"DJ Poizon" Ivy Awino often moves in the background, whether it's behind the scenes at a record label or radio station to setting up an emcee on stage, but her inclusion with five other DJ's on WKKV-FM's new weekend show "The Saturday Mix Tape with DJO" puts her in the spotlight as one of only a handful of women nationally to have a regular mix over the air.
A native of Kenya, Awino came to Milwaukee by way of Dallas, and began her entertainment career at Marquette University as the host of an online radio show.
While at Marquette, Awino also gained experience on the record-label side of the music industry, helping to manage the appearances of national acts once they touched ground in Milwaukee.
Since graduating two years ago, she's made a name for herself locally as a DJ, and has backed up artists on stages at Summerfest and Pantherfest. She has also worked at WKKV as an intern and has DJ'd events for the station as well.
"She's definitely a hustler. She's definitely one of those," WKKV Program Director Bailey Coleman said. "She's definitely different. I think sometimes it takes personality like that to get in there and do your thing."
Now, Awino will be doing just that, only this time it's over the air with her mixes.
"As a DJ, one of the most coveted things is a radio home, first and foremost," Awino said. "That in itself is just a blessing. Now I have call letters behind my name."
"Now, being a girl, a lot of the times our skill set is brushed off as basically being button pushers. A lot of the times that's the perception. Getting the stamp of approval from one of the notable names (in Milwaukee) means a lot because it attests to my skill, you know? That's really all I want to bring to light, that I'm more than just my gender. I want to show that I can hang with the best of them."
Coleman knows how difficult radio in general can be for a female to gain traction, let alone a female a DJ in a musical genre dominated by men.
"She's definitely got the skill, the tenacity and the wherewithal to get in there and hang out with the guys, just like I do," Coleman said with a laugh. "It definitely takes a certain type of female to be able to get it done because not everybody is not made for mixing and all that kind of stuff. She definitely can hang with the guys in any sense of the word as far as doing her thing."
While Awino has had a varied career, which included stints in pro sports as a ball girl for the Dallas Mavericks, and as a group sales and community relations intern with the Milwaukee Bucks, she does have the dream of being an on-air radio personality.
"This industry is tough," Awino said. "It's tough. But this is just a step in the right direction and hopefully other things can come of this. I'm very excited. It's a small platform, but hopefully this can bring to light some things."
Wherever her career takes her, Awino knows this opportunity is another rung on the ladder that will lead to greater heights.
"My goal in life, honestly, is just to unite," she said. "I think that's what my ultimate purpose is and I think I've successfully been able to be this person that is a gateway between artists and radio and all these other outlets that everybody wants to partner with. I don't know it happened. I can't even tell you!"
While "The Saturday Mix Tape with DJO" has been running the last two weekends, Awino's debut mix will be this Saturday.
"There are levels to this (stuff)," Awino said. "What I'm learning, what I've learned, is that in very few situations can you literally step on the bottom rung and stretch your legs and hands and reach all the way to the top and get there without having to climb. This is how you earn your stripes."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.