DJ and presenter Ellie Prohan, speaks about her purpose, being a big risk-taker, advice to her younger self, and creates an exclusive mix for Notion and BULLDOG Gin.
Ellie Prohan is as motivated and multi-talented as they come. Whether she’s DJing around the world, presenting, interviewing high profile artists or hosting and curating radio shows (we could go on), she’s made her name not only bringing the best tunes, but the best energy.
Ellie moves with a sense of purpose driving all that she does. From organising club night ‘Glo’ for the LGBTQIA+ community and charity events for world mental health day, to her range of successful series’ including “Ellie Prohan & Friends” and “Eat, Dance & Discover”, the West Londoner’s work centres underrepresented voices in music, bringing communities together and lifting others up alongside her.
We caught up with Ellie to talk believing you can do whatever you want in life, the power of being bold and becoming someone her younger self would look up to. Read the full interview below, and listen to her exclusive mix for Notion and BULLDOG Gin.
What are your earliest memories of music?
My earliest memory of music was growing up on a council estate in West London. Being a middle child of a single parent family, we spent quite a lot of time playing out on the estate hearing music blaze out the windows in the flats and hearing the sound of garage. The whole nostalgia that goes along with that, that’s probably my first memory of music. Feeling a sense of escapism and culture.
Who were some of your favourite artists and how did they inspire you?
I was completely inspired by the American music scene, everyone from Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Ludacris, Dr. Dre, Snoop. That’s what I grew up on. From the UK – Oxide and Neutrino, all the garage lot. Lisa Maffia, Mis-Teeq, girl bands that we have over here. One of the best eras of music was definitely those days.
How did you get into DJing?
I accidentally fell into it, because I had a career in something completely different. I started a business when I was really young, became super successful with it, and kind of got bored. I felt like I’d hit my peak in that. Off the back of a house party in Dubai, I decided that I was going to figure out how beat matching worked. I came back, basically befriended a DJ at the time, we bartered and exchanged skills, and I learned how to DJ pretty quickly. It started as a hobby – I wasn’t intending to make it a career – and then people were like ‘Oh, you’re quite good at this’, or ‘You’ve got really good energy’.
After a couple of months, I started to get booked for things and then that led to the doors opening into radio. My career has spun out pretty quickly for what we’ve done. I’m so grateful because the childhood me would be like, ‘Oh, you’re pretty cool’. And I think I live for that.
As someone who does so many things – from presenting and interviewing to DJing and curating shows – is it important to not be pigeonholed as one thing?
I don’t think I can even pigeonhole myself; I’m not a pigeonhole kind of person. I am who I am, I love what I do, and I just go with the flow. I feel like I just don’t want to leave this planet without doing everything that I want to do inside my soul and spirit, so if I want to do it, I’m going to do it.
Whether it’s DJing, whether it’s presenting, whether it’s being on telly, I think the core of my essence isn’t to do everything. It’s to have a purpose. Whether that purpose goes through different avenues of TV, radio or DJing, the core purpose for me is to actually just help people along the way, encourage people and be an example that I wish the eight-year-old me had to look up to.
What qualities do you think have helped get you this far?
I think my ability to really understand my environment and the positions that I put myself in have definitely enabled me to grow. My community as well – it’s been a massive, massive support for me. We’ve got people from day one who, to this day, are still there.
[And] I think my loyalty, my persistence. I don’t take no for an answer; it’s not really in my vocab. If it’s a no, then it’s just a no for now, and it might be a yes.
Have you ever taken any risks and have they paid off? How BOLD are you willing to go?
I am such a big risk-taker. I don’t know whether it’s my upbringing or the fact that I’m just a bit ballsy. I’ve taken many, many risks in my life – whether it be financial risks, career risks, relationship risks. I’m pretty good at taking risks and I would say that they’ve always paid off, even if they’ve been a bit painful. I’ve always learned something from everything.
I would say that I’m pretty bold. My friends would probably say I’m quite bold. I just think that when they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring up a folding chair. That’s basically a quote that I will never forget. I saw it in New York one time and I just thought yeah, that’s right. And I think you have to be bold to be walking around with a fold-up chair all the time. So yeah, I’d say boldness wins.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
The main bit of advice I would give the younger version of myself is don’t rush, don’t panic. There’s always time to do things. And be confident in who you are. Explore things without caring too much about what people think. I think that I definitely lived my life growing up like that, but in the core of me, sometimes you do have that bit where it’s like ‘Am I doing the right thing? What will people think?’. That’s really the advice I would give the younger me. Just take your time and be super confident in who you are.
What obstacles have you overcome in your career?
I think the obstacle I’ve overcome is actually understanding the concept that you can genuinely do whatever it is that you want in life. No matter how old you are or what you’re doing now, you can go from becoming a dentist to a DJ – or any job, any career change. If you have a passion for it and you have an authentic desire to do something, and strength behind you and good support within yourself, I’ve learned that anything is possible and to just keep going. I think I’ve proven that as somebody who is Persian, gay, and started quite late on my journey, that anything is possible. You can just do whatever it is that you want.
How important is it for you to use your platform for your community and the causes you care about?
I actually live for using my platform to push talent. Coming from the upbringing that I came from, things weren’t accessible to me. I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. Growing up on the estate, knowing the culture and the fact that you can get pulled into things and be influenced in different ways depending on cards that you’re dealt in life, I understand that life and I understand that support is so necessary – especially when you have a talent in music.
Even if you don’t have a talent in music, music is genuinely what saves us all. We’ve cried to music, we’ve spoken to ourselves to music, we’ve given ourselves pep talks to music, we’ve run to music, we’ve got married to music, we’ve had babies to music. Music is the core of our lives. I think to be able to connect people who don’t have the same opportunities as me growing up to what they want to do, whether it be putting their music on my platform, putting their music on the radio, encouraging them. That is really what I live for – underrepresented talent in every single sense of the word.
And I’m a massive supporter of drill music. It’s important for me because there is a story behind the lyrics. These are very, very real lived experiences. I think sometimes we get scared of things that we don’t understand, but if we’re open to understanding things, you might have a bit more compassion. Realistically, everybody just wants to make it; everybody just wants to make their family proud and be confident in themselves. So why not just help?
What’s next for you?
However it comes, I would love for people to know my purpose more. The biggest platform for that would be TV, and I’m ready for it. I wouldn’t have been able to say I’m ready for it three years ago, but I’m ready for it now.
Check out Ellie Prohan’s exclusive Notion x BULLDOG Gin mix below.