DJ Poizon Ivy's Approach to Motherhood Is To Always Ask for Help When She Needs It

The trailblazing entertainer and philanthropist shares how her little one has influenced her DJ journey and how she’s learned to lean on her support group.

Portrait of mother and child
Photo: Courtesy of Elijah Smith

Becoming the first female DJ in the history of the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise—and the first Black female DJ in league history—illustrates just how much of a leader DJ Poizon Ivy is in the world of music. Born Ivy Awino, the entertainer travels the world for work and continues to pave the way for fellow entertainers in her field.

But to her 9-year-old daughter, Kyani, she is just "DJ Mommy." And having her daughter by her side has truly been a motivating force and sense of inspiration every step of the way in her career.

"I get emotional when I think about her, and how much she's been a part of my journey," Awino says. "She's been coming to work with me since she was very little."

Her Road to Success

Taking it all the way back, Awino's passion for music began in Nairobi, Kenya, where she was born. "My grandmother bought me a 12-key baby grand piano when I was 5 years old." Even though she learned how to play from a very young age, other members of her family influenced her creativity, too. "My godmother is one of the earliest, most accomplished pianists in Kenya," she says. "So, she encouraged my mother to get me involved with music early for the simple fact that it helps with other areas of learning." She adds, "I now see the importance of exposing children to just everything, as much as you can, as early as possible."

Her natural talent in music continued to manifest itself in other areas as she got older and moved near Dallas at the age of 9. Awino specifically took an interest in DJing from two of her fraternity brothers, who were some of the biggest DJs in Milwaukee, when she was attending college at Marquette University. She was also working at the school's radio station which amplified her desire. "One day I was like, 'Look, I want to learn how to DJ,'" she recalls. "It was just one more instrument for me to learn how to play."

From there, she learned how to DJ for radio. And then her work evolved, expanding to DJing college parties, and taking over the college scene, completely embedding herself into the lifestyle and culture.

After over a decade working in the field, Awino credits fate, faith, and a specific person for helping her get into the NBA DJing world. "I have to give a lot of credit to another mother, another woman, Skylar Diggins-Smith," she says of the professional basketball player. The two connected when Awino was in college, and she started DJing at Diggins-Smith's basketball camps. Her support, Awino says, "was very incredibly pivotal in at least turning me back into the basketball space, because that ultimately led to the [WNBA Dallas] Wings job, which ultimately led to the Mavericks job."

As her career has grown, Awino hasn't lost sight of the most important role in her life: motherhood. And she hopes her journey can show that parenting doesn't have to look one way. "One of my biggest goals for myself is just to be as transparent as I can about the working-mother experience, especially the working-mother experience for a woman who works in a very non-traditional career," she says. Even when Kyani was an infant, Awino would take her to work events. "Sometimes they didn't even know that she was there with me," says Awino. "It's so weird seeing her in the arena now. She's grown up in there. Like, 'Mommy has to go to work. You've got to come with me.'"

Teaching Her Daughter To Be Proud

Bringing Kyani into the Dallas Mavericks arena has also exposed her to other Black women at the helm of the basketball organization, like Cynt Marshall, the CEO of the franchise and the first Black female to hold this position in the NBA. This helps Awino show her daughter that being herself and putting in the work can lead her to obtaining her goals. "I hope that as she grows up, she understands that there is so much power in being a woman," she shares.

In addition to exposing her daughter to all of life's opportunities in her workspace, she also prioritizes having conversations about being a Black person in America back at home. While conversations between Black parents and their children about racism and prejudice have always been ongoing, protests erupting into the streets and being covered across news networks have made these more commonplace for Awino in her household. "I know that if I didn't have those, somebody else would have them for me," she says. "Was it difficult? Absolutely. Because that 24-hour news cycle. If it's damaging for adults, just imagine what it's doing for the children."

Yet the DJ says these conversations are necessary. "I want to raise a child who instead of having an inferiority complex, I'd rather she have a superiority complex." Awino does this by reaffirming and reassuring her daughter of the power she possesses in her own skin in addition to teaching her and listening to her perspectives. "I'm very watchful not to project my own emotions and sentiments on her, but allowing her to form hers healthily," she says. "My heart goes out to all the parents that had to in whatever capacity."

If fellow parents are looking for ways to introduce these conversations in their households or simply make them more routine, Awino suggests starting with literature. "Lupita Nyong'o wrote the book Sulwe, which means star in our language," the entertainer says. "Showing kids their own likeness from an early age is important because part of what we're struggling with right now is not being able to see ourselves in certain things or spaces or places and that's where those early triggers begin."

Leaning On Her Support System

At the end of the day, it also takes a village to support a child. And Awino recommends that parents give themselves grace and lean on a support group, even in the moments when work or life in general might take them away from their little one. "I think that the hardest part sometimes about parenting is feeling like you're letting your child down if you make a promise you can't keep, but that's part of life," she explains. "I'm grateful, again, for my mommy circle to always remind me that, 'Look, you got to do what you got to do.'"

As a single mom, especially, Awino has learned it's important to allow your support group to be there for you when you need them. "Allow people to step in for you knowing and understanding that that'll teach your child, again, about the importance of community," she says. "I think that's done so much for me in being able to ask for help when I need help—and being able to help others when they need help."

See DJ Poizon Ivy perform on and follow :BLACKPRINT on Instagram here.

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