Roxy Cottontail: Inside the DJ Booth
Roxy Cottontail follows the beat of her own drum and answers to no one. She’s been that way since childhood. “My mom tried to get me to do Brownies when I was 7,” she tells The Boombox. “I was like, ‘This is cool but I just can’t wear that brown thing.’ They said, ‘Well, you can’t be a Brownie.’ I was just like, ‘Oh. Alright.’ No one taught me that. I just didn’t want to wear what everyone else was wearing.”
Her desire to live outside of others’ expectations is what led her to her current career as one of Manhattan’s hottest club DJs. DC-born, Maryland-bred Roxy has been collecting vinyl since her youth. She’s always had a record player and says that her mother introduced her to notes and scales while she was in the womb. While she’s always been a creative spirit, her first career goal was far different from the one she pursued.
“When I was a little girl, I told my mom I was gonna work at McDonald’s,” she says with a laugh. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Thank God that didn’t happen. But when I was in high school I was like, ‘I’m gonna move to New York and be a rock star.’”
Growing up in the suburbs of Maryland, Roxy was exposed to DC go-go and Baltimore club culture. At home, ’60s rock blared from her parents’ sound system but she’d gotten into pop, hip hop and riot grrrl punk on her own.
“[My parents are] hippies, so they listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Queen,” she shares. “When I got into high school, I got really into punk music. I just have this very strange ear where I was exposed to all this very crazy punk, hardcore music and go-go and Baltimore club music.”
Roxy joined a punk band while in high school but after graduating and planning her move to New York City, she readjusted her plans a bit. She enrolled at Pratt Institute and majored in Industrial Design, learning how to create three-dimensional figures for practical use. She was focused and landed a job in the design field shortly after earning her degree. Roxy still had an itch to do more creatively, and as fate would have it, her roommate was a DJ.
“I loved doing design work and I still do,” she says. “But I didn’t like being at a desk and having a boss. I was on the books. Had a fulltime job, a 401K and all that good stuff.”
Roxy had a side hustle promoting club events and with her roommate’s encouragement, she began going to venues early to work on her deejaying techniques because she couldn’t afford her own equipment. Even then she didn’t know that turntables would become a major part of her life.
After 9/11, the spirit of New York City had been significantly dimmed and Roxy says it broke her heart to witness it. She followed the suggestion of a friend and decided to move to Philadelphia for a while. While working at another design firm, she explored the city’s music scene. Roxy ended up meeting producer Diplo, singer Amanda Blank and a host of other major contributors to Philly’s then-fledgling underground sound.
Ten months later, after exploring Philly, Roxy had begun to pine for New York, so she quit her job and moved back with her motivation intact. Subsequently, she gave herself the perfect DJ alias — Roxy Cottontail.
“I’ve always had this fascination with rabbits,” she reveals. “One day, my mom showed me this stuffed animal collection from the attic. She pulls out all my toys like, ‘What do you want? What should we sell? Is any of this valuable?’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Look at all the bunnies that I have!”
“I think I’ve always been obsessed with rabbits because they have this maternal but mysterious quality about them. I don’t know, for me, ‘cottontail’ is your moneymaker — your ass. It’s a different association but it’s cute, ’cause I’m still very childlike. I’m a kid at heart.”
With reinvigorated confidence and a fresh outlook and name, Roxy jumped right back into the New York club scene, throwing parties and socializing. But most importantly, she’d finally found a way to spin fulltime. She hasn’t stopped since.
Whenever Roxy has a free moment she devotes it to her wellness. “I like to work out. I love yoga. I think that’s the only way I can relax,” she discloses. “Now, I’ve been getting acupuncture because I’m so excited I can’t even sleep anymore. There’s so much going on and I’m working a lot so it’s really hard for me to relax when I’m so involved, excited and passionate.”
Most days though, Roxy Cottontail is on the move. Her best work experience recently included the opportunity to open for famed DJ Afrojack.
“It was just like an out-of-body experience, deejaying on a stage that big for that many people,” she says, still seemingly in awe. “It was just so surreal. That’s why I couldn’t sleep and had to start getting acupuncture. So many great people and fans coming up to me like, ‘Loved the set! Can I get a picture?’ All my friends were there and it was truly magical. It’s such a rush of adrenaline and your level of excitement is just at an all-time high. A natural high.”
Top Five Songs to Rock a Party
1. “Can You Feel It,” Michael Jackson
2. “Gypsy Woman,” Crystal Waters
3. “Holiday,” Madonna
4. “We Found Love,” Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
5. “One More Time,” Daft Punk
Check out a Mixtape Timeline