It is 7 pm on a Saturday in Fire Island. That magic hour on an island where time has that liquefied quality of, well, island-time. The weekend, and the evening, is still young and full of promise. Monday, New York City and Reality seem so far away. A couple of housemates back in the beach house are preparing dinner (because it’s their turn tonite!) And dinner isn’t anytime soon – not in the least because careful negotiations have ensured that dinner won’t start before 9 or 10 this evening. These two or three in-between hours will be spent in an upstairs bar with a mid-size terrace, sipping some cocktails and grooving to the music of a DJ whose name is synonymous with this hour on this magic island.
In Fire Island speak, you start the evening with low tea (and by tea we mean cocktails), and then move to middle tea (more cocktails) and then for the truly brave of heart, there’s high tea. This has been the summer tradition here for decades and in the last few years, there’s a new kind of "tea" that is much talked about – Lina Tea!
Such is the cult of DJ Lina.
And in this cult, the weekend evening ritual of dancing until dinnertime, or beyond, to DJ Lina Bradford’s music has been indulged in, celebrated and repeated – as rituals are – for years. A decade, to be precise.
To an outsider who has no context of Fire Island and this DJ and her relationship with the island and its people, the energy in this space and at this hour would seem borderline suspicious. And cultish. A cult with Lina as the goddess, creating a soundscape for her followers that creates such love, light and joy that if you haven’t experienced it for yourself and are reading this, one can only say – You had to have been there!
This past summer was DJ Lina’s last season on the island for now and as she moves on to newer adventures, we spoke with her about her muses, her music and her message.
First things first – let’s talk about your music. How did you start DJing?
How I first got started as a DJ was a dare eighteen years ago. I took the dare and here I am – wondering that it’s insane where all that time can go!
What have your muses and biggest challenges been in this journey so far?
I would say my spiritual being, my spirit animals, my cherubs on both sides of my shoulders, who have guided me throughout my life. It’s taken me to so many beautiful places. I always know when it’s time to continue on my journey, so there are no challenges – only adventures and learning situations that make me who I am.
You spend some of your downtime in Europe – any music festivals or venues there that you especially like? And what other DJs do you admire and enjoy listening to?
Yes, Europe is my second home. I’m very blessed to be a part of the roster and the love that is over there. Frankie Knuckles will always be my everyness.
So many queer people who live or pass through New York know Fire Island as this completely magical place, almost like no other. What does this island mean to you and how have you seen it evolve over the years?
It’s been a blessing to be a part of the community and legacy here. When I started more than a decade ago, the island needed me and I needed it. From that, I was able to create this beautiful hub of love and light but like all good things that come to an end, I recently decided that my next chapter is going into play. This was my last season at the beach. It has been more beautiful than I could’ve ever imagined but I have a lot more to do and that will take me to Europe in the summers to continue this love and my adventures.
Tell us a bit about those gorgeous outfits that you so effortlessly carry.
The outfits, the looks! Yes, million-dollar question! (Laughs). Well, I started documenting the looks that I wore from Friday to Sunday and posting the photos at 6 o’clock every evening before I go out at 7. This became a thing. I shoot the visuals in the same spot at this beach house called The Oasis. Now, I have a book that’s being worked on called "The Oasis At Six". It will be a love letter of what Fire Island has been to me and where the inspiration for the looks comes from.
I could be laying on my deck and see a butterfly close by and the colors will evoke a thought and I start creating in my head. I think it’s so easy for someone to look at a fashion magazine and make it come together. That’s not me. I like to be inspired by nature – that butterfly or that beautiful sandbar. The looks are worn just once, so I have lots of archival pieces, some of which I do give away.
What are your thoughts on what seems like unprecedented coverage of trans persons and issues in mainstream American media?
The transgender movement is finally at a point where it is providing awareness to people who are otherwise caught in their own headspace. I think any positive coverage is always good education. Personally, I feel I can get a point across without placing a label on my back. When you associate a single label with a person, you’re not taking the time to explore the multiple dimensions of who this person is.
Lastly, your advice for a young LGBTQ person growing up in today’s world?
You know how I find it very tricky when people try to give advice on things. I think that people’s journeys are their own. You can be enlightened by other people but I’m not a preacher, I’m simply a being going up on my path and if anyone can feel a connection, then let that speak to you. All I can say for myself is that I stay true to who I know I am. I had a very supportive background and I always cut myself around positive energy.