and an environment that feels comfortable to you is a pretty crazy thought to me, so I must have been pretty uncomfortable where I was at to push so far.”
While appreciating everything social media has made possible for her, Jordan was adamant that she wasn’t going to use her fame as a crutch when she embarked on her DJ career. She’d been sneaking into festivals since she was a teenager, finding freedom in the music and developing a deep reverence for those who made it.
Her massive follower count would have allowed her to land a ton of gigs, but she wanted to do things the right way. For months she spent every second of her downtime behind her turntables, learning the craft and performing for an audience of none in her bedroom.
“I didn’t want to give anyone a reason or excuse to say I couldn’t DJ, especially because I’m an influencer,” she says. “People try to put that in a box and overly criticize you if you step out of it. I spent years teaching myself correctly so that when I did get up there on stage I would have the confidence.”
That confidence has propelled her onto a new trajectory, with that Las Vegas residency a testament to her success. Jordan very well may have foretold all of this on the day she walked into the tattoo parlor for her very first tattoo—the numerals “702,” Sin City’s area code, on the inside of her finger. She got the tattoo right when she turned 18 and chose the placement so she’d be able to conceal it from her parents, which turned out to be pretty unnecessary.
“My mom didn’t know I had gotten my first tattoo, then for my 18th birthday celebration she was like, ‘I’m going to take you to get your first tattoo,’” Jordan laughs. “I was so confused, my whole family is Mormon, so I was like, ‘Woah, what are you talking about?’ My mom took me to go get each other’s names tattooed on each other’s rib cages, which hurt like a bitch. I definitely acted like it was my first tattoo and it hurt so bad that I didn’t even have to act.”
As the owner of two “first tattoos” it should be no surprise that Jordan’s collection is continually growing. She finds myriad reasons to get tattooed—some serious, some heartfelt, some downright silly—and not unlike her Instagram grid, her tattoos tell the tale of her incredible journey.
In the next couple of months Jordan is going to be playing some exciting shows, releasing a house single called “Soak Her” that she predicts will be the fire track of the summer, and a whole lot more.
“I’m so glad that everything is back to normal,” she says. “Being able to come out of quarantine, I was so grateful to be able to be playing. Summer is the most popping time for concerts, DJing and festivals. My summer is booked and busy and I’m so excited to see everyone again.”