IT'S one of those over-asked icebreaker questions everyone has mused on at some point: if your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be? For Orene Askew, the question is not hypothetical. Last November, the local
DJ returned home to the Squamish Nation's Mission Reserve after a late-night gig downtown. While she was sleeping, her neighbour's home caught on fire and the blaze quickly spread.
"I woke up to smoke and flames not knowing what to do," Askew recalls. Without thinking, she scooped up her DJ equipment and ran outside, escaping uninjured.
"Instinct took over and that's the only thing I grabbed," she said, explaining the gear is not only monetarily valuable, it also represents her entire livelihood.
This August will mark one year since Askew, 30, launched her own DJ business. She spins R&B, hip-hop and crowd favourites at weddings, parties and nightclubs under the stage name DJ O Show and so far business is booming, she says.
"Since I started people have just been hearing about me and hiring me."
Her entrepreneurial endeavour was made possible, in part, by business grants from the Squamish Nation Trust. Askew received $7,000 last year and another $5,000 this year.
"I have a really good niche.
There's not a lot of female DJs out there," she says when asked what made her grant applications stand out.
Askew also participated in the BC Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation and Service Canada's Aboriginal Best Program, a business and entrepreneurship skills training series for which she is now a spokesperson.
A graduate of BCIT's broadcast radio program, Askew has worked at a Bellevue, Wash. radio station, Vancouver's The Beat 94.5, and Vancouver Co-op Radio where she hosted a program featuring Squamish language lessons. She went on to take courses at the School of Remix and now teaches at the DJ education facility. She has also led DJ workshops for teens on the North Shore.
When she's not spinning or teaching, Askew can be found travelling the country as a motivational speaker for aboriginal youth. This month alone she has speaking engagements lined up in Keremeos, B.C. and Ouje-Bougoumou, Que. where she hopes to empower teens to follow their dreams.
"You can do anything you want, you've just got to stay in school and be honest, be loyal, have integrity," she says.
North Shore residents can find Askew behind the turntable once a month at Mist Ultra Bar in West Vancouver. She also has a regular gig at Speakeasy downtown and will be spinning atop the Reconciliation Canada float in the Vancouver Pride Parade Aug. 4. Visit facebook.com/DJOShow to learn more.