Lesbian DJ Tracy Young on Making Grammys History With a Madonna Remix

"It only made sense to bring 'I Rise' to the dance floor."

History was made at last night’s 62nd annual Grammy Awards, where Tracy Young was the first woman ever nominated in the Best Remixed Recording category.

Tracy was up for Madonna’s “I Rise” (Tracy Young Pride Intro Radio Remix). And, adding to the history-making, she won! The longtime DJ-slash-producer—who blossomed on the South Beach scene and has worked extensively with Madame X—is richly deserving of the honor, so I tracked her down this morning for a congratulatory chat.

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Tracy Young attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

Young at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

Congrats, Tracy! I was so proud when I heard that you won. Did you think you would?

I never even thought I’d be nominated. I was just starting to feel comfortable with that, and then I won. I’ve been in this business for 25-plus years, and it had never happened before.

How did you start working with Madonna?

I was introduced to her by [South Beach club entrepreneur] Ingrid Casares, and I started DJing for her, then remixing for her, and now we’re kind of collaborating. In her tour, she’s doing a remix of mine that we worked on together, called “Crave". I also just did a remix for Debbie Gibson that we collaborated on. I used to go in the studio and do my version and turn it in, but now, the artist wants to be more collaborative. I like that because I’m growing more as an artist and a producer, and it gets me out of my comfort zone.

What do you feel is the tone you brought to Madonna’s “I Rise”?

I wanted a version to put on the dance floor because I felt it was such a powerful song for the LGBTQ community. I came to find out that’s what she had in mind when she wrote it. I asked if I could remix it, she said 'yes,' and then it was also the Stonewall50. It only made sense to bring a version to the dance floor. It was so well-received. It wasn’t a single, and it was not something pushed by the record label, it just organically happened. This whole thing is very special.

Throughout the years, have you played queer crowds, straight crowd, mixed groups, or all of the above?

I’ve played all sorts of venues and formats. I started in radio at a Washington, D.C., hip-hop station. I played straight parties, then I’d go to the underground, the gay clubs. I embrace all parts of music, and as a DJ, I like to play all types.

Have you faced challenges as an out lesbian in the music industry?

In the beginning, the gay community wouldn’t hire me because I was a girl. And I’d audition for a slot, and the straights would say, “Girls don’t do this.” Working with Madonna broke that wide open with the gay community because she is such an icon. But before that, people would say I should choose a different career because women can’t do this, and it’s a male-dominated industry. When I went to the radio, they embraced it because it was so different. I blew up that way. Then I went backwards to the clubs.

So you had to jump hurdles as a woman, but how about as a queer woman?

I was in the closet. I never talked about it. If somebody asked me, I’d tell them, but I put my sexuality under wraps. Then, in 2000, Entertainment Weekly ran this story of the 100 top gay people in Hollywood, and I was on that list. I was never ashamed; I just never really talked about it. I can say I’ve never been discriminated against. I’ve worked in gay clubs—that’s my family. I feel very embraced. I was more discriminated against because of my gender.

Do you do more outreach now within the community?

Absolutely. I work with GLAAD, the Trevor Project, amfAR. I’m very involved with giving back.

Tell me something about working with Madonna that might surprise people.

I think people see her as everything’s so calculated and she’s such a businesswoman, but while all that is true—she’s very smart—she happens to be a brilliant artist and musician. I don’t think people give her credit for that. It’s not as calculated as people think. She’s just expressing her true art.

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