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PAMELA LEAL VIÑALS – The life recovery and spiritual rise of an international lesbian DJ

DJ Pamela is the international lesbian DJ that will join us at the first edition of ELLA Winter Davos in Switzerland, from 29th March to April 2nd 2018 and at the sixth edition of ELLA Summer Mallorca from 30th August to September 6th 2018.

She has been a DJ for 24 years now, and we couldn’t wait to hear more about her and her life experience that has made her the amazing person and spectacular musician she is now.

Here’s our ELLA Interview with her:

Please tell us a little bit about you, where are you from , where do you live, what do you do?

I was born in Chile who came to Sweden with my parents as 6 years old and have lived in Stockholm since then. I am a Musician and DJ, working as a music teacher. I love playing bass, guitar and percussion.

You mentioned you immigrated as a young girl to Sweden with your parents.Why did your parents leave Chile? What do you remember from Chile?

My parents left Chile because of the military coup led by Pinochet, which took place in 1973. I remember childhood age 4-6, that I went to school there and learned to write, read and math. I remember my big family with all my cousins ​​and that we often went to spend time with then in my grandparents big house at the village. I remember we lived in Santiago, in a nice house, that I went to school and had a school uniforme, that I had nannys and both of my parents worked, which was unusual at the time that women did. I have many strong memories from just when the military coup happened, I remember the state of emergency, when I had to be in a certain time at home, that if you were far away from home, you had to go into someone else’s home. I remember that the adults were worried and we were soon forced to leave the country.

I remember the day we arrived to Stockholm, Sweden. It was a hot summer day in the middle of summer, I I thought everyone was really blond and spoke strangely. That the Swedish letters Å Ä Ö were weird. That the streets were so clean and I did not understand why we had to go to bed when it was still bright outside (In Sweden there are still very bright summer evenings even though the clock is 23h).

When did you find out that you like women and how was your coming out?

When I was nine years old, I heard a classic saga where the princess was rescued by a prince. That moment, I thought I would like to save the princess instead. I was always in love with my female friends, female teachers and loved to be around women. But I did not come out until I was 22 years old, I had boyfriends but was always secretly in love with their sisters.

Finally when I came out, i felt like I was in heaven! I came out to my sister first and then my mother, the first two weeks they cried and were worried about how society would accept me, but after those two weeks there was not a problem. They fully accepted me and have always supported me since then. With dad, it was different. We had very bad contact at the time and we did not get along, I was quite angry with him for various reasons and I acted very rebelliously. My coming out to him came through a front newspaper release that appeared in every newsstand in Sweden. He became very angry, upset and felt very disappointed. When I was in Rehab we reconciled and today we have a great relationship.

How did you develop your passion for music?

I was born in Chile who came to Sweden with my parents as 6 years old and have lived in Stockholm since then. I am a Musician and DJ, working as a music teacher. I love playing bass, guitar and percussion.

You mentioned that you had quite a wild “youth”, could you tell us more about it?

The wildness of my youth rather happened when I came out of the closet! At the age of 22 I came out as a lesbian and it was like I had found home, I was in paradise. Before that, I had been a pretty good young girl who studied and worked hard, had a boyfriend and a well-organized life. But I always felt that there was something missing, so when I came out, it was like i was re-living my adolescence. I was playing around with ladies, I had girlfriends but i could not be faithful because i fell in love with other girls all the time. But, finally, I met one of my great lovers and we moved together.

At the same time, I had become very established in the LGTBQ-community and was one of the most engaged DJ. With that, I also came into contact with drugs that were very common in the club world. It was around the year of 1993, I did not use anything myself at first, I was against that and also afraid of drugs. But in those circles among the people I was at that time, it was very common with drugs, and I had a well-established life with work, girlfriend, home, social status, I thought I was safe. It started with my girlfriend and I spent weekends with friends and used on festive occasions. The more gigs I had, the more drugs came into our lives. Slowly but surely, the party drugs became part of our daily lives.

You mentioned you had an addiction problem at one point, how did you solve it and please tell us more about it…

For several years I lived a double life, I had developed an addiction to drugs and I couldn’t stop. My family was unaware for many years that I used drugs, but finally I could not hold the facade anymore. When I went to Barcelona for a period to play at clubs, the consumption of drugs became worse. Wherever I went to play there were drugs in abundance. It was cocaine, ecstasy, speed, weed, uppers, downs…everything. And because I was DJing, I often got it for free, which meant I always had access. I was the tough lesbian cool DJ who could take lots of drugs and yet play amazingly.

But eventually I couldn’t use anymore and the drugs didn’t work. I had become someone I did not want to be. I was not trustworthy, I started to loose gigs and jobs, I lost a lot of values ​​and I felt lost in almost every aspect of my life. I had to go back to Stockholm and tried to end using on my own. Unfortunately, I failed to quit on my own, I started again and this time it was worse. At the same moment, I realised that I will not be able to survive unless I ask for help. I asked for help and ended up in a rehab. I was there for eight months. It was the toughest time ever in my life, but the same day I came there my life started to change. There I learned all about the disease of addiction. When I left rehab I started my life all over again, but clean. One step at a time and I´ve bee clean since then (2007-06-21)

I wonder if its not very hard to be as well a Dj and be constantly surrounded by people who consume drugs like alcohol on a constant level? How do you deal with this?

I thought I could never be a DJ anymore. I associated it with drugs and the destructive life I had lived. My first years as clean I could not listen to music and I felt very lost and afraid of everything, but eventually I became safer in myself. The longer I’ve kept clean, the stronger my life’s spark has become. My true passion for music started to take place again, I started working with music again, as a teacher. I started listening to music again to stop being afraid of it, it took the command and instead, it became my channel for creativity. I started playing in small places where I felt safe with the organiser and let him or her know that I do not drink and use drugs. Outing myself was my way of keeping me safe.

It’s a challenge sometimes to be in the environment where drugs and alcohol occur, but my passion for music and delivering music to others is stronger. It gets me high, filling me with energy and endorphins in a completely natural way! I never want to change anything, to keep it, I need to take care of myself in every way I can. I live a healthy life today, surrounds me with people who are interested for similar things in life. I discovered that life is too short, it’s going too fast. I want to see myself in the mirror without regrets and live my life in the honest, clean way I can. In the past, when I used, I was afraid of all kind of feelings, especially pain. But today I’m not afraid, I want to feel all that feels. Today I am more alive and more present than ever.

You mentioned you were 8 months in rehab, and described it was the hardest time of your life. Could you tell us more about this and the time in the clinic. How did you feel and how did the evolution go?

It was in rehab I understood how badly in shape I really was-both physically, mentally and spiritually. I was in a rehab in Stockholm inspired by the Betty Ford clinic based on the twelve-step program. It was detox first for a week and then therapy every day in a group but also individual conversations. Basically I had used since the age of 24 and until the age of 39 so I had to reprogram myself and I wanted to survive. I learned there that I have the addiction disease and that I needed help and could get it there if I did what they told me to do. I decided to fully trust the therapists, I had nothing to lose. I had to meet myself on all levels and it was painful, but I received good help through therapy.

When I came to Rehab I had basically lost everything. But I had hope, even though it was small, that I could get help there. We were about 16 patients and when the therapist said, -“From the 16 of you there are only two who will survive and keep clean”. That’s was hard to hear and I got really afraid but that kept me motivated! I stayed at intensive rehab for 2 months and after that I was transferred to a halfway house. A halfway house is an institution that allows you to learn (or relearn) the necessary skills to reintegrate into society. As well as serving as a residence, halfway houses provide social, medical, psychiatric, educational, and other similar services.

After six months in the halfway house, it was time for me to move back to my own home. I did not want to leave, I had found a security there, but at the same time it was time for me to slowly start living the normal life again. The first time was really hard, I was anxious and could not find my place in who I should be. I had to start over very carefully, I soon began to work to keep me occupied at school as a teacher, and I went every evening to twelve-step meetings to keep me clean. What helped me doubtless was and still does, is twelve-step meetings, where I met people from different backgrounds but who have the same problem as I, and want to stay clean.

Eventually, the anxiety disappeared and got replaced by lust for life, joy and curiosity. At the beginning my goal was to stay clean, but what I’ve got it is beyond my wildest imagination. I have a wonderful life and most of all I feel free inside. I will always have the addiction disease, but I know how to take care of myself and I still go to meetings, there´s always a meeting in almost every city around the world. I still have the therapist’s word in my mind if I doubt, we were two who managed to stay clean and I have the grace to be one of them. This summer I celebrated 10 years clean and what I have experienced over these 10 years has taught me a lot. Life is not always easy and it goes way too fast, but I love to live and experience things with a present mind, no matter what.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I spend lot of my time with my family, my nephews and nice, my friends and by myself. I love to be at the gym or outside doing something physical…I have a lot of energy! I spend lot of time surrounded with music in any or other way. I like to travel, talk to people and be around water- I love the ocean!

How would you describe yourself, tell us more about you, what do you like about yourself, what don't you like?

I usually say things like they are, I’m patient but I also get bored quickly. I like that I'm focused, stubborn, laugh a lot, good at organise things, handy-fix almost everything by myself, good at technology and technical stuff. I don’t like that I'm stubborn, sometimes too dramatic, too perfectionist, tends to take over sometimes.

What are your dreams? If you could choose what would you like to happen in your life?

One of my dreams is to have a place close to the sea and the sun, around the Mediterranean, where I can live when its winter and cold in Sweden. In the future meet a lady to share my life with.

Tell us about an event that marked you a lot.

The first time i was in Amsterdam and saw men holding hands. The first time I was in a Pride parade, Copenhagen 1996. When Stockholm had Europride 1998, for the first time, all the streets of the city had rainbow flags adorned, an indescribable touching feeling!

Describe your dream partner…

Grounded, life experienced but youthful in mind, close to laughter, not so worried about things, independent, caring, curious…

Tell us a little bit about the women scene in Stockholm, what is it like? How would you describe Swedish women or the Swedish mentality in general?How do you feel coming from a chilean family but being raised there? Is there still any link to Chile or South America? Or how do you feel inside today?

Right now the women scene is very empty, we lack a steady place where lesbians can meet up in regular basis. In 1994, together with 3 other women, I started one of the biggest girls clubs in Stockholm “Bitch Girl Club”, a monthly club for lesbians with between 400-700 visitors every time, during Pride month it could reach up to 2000 visitors. For a while, the club was the biggest girl club in Scandinavia because we had visitors from Norway, Denmark and Finland, the club lasted until the winter of 2003. After that, there have been different clubs but not until 2009 when the girls club Moxy came. It was a co-operation with two restaurants Momma and Roxy, both owned by lesbians. Momma also had girls evenings over the weekend with DJs and live performances “Lezzie Friday” and “Lezzie Weekend”. In 2011, the Momma restaurant closed and a year after also the Roxy restaurant closed.

When there was no longer any place for women to go to, three friends created an event at the FB called “Hotellhänget”, it is an event where lesbians and their friends meet in the bar of an hotel after work on a Friday night in Stockholm. They invite their guests via FB. It started with a few copuples of women and today has about 4000 members now it is on of the biggest hangout event for lesbians in Stockholm. It’s not a club but more like an After Work, and non profit and it takes place every three Fridays of the month at Clarion Sthlm Hotel or Hotel Rival in Stockholm. “Hotellhänget” has also started in Gothenburg now.

There are also women’s clubs a few times a year, the biggest one is Moxy with its 400-600 visitors every time, during Pride week up to 1500 guests, Moxy has about 4000 members. Then theres also club “Tjejfesten” which attracts younger lesbians and has about 600 members.

But what we really need here in Stockholm it´s our own place. Like yours “La Dama de Ella”.

I do not usually reflect so much about how Swedish lesbian women are, they are not different than other lesbian women i´ve met from around the world. On the other hand, I usually reflect on the difference between the audience I have depending on the club; girls clubs vs gay clubs where the majority are boys/men. At girls parties I play more mainstream music, more popular music and more commercial. At girls parties my experience is that the girls want songs they recognize, no more than 4 min long, where they can sing along in the refrain, etc. In mixed gay clubs I play pure club music, that’s where I can play what I’m more passionate about musically speaking. On mixed floor I play legends like Danny Tenaglia, Kerry Chandler, Louie Vega, Monika Kruse, Chus & Ceballos, Kenny Dope, Nicole Modaber and many more.

I think the reason why the girls clubs are and gay clubs are so different, it’s because of the disco club’s impact in the early 1970s with big DJ’s  and the club music developed and there was a lot of gay people, especially gay men. That club culture is still alive today, I’ve experienced both here in Scandinavia and in the Mediterranean.

At the beginning of my DJ career I had big issues towards play commercial music I played at girls parties. Today I have no problem with that at all, I don´t have the same prestige and think it’s quite phenomenal to be able to move freely among different styles and clubs- I love to make people happy! The most important thing today is to be loyal and stay faithful to my LGTBQ community.

The ties I have to my country are through my parents who also live in Sweden, and through the language. I have contact with some cousins. Last i was in chile was 1990 and have not been there ever since. I would like to go there sometime in the future to see how the country is today, the country I want to live is Sweden. On the other hand, I am extremely proud of my Latin American culture, language and heritage.

Sweden is known as a very safe, developed, and tolerant country on top with a great social system. Do you think homosexuality is generally very normalised in Sweden and no big deal anymore at all or are there still things which have to be improved? If yes, what for example? Do you feel very free and save there?

Yes, Sweden has a great social system and it is a very open and tolerant country regarding homosexuality, especially in the capital Stockholm. However, I notice that in smaller cities there is still some attention to being open with their homosexuality. I am often around Sweden playing at different Pride as cities organize and then I see how important it is with Pride celebration. There is still hidden homophobia, and in small towns it tends to be stuck, therefore Pride is needed and all kinds of manifestations where the LGTBQ movement is in focus. Those gigs are often the ones I personally get from a political perspective, making the most of as in my role as DJ, I work for our LGTBQ community.

The joy and gratitude I feel when my music can unite people in such contexts is unimaginable!

Some schools are HBTQ certified, meaning that HBTQ is in focus, that the working environment should be a natural place for HBTQ people, the school that I work in is just a such place. It’s fantastic for me to see some of my students not to have to struggle with issues as orientation, those I experienced as a young child. Yes I feel very free and safe in Sweden, I can be exactly just the one I am. Thats why I love this country!

ELLA has now developed a new travel website ( ) with special trips and events not only in Mallorca but internationally for women. What would be a destination you would like to travel to apart from Mallorca of course? Or what would you think would be a nice new destination for a trip or an event?

I would love to go to Nepal! I have not yet been to Asia and it would be so amazing to make that trip along with other lesbians-what an adventure!

Thank you Pamela!

See you at#ELLAWinter!



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