Reinventing identity through beats: The musical journey and Queer empowerment of DJ Camilla Rae

Step into the vibrant world of DJ Camilla Rae as she transforms dance music and empowers the Queer community.

We meet Camilla Rae on a Saturday evening in Berlin Treptow. It’s a surprisingly warm day for the season as we enter the party location. Outside the Zenner party location, people queue for beers and enjoy the first signs of spring. Camilla is glammed up in a short sparkly dress that matches her glittery eye make-up, getting ready to perform as one of the main DJs at tonight´s Body Language charity event. She greets me cheerfully and is still relaxed before we sit down for our interview in a calmer corner of the venue. Camilla is one of the three initiators of Body Language Berlin — a collective with the goal of creating safer spaces in dance music, particularly for the Queer community. The power-trio consisting of Camilla, Stella Zekri Ouiddir (a fiery DJ and singer herself) and Caitlin Russell challenges the conventional idea of Queer parties, which are often associated with sex, drugs and white male dominance. Body Language Berlin is not only offering a space for the Queer Femme community of the city, but is also invested in charitable efforts; the collective regularly donates money to several NGOs, charities such as Berlin to Borders and Kyiv Pride.

As we speak with Camilla, who is wearing the UGG® Goldencrush LT Trainer no less, we experience a dynamic, resilient, and compassionate individual who is dedicated to creating positive and particularly safe experiences for fellow Queer individuals and allies. In conversation with Hunger, Camilla touches on finding her personal career path, the state of the Queer Berlin party scene and the importance of education in Queer spaces.

Could you tell me a bit about your upbringing, where you grew up and how that shaped who you are today?

I grew up in a very religious and conservative household as a Mormon, which significantly influenced my worldview. Leaving home at 21 and moving to Germany sparked a transformative journey of self-discovery. It was liberating to break free from the constraints of my Mormon upbringing and reshape my identity and view on gender and sexuality. I realised how sheltered I was and that there are so many more perspectives on life. This rebirth experience in Berlin shaped my interactions with music and the Queer community.

Where you grew up, did it feel like the career you’re doing now was a possibility? Were the people in your environment open to people pursuing creative careers?

Growing up, no one in my family pursued a creative career. However, they were in fact very creative, my grandma for instance was an amazing painter and artist. On my dad’s side of the family, everyone played an instrument. I also played instruments growing up, so music was a big part of my life from early on. I also remember wanting to become a radio DJ, even though conventional career paths were emphasised by my family’s side. After leaving the church, I embraced my passion for music and DJing, exploring various genres to create an exciting and sexy atmosphere on the dance floor.

What was your earliest musical memory, when did you discover it was something you were passionate about?

When I was a baby crying and my mom wouldn’t know how to calm me down, she would put me on her lap and play the piano. This would usually make me stop. I always had a very deep connection with music. I was also a rather scared child –  I always slept with music on. However, the “Macarena “must have been my very first musical memory. I loved when it came on and I would do the dance. I think that if my parents knew what the song was about, they would have not appreciated that. 

If someone was to see your name on a line up, what should they expect? How would you describe your style as a DJ?

My style goes into a lot of different directions and I don’t stick to a single genre. I need excitement all the time. It’s house, it’s techno, it’s trance, it’s disco, but the overarching theme is always sexy. I want people to feel sexy when they are listening to my music, because that’s what I want to feel on the dance floor.

What’s your go-to track to get a party started?

Oh, that’s a hard one. For an opening, I’d say ‘Get into the music – Hybrid Mix’ by DJ Rule. It’s quite a long track which is particularly good if I need to go pee.

You’re part of the Body Language Berlin collective, could you explain how that started and what the purpose of the collective is?

The Body Language Berlin collective, founded by Caitlin, Stella, and myself, emerged from a shared desire to create a space of care and community in the nightlife scene. Our collective is dedicated to fostering a supportive environment for the community, music, and each other. The three of us met working at an underground venue called KAKE pre-Covid. We started throwing parties ourselves and we called it “Bad Girls Club”. One day, we had a falling out with the club owner so we were not really sure what kind of direction we were going in. We realised that there was a lack of community after everything reopened post-Covid. So eventually the three of us came together. Stella with her music, Caitlin with her PR and the ability to express what we wanted out of a party and me just being a chaotic energy, I guess. 

How important is nightlife to the Queer community in Berlin, and was it somewhere that you found community in?

Nightlife plays a crucial role in the Queer community in Berlin, offering a safe and inclusive space for self-expression and connection. A club situation lands itself to have good conversations. In clubs like these you have the ability to feel free and to wear whatever you want and not be judged by the outside world. When I moved here at 21, I did not get so much into the Queer nightlife and I went to the more surface-level Queer spaces such as Tresor and Sisyphos. I then immersed myself deeper into the Queer scene and met a few queer friends. They enabled me to DJ and start our own Queer party that was not so much focused on sex or the “masc4masc” vibe that was going on at that time.

Would you say there’s been much growth when it comes to queer representation in Berlin since you were growing up?

I have definitely noticed a change after the pandemic. A queer party meant gay and entailed this idea of white male beauty. Femmes, POC´s and transgender people were often excluded from the conversation.  Now, I am seeing a lot more people standing their ground and carving out those spaces for them to all go into. We still have miles to go, but I am excited for the types of collectives that are coming out of this movement.

What is the importance of dedicated Queer spaces to you? How can they shape and impact someone’s life for years to come?

Dedicated queer spaces provide a vital sanctuary for individuals to express their true selves and feel safe in a sometimes hostile world. These spaces not only offer a sense of belonging but also serve as opportunities for education and understanding of diverse identities within the queer spectrum. When we first started “Bad Girls Club”, it was more of a FLINTA-only party and when we restarted we took that rule away. We think that a Queer space should also be a learning opportunity for people that are not Queer and also a space for people who maybe don´t know that they are Queer yet. If you are never giving them an opportunity to learn, then they are not going to change their perception of Queerness.

What have been some of your favourite venues to perform in? What is it about them that felt so special?

OHM is one of my favourite venues to perform in! It is right next to Tresor and is also owned by them. They have a really nice sound system and the space itself has this wide dance floor. The feeling is quite naughty, open and free — I love that.

What’s the goal for you in your career?

My goal is to continue creating empowering dance floors and expand my DJing beyond Berlin while maintaining a balanced approach to sustain my passion. I don’t want DJing to be my only source of income, because then I would probably start dreading doing it and potentially lose the passion for it. 

Do you have anything exciting coming up for the rest of the year you’d like to share?

Following a hiatus, Body Language is back with exciting parties. Additionally, a little Body Language tour in Australia in December and January 2025 is planned. I am really excited for that!

WriterBenjamin Schiffer
Art DirectorKat Beckwith
Digital ArtistMelissa Spring All
IllustratorJess Ardizzone
ProducerDasha Arziaeva at soup.filmproduktion GmbH
Production AssistantValentin Schneider