July 29th 2014
“Who in the hell is this?”
I was standing in the pitch dark. In a tent. And I was tired. Drunk. And exceptionally confused.
“No. I want to know who the hell this is.”
Over extra snacks and attempting to change my shirt in the dark. It was 4:30 a.m. And upon returning to my campsite after a full day of musical festival madness, I saw a bundle of human laying precisely where I planned to sleep. And it wasn’t me. And it wasn’t anyone I knew. Which is why I asked my fellow friend/camper Bogden. “Who in the hell is this?”
“Olive. Chill. It’s a friend from the campsite next door. She was sleeping under the stars and I offered to let her sleep in our tent with us so she wouldn’t be out in the cold. She’s cool. Trust me.”
“She’s a friend?”
“She’s a friend.”
“Okay cool. Whatever. Pass me that extra blanket.”
He passed me the extra blanket.
And we all went to sleep.
The next morning I was awoken entirely too early—provoked by the beating sun and the external chatter harmonizing outside our tent involving fireball shots and inquiries about a wandering Optimus Prime.
I opened my eyes moments later, and I saw a bundle of human laying right next to me. Precisely where I had planned to sleep the night before.
And it wasn’t me. And it wasn’t anyone I knew. And before I could even ask who in the hell it was. She looked at me and said.
“Hi. I’m Donya. I’m so sorry I slept here last night. Thank you though. I really appreciate it. We’re hanging out next door at our campsite if you want to join us. But really, thanks again.”
And then she picked up her sleeping bag. And walked out the (tent’s version) of a door.
I laid there for a minute. And I wasn’t sure what to say. Primarily because I rarely form accurate words before 9am and also because I just didn’t care. Any friend of Bogden’s was a friend of mine. And quite frankly, most of my consciousness was dedicated to a trio of McGriddles anyway.
I changed my shirt. (In the daylight this time.) Made my McGriddle dreams come true. And walked next door. To make some new friends.
And more specifically. Meet the unbundled human that was no longer taking spontaneous residence in our tent.
Bonding went impeccably. And lasted well beyond shared tents and swigs of discount beers.
We stayed in contact.
And the next thing I knew. I found myself asking Bogden once again.
“Who in the hell is this?”
“Olive. Chill. You know her.”
“What do you mean? How?”
He sent me a song. A really good one. One that sounded like this.
“It’s Donya. From Firefly. You remember her. She’s the girl who crashed in our tent.”
“Oh shit. This is her?”
This is her.
Her name was actually DONJUAN.
At least that’s what she told me when I called her later that night. Asking about her music dreams. And if I could write about them too.
“Really? Of course! What would you like to know?”
“Well for starters…why do you call yourself DONJUAN?”
“Well it’s because…well…you know, I don’t really tell a lot of people this actually. I don’t have a problem telling anyone why. That’s not it. It’s just…that question is pretty loaded for me, that’s all.”
“You don’t have to tell me.”
“No I want to tell you.”
“Are you sure?”
And she paused too.
And then she said.
“Did you like high school?”
“Fair enough. Have you ever heard anything about Northern Virginia schools before?”
“Not particularly, why?”
“They’re different. Well actually no, they’re not different. They’re the stereotype. The stigma you see in movies and TV shows. The O.C was based off of my school district actually. No diversity. Drama-filled. Great people. But the minority was slim to none. And there I was. Day after day. 100% Iranian. And feeling that way too. And for whatever reason, I felt kind of ashamed of it. I didn’t like being different. Looking different. Feeling different. And in this place in particular, looking, acting and being different was more obvious than most. And I…I really didn’t know who the hell I was. For a long time.”
“So you called yourself DONJUAN?”
“Haha no not yet. That was later. That was after getting to school a half an hour early just so I could go to the bathroom, look at myself in the mirror, and put a pound of makeup on my face. Fade out my naturally tan skin with concealer. Wear revealing clothing. Buy brands for their expense but only because it was just the easy thing to do. I had this idea of an ideal identity in my head. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. White skin. Good clothes. And the only way I could really think to get there, was to physically cover up any signs that I was different.
Fast Forward a few years later >>
And I took this trip to Spain—Barcelona in particular.
To be free for a while and maybe make some friends.
And that’s when I saw it.
The endless supply of free spirits. And the way they were treated as something so vital. So necessary. So celebrated. Thing is, I didn’t find my passion for music there. I always knew I had that. And that I loved that. But for once in my life, I think I figured out who I was. And better yet, I actually liked it too. My skin. My culture. My difference. So I made a new name for myself—literally—DONJUAN. “Don” was the first part of my name and it represented what I already was. And “Juan” was inspired by the place that let me accept it. So I put the two together. DON-JUAN. All caps. And that was that.”
“You’re right. That was pretty loaded. But in a wonderful way.”
“Did you go to the Firefly music festival last year?”
“Nope. This year was my first time.”
“Okay. Well last year. Man…last year was unbelievable. Last year the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the headlining act—my favorite band of all time. I waited 2 hours to get to the very front of their show by the railings.
To the right of the stage.
And then the lights went
And the cheering went And I had these gOoSeBuMpS. Like these “Holy fucking shit I want to feel this forever.” gOoSeBuMps. I was literally just standing there watching this band that had reached this unbelievable level of stardom. And they haven’t changed a bit. Same style. Same music. Everything was the same. And I wanted that—yeah the career and maybe the fame. But what I really wanted? Was the security to strive for it all without losing it all. I didn’t want to lose a single ounce of that identity I didn’t know I needed and that I discovered by happy accident…you know when I’m happiest, Olive?”
“On stage. In any sense of the word. Even if it’s just five of my family members in the living room. I feel amazing.”
“Does it make you want to quit everything and just go for it? The dream? The success?”
“You know, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a back up plan. I went to college and I didn’t major in music. I wanted a back up. I still want a back up. I perform gigs here and there. Collaborate as often as I can. Record with other artists. Make connections. And stay in love with it. All of it.
I really want to excel at it. But I never really want it to feel like work. I really mean that. I actually heard this artist on TV once and he said something that I’ll never forget. He said ‘I want to make money playing music but I don’t want to make music about money.’ And it just made a lot of sense to me.
Why turn a joy into a chore?
Love something and forget why you love it?
Pursue something and get so caught up in the false definition of what the “finish line” really is?
Feel disappointed for no reason at all?
Thing is. There are a million people out there with beautiful voices that will never “make it.” But they’re probably still the same people that still sing while they do the dishes, in the grocery store and in the shower. And they probably feel really good about it. Probably better than a huge star that sold out at the mercy of big-name success. And I think the greatest success anyone will ever really have?
Is knowing yourself and loving the hell out of it.
Making a name for yourself whether that’s internally decided or outwardly announced. Pitching comparisons out of the window and forgoing the physical masking of any differences deemed unacceptably…different. You know what I mean?”
We both ended on that note. Comfortable and satisfied with the things that she had said. And this time. I didn’t have to ask who in the hell she really was.
Because now I knew.
That her name was DONJUAN.
And she finally knew it too.
Appreciate this badass bitch as much as I do? Excellent. Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com to get connected or just say hey. And/or check out a few more of her incredible clips below.
And hey. Keep dreaming. It will always be worth it. We can promise you that.