We Interviewed DJ Tigerlily About Mental Health, Sexuality, School Life and Dealing with Eating Disorders

Now one of Australia's most in-demand artists, Dara Hayes aka DJ Tigerlily got her start by entering in the 2011 Your Shot competition not far from here at the Greenwood Hotel in North Sydney. She's 25 now and has since racked up a lot of miles and some frequent flyer points too having toured and played at some of the biggest festivals and clubs all over Australia, Asia, Europe and the US, including headlining at Hakkasan Nightclub in Las Vegas' famous strip. You'd be mistaken to think she was just a disc jockey though, she's also a recording artist and passionate about keeping a healthy body and mind, inspiring others do the same for themselves too. As an ambassador for Lifeline she's been an outspoken advocate for mental health and uses her own experiences to help spread awareness and encourage other young people like her to get help. We were lucky enough to catch up with her for the Heads Up eMagazine.

So Tigerlily, you’ve toured all over the world, playing at some of the biggest music events that exist, what have you learned about yourself along the way?

I've learnt so much about myself. I firmly believe that the only time we truly learn about ourselves is when we are going through times of difficulty, hardship and challenge. I've learnt that I'm far more resilient that I think. I've learnt that the most important things to me are health, happiness, and relationships. I've learnt that I don't necessarily want to be a world famous DJ, that I'm really happy with where I'm at now with my career. I've also learnt that I have so many other interests and beautiful things to share with the world that aren't 100% music related! WOW!

You’ve also managed to do a lot of this while studying and earning a Bachelor’s Degree from USYD at the same time, how did you manage that and what was it like doing both at the same time?

It was definitely difficult. I had to really prioritise my time management and I learnt a lot about dedication and persistence during those 5 years. I wanted to throw in the towel so many times but I'm so so unbelievably glad that I didn't quit and I now have a great degree under my belt. One thing I missed out on was having a social life at Uni. While everyone else was partying, I was working. I would really encourage anyone who is at Uni to do every extracurricular activity possible because I feel that I missed out during my time there.

What was high school life like for you and what were some of the positives and negatives from going to an all-girls high school?

I loved going to an all-girls high school. If I have kids I'd probably send them to a co-ed primary school, and a same sex high school. I went to a selective high school in Kogarah and I am really thankful that I did. It was pretty nerdy and pretty sheltered from the outside world of teenagers, drugs, alcohol and sex (etc etc), but it allowed us all to grow and develop at our own pace. I have some really beautiful friends from high school that I still see really regularly and I know they will be my friends for life!

You’ve said that when you first told your friends and mum about the news that you were bisexual and “had a crush on a girl” (who you ended up dating for three years), that it was received pretty well. Do you have any advice for other LGBTIQA+ young people who might be worried about a similar scenario not playing out so well?

I don't know if I ever coined myself 'bisexual'... I've never really liked giving my sexuality a title. I just like the idea of flow. Either way, it's so hard for me to give advice because I was very fortunate in the way that my friends and family accepted the news of me dating a girl. I would say, ultimately, I think being honest and true is always most important. In 99% of cases, your family will always love you and care about you, even if they aren't accepting and happy at the start. Reach out to community groups, social networking groups, and people that you know will be able to support you through it.

As a popular public figure in this age of social media, how do you deal with cyberbullying, negative comments and all the “haters”?

I have a pretty strict no bullshit policy when it comes to bullying and haters. I absolutely cannot stand online bullying at all. It makes me so disappointed in humanity when I see some of the things written about myself or others online. When someone is bullying me online, I immediately block them and delete what they've said. Out of sight. Out of mind. The one thing that I always remind myself, is that a happy person never says or does hateful things towards another person. Ultimately, I have to send love and compassion to the bully because they probably need it most.

You responded fiercely and brilliantly when nude photos of you were leaked online illegally, and turned the incident into something positive by choosing to organise a fundraising page for headspace. Why did you choose us?

Thank you! I chose Headspace because I firmly believe in what you guys do, and I know how important your services are for so many young kids and teenagers these days. Bullying online through the leaking of photos and other similar acts is becoming so common these days and to know that I could financially support an organisation that helps teens through this time made a huge amount of sense to me, and turned a bad situation into a good one.

Having battled with anorexia in the past, you’re now very comfortable in your own skin and tell other women out there to also be confident and to never be ashamed of their bodies. What are some tips you’ve used to help build that positive body image?

It takes a lot of work from being sick to getting better, especially when it comes to eating disorders and mental health issues. My tips would be to firstly, seek out professional help. I had the help of an amazing Hypnotherapist/Psychologist and I can't thank her for he work enough. Secondly, going vegan really helped me understand what it truly means to be healthy and encouraged me to fill my body with beautiful nutritious foods. I think ultimately, you have to want to get better first, before you take an tips or advice from anyone.

You recently changed your hair colour from its trademark blue to blonde, after having it that way for four years, what did this change symbolise for you?

I suppose than change symbolised a shift in my career. I'm moving into a slightly more lifestyle focused space now, while still continuing the music side of my career. I'm getting older too (I'm 25 now) so I think the blonde symbolised me growing up a little bit. I'm glad I did it!

As one of only a relative handful of successful female DJ’s in an industry dominated by men, do you feel any extra pressure to represent for all other young women who support you and want to be like you?

I don't necessarily feel any extra pressure to perform. I honestly never have felt pressure to perform which I know is abnormal especially in the industry I'm in. I do however strive to be the best role model I can be for young women, and I try every day to make young women believe that anything is possible!

You suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, how do manage this and what kind of things do you do to look after your headspace?

In the past I've had really bad anxiety and I'm so glad that these days it's totally under control. Meditation really helped, as well as yoga, regular exercise, less alcohol and sleep. I know all these things sound like common sense, but for a long time I wasn't doing them, or necessarily treating my body right. The time and effort and love that you put into your body really shows.

You converted to veganism last year, how did it affect the relationship you have with food and how it affects your body and mind?

I've never been happier, healthier, or full of life - it was literally the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. My world, my mind, my body and my health has been changed for the better - I cannot even explain in words how thankful I am that I made the change. My relationship with food was not always healthy, especially growing up as a teenager I battled with this for a long time. These days, I never have bad days, I never feel the way I used to especially in regards to food, and I always enjoy cooking, eating and learning about nourishing food!

What things in your life make you happiest right now?

My relationships, my regular exercise routine, cold ocean swims (yes, I know it's winter), and how good the apples are at this time of year!

What would Dara Hayes be doing if she wasn’t DJ Tigerlily?

I'm not sure to be honest. I studied a Bachelor of Media and Communications at USYD with majors in Marketing and Sociology, so maybe something to do with that. Otherwise, I would love to be working in the health industry - I'm so so passionate about that (if you haven't already gauged from this interview haha)! In the future I'm thinking of going back to uni to study nutrition or something health-focused with the aim of potentially opening up a health clinic in years to come.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Smile and relax! Your HSC doesn't matter. Drink less alcohol. Eat more greens. Swim in the ocean more. Spend more time with your Poppy.

What question do you always wish someone would ask you in an interview but no one ever does, and what is the answer to that question?

Q: What's your favourite book?
A: 'The Power Of Now' by Eckhart Tolle (literally changed my whole life forever)

Read up on Dj Tigerlily's tour dates and her blog through her website or give her a follow on Facebook and Instagram.