Angela Jollivette, also known as DJ Moonbaby, has music embedded into her DNA. From spinning tracks for several radio stations to DJing for icons like Ava Duvernay, Angela is regarded as one of the top DJs in LA. Her musical footprint blends the genres of Soul, Jazz, R&B, and Hip-Hop, establishing a sound as unique as her path.
After wearing multiple hats during her ten years with The Recording Academy, Angela founded her own music supervision and content production firm, Moonbaby Media. Since becoming a producer and music supervisor for her own company, Angela has found success in overseeing the musical dialogue for works including BET’s Sunday’s Best and now VH1.
With a portfolio that includes events for CBS, The Grammys, The Pan-African Film Festival, and music supervision of season two for OWN’s Greenleaf, it is obvious that Angela is worth the hype. While being an NAACP & Stellar award-winning music producer may allow arrogance to arise within some, Angela makes it clear that humility is always guiding her.
In our interview, Angela shares her journey navigating the entertainment industry, walking in one’s purpose, and being the light in a dark room.
Her Agenda: While I was already fond of you, something that made me relate to you, even more, was to learn that you are from Compton. Growing up in a challenging area, what kept you on the right path to attend college and move towards success?
Angela Jollivette: My paternal grandmother, Martha Jollivette, who I was raised by kept me on track. She was a very strict, but lenient mother at the same time. She was a very strong woman who in turn made sure that I stayed focused and sent me to Catholic school my whole life, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Even though I grew up in that area (I know Compton has a big stigma to it) I did not see a lot of the things television or the media portrayed about the city itself. I knew about what was going on in certain areas but I was pretty much sheltered from that and did not go to public school in that area. I was very focused and centered on school, educating myself, doing the right thing, and being able to grow outside of the community.
Her Agenda: Something that may shock people is that you studied orthodontics and eventually social anthropology and musicology in college. When coming into an industry like this, how much do you think being educated has helped you professionally and personally?
Angela Jollivette: I think it is very important. Obviously you go for different reasons, but in general, one of the biggest lessons I learned from college was to start something and complete it. College can be challenging to navigate. For me, I loved school and wanted to be a professional student forever if I could have. I think having that foundation and an education prepares you to go into a corporate world. In entertainment, there are different levels to it as you could work in the corporate side of music or television or film. You can also work as a freelancer doing your own thing where you’re not really a corporate machine. College allows you a structure and knowing what it is like so that when you get into the real world, you can still sustain yourself.
Her Agenda: As an established Black woman in entertainment, how often do you still have to prove yourself and tolerate injustice rooted in your race and gender? How do you navigate such situations?
Angela Jollivette: I really don’t look at life like that in general. I know that it exists and that it’s going on around me, but if I focus on that it would put me in a deficit thinking about that in the forefront daily. It’s just one of those things that you know exists, but moving forward day to day, I’m very much close to God and my relationship there. So, to me, He’s in control of everything no matter what is going on around me and trying to take me off-kilter.
At the end of the day, you are constantly navigating and building relationships with people of color and people who aren’t of color. So it’s all about being the best person you can be and not worrying about what the next person is doing. We all have to support each other because we know what we are up against. The base of that is being very confident, preparing yourself, and being ready to go into any room and know that there are going to be challenges and things that try to block you. There are always ways around challenges but when doors don’t open, I plainly see it wasn’t meant for me to walk through.
Her Agenda: In June 2017, you launched your own music supervision and content production firm, Moonbaby Media. What prompted you to work for yourself?
Angela Jollivette: The choice to do that was made for me as certain positions were very political. Many things can be a conflict of interest working directly with talent, artists, or music in general.
The position that I held for The Recording Academy was to oversee gospel television, film, and world music, which I did for a decade. I knew that I wanted to transition out and I didn’t know how it was going to happen exactly, but God knew. When I got the opportunity to work on a major network show, Greenleaf season two, I was still at the Academy for quite some time. When the music was released from the soundtrack that I produced, and the show aired, it was a conflict of interest for me to still be at the Academy. The position was made for me to transition out at that point because the album and some of the songs off that soundtrack were in consideration for a Grammy. And, I could no longer hold the position and have an album or song in consideration, so that was my exit in 2017.
A lot of people say that I took a leap of faith but God made it very clear that my steps were aligned and it was time for me to go.
I get opportunities and I’ve been blessed to get continuous work but I’ve also gotten opportunities that have walked out of my hand as quickly as I have gotten them. You have to be okay with that and knowing what is for you is for you and when that door isn’t open that’s just not what God has for you.
Her Agenda: I read about how you went to a Recording Academy Writers Panel on your birthday and in less than a month, you were working for them. What has prompted you to always put your best foot forward and fearlessly take risks?
Angela Jollivette: You definitely have a reputation to uphold in this business, which is all you have. You always want to treat people right, have people think highly of you and have good things to say about you. You always want to continue to be a light in a place that has a lot of darkness. It’s important to do things on the up and up, be professional, and continue to grow. I know God planted a lot of seeds in me and gave me many talents, not just one talent. For me, it’s about honing in on those talents and continuing to prepare myself to be in position for when he opens those doors and opportunities for me.
You definitely have a reputation to uphold in this business, which is all you have. You always want to treat people right, have people think highly of you and have good things to say about you. You always want to continue to be a light in a place that has a lot of darkness.
Her Agenda: I know that you have roots in gospel music and allowed the genres fluctuating style to be your foundation. Besides the music influencing your career, did you often use the messages found in gospel to keep you on the right path?
Angela Jollivette: Yes, I did. I did not grow up listening to gospel music. I grew up in Catholic school and we had religion class every day from kindergarten to twelfth grade. We had practice for the choir but I was into hip hop and R&B. Some people grew up in the church and weren’t allowed to listen to secular music but I was the opposite. I listened to secular music more than I listened to anything. My relationship got strong with God just growing up in catholic school, having my grandmother behind me continuing to show me how to be a woman, and knowing that there is a higher power in control.
Her Agenda: As creative people, we often question our abilities and may diminish our talents. Though you have accolades and achievements under your belt, does self-doubt ever creep in and if so, what affirmations do you tell yourself?
Angela Jollivette: Doing your own thing is not easy because you don’t have a cushion or support system in place like you do within a company. You don’t have access to certain things like you do every day when you go into an office and you are at a deficit every day that you wake up because you don’t always know what’s coming, even if you try to plan for it. At the end of the day, you lay the groundwork, you lay the foundation, and then you continue to build on that. That’s what I’ve done for myself by being at the Academy for a decade, building the relationships that I’ve built, and now getting into a new realm.
You have to be able to take rejection, deal with the bumps in the road, and be prepared for that. I get opportunities and I’ve been blessed to get continuous work but I’ve also gotten opportunities that have walked out of my hand as quickly as I have gotten them. You have to be okay with that and knowing what is for you is for you and when that door isn’t open that’s just not what God has for you. That’s how I move forward because I know that what’s for me is for me because it was already written.
Doing your own thing is not easy because you don’t have a cushion or support system in place like you do within a company.
Her Agenda: When curating music, whether it’s original music for a soundtrack or DJing, where do you find your source of inspiration?
Angela Jollivette: It depends, but I like to discover music. A lot of people want me to listen to their music as people send me music every day, all day long, every way you can think of. But, I find joy in discovering music myself and finding an artist or a rock that’s been hiding and seeing something unique that nobody sees yet and putting it on a platform for other people to discover.
I find joy in discovering music myself and finding an artist or a rock that’s been hiding and seeing something unique that nobody sees yet and putting it on a platform for other people to discover.
Her Agenda: Lastly, what is one thing that you would tell twenty-year-old Angela?
Angela Jollivette: I would say: make good choices and continue to do good things. Obviously we make mistakes growing up and have to go through situations in order to see and learn how things should be done. At the end of the day, sometimes we look back and think maybe if we made this decision things would have gone this way. Or, maybe if I didn’t make that decision, things wouldn’t have turned out that way. In terms of looking back, it’s all about making good choices as much as possible and avoiding derailing as much as you can, in order to get to where you want.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]