DJ Mandy Wants Your Feedback

DJ Mandy Wants Your Feedback

Story by Tobias Hess / Photography and direction by Julian Buchan / Styling by Marc Eram / Makeup by Marla Vazquez / Hair by Virginie Pineda
Dec 18, 2023

We’ve all seen it: the DJ poring over a CDJ or peering into a laptop, their eyebrows furrowed in harried focus. Such activity usually signals a certain technical seriousness, an attention to detail that should result in some display of mastery — seamless transitions, smart timing, attuned track selection. We all know, though, how this story often ends. Kick drums clunking against each other, bass lines intermixing and warbling, two tracks clashing before one gracelessly wins out. DJing is a craft. Unfortunately, it's also become a crass cultural virtue signal. To many of its low-grade practitioners, it's not so much an art form as a garment. Not so much skill but style.

Maybe that’s why the purposely disastrous attempts at mixing by DJ Mandy have struck such a nerve. The second-year, UC Berkeley environmental studies student is admittedly not an experienced DJ, but she has become one of the internet’s most famous via a combination of critique, self-awareness and a newly acquired technical aptitude. She has more than 575K followers on TikTok and the attention of Olivia Rodrigo, Charli XCX and brands around the world. Not bad for a beginner.

Jacket, shoes, skirt and jewelry: Versace, Socks and shirt: Thom Browne, Bag: Ferragamo

In DJ Mandy’s TikToks, she mimics a DJ’s seriousness while orchestrating sets that are equal parts knowing and chaotic. While mixing, for example, “Strangers” by Kenya Grace with a multi-car pile-up and “Crank That” by Soulja Boy, she intently shifts the knobs and fader. The mix jumps rapidly between the disparate auditory landscapes, the tempo oscillating between chipmunk-fast and glacier-slow. All of this sounds closer to experimental sound art than a club mix, but DJ Mandy never breaks. She’s dead serious. Let her cook.

“It's really easy to be bad,” she tells me. “It's harder to make it funny. [You can] just press a bunch of random buttons, but this takes skill in a way.” There’s a sense in which her mixes are a form of writing, planned sketches that require a real level of precision and mastery.

Jacket, shoes, skirt and jewelry: Versace, Socks and shirt: Thom Browne, Bag: Ferragamo

While DJ Mandy is primarily a comedy project, she’s now learning how to actually mix in her free time. Slowly but surely her content is shifting towards videos that depict her being, well, not half-bad. “I’m definitely still learning,” she clarifies. “I still have a long way to go, but it's still fun showing the contrast. I think it's helping people see that DJing is actually pretty hard.” Most of her videos have text on the screen where she asks for “tips/feedback.” It’s a rhetorical question usually, but now one may offer some real critique. DJing is, you know, “actually hard.”

Success has come as a surprise for DJ Mandy, whose real name is Amanda Shultz and is admittedly somewhat shy in real life. “I was never that interested in social media,” she tells me. But when a sarcastic attempt at mixing on her new board went verifiably viral, she felt propelled. “I was just at work and then I checked my phone and it had a million views. And I was like, Okay, maybe I'll start posting more videos like this. It was summer. So I didn't really have much going on.”

Top: Eckhaus Latta, Dress: Anonymous Club: Shoes: Mikio Sakabe, Earrings: Allison Lou

That summer hobby has turned into a real career. She’s playing real DJ gigs in LA, posting videos that consistently go viral, and even has management to help her with her nascent status.

But still, with all the pomp and circumstance that internet fame affords, she’s a college student, going to college parties, forced to dance to the stale sounds of frat boy mixes. “Most of the DJs [here] are [from] the frats,” she shrugs. “I haven't met another female DJ, at least that goes to Berkeley.” There is the opportunity for her to break out as a campus celeb, but most of her peers haven’t connected the dots that DJ Mandy is a fellow student.

Top: Eckhaus Latta, Dress: Anonymous Club: Shoes: Mikio Sakabe, Earrings: Allison Lou

“I get a lot of comments and messages like, ‘Can you come to Berkeley?’ I don't think they know that I go here,” she shares. Maybe that’s for the best. This is all quite the twist for the prospective professional environmentalist. And she’s still taking the time to sort through the surprising twist of fate and make sure her family is on board.

“My parents think it's cool,” she says thankfully. “They downloaded TikTok and stuff. My mom was like, ‘Oh, I watched one of your lives the other day.’” Her mom and many thousands of others. People genuinely love her bizzaro mixes, and feel a real sense of excitement to see her actually improve. It’s all growing, and it’s only just begun. The question thus becomes: what does she do with this newfound notoriety?

Top and dress: KNWLS, Earrings and rings: Pamela Love, Boots: Eytys

“I wanna keep making content while also getting more gigs. Then the people who watch my stuff can come to the live shows,” she says, smiling.

One can see where this will go for live shows, a combination of bad DJ’ing that works as almost prop comedy, and then the actual mixes she works intently on. That said, it’s only been three months since she started genuinely practicing. People spend years before playing gigs at clubs, but then again, most people don’t have the eyes and ears of culture-shapers, and DJ Mandy does. The world is her oyster. If only she can learn in time.

Photography and direction: Julian Buchan
Styling: Marc Eram
Makeup: Marla Vazquez
Hair: Virginie Pineda
Nails: Alyssa Joslin

Lighting design: Taylor Russ
Production design: Ryan Brennan
Grip and equipment: Daniel Button
Set dressing: Jesús Acosta
On-set producer: Brad Bradley
Production assistant: Franceleslia Millien

Editor-in-chief: Justin Moran
Managing editor: Matt Wille
Editorial producer: Angelina Cantú
Story: Tobias Hess