Jazz-ercise

Tolu Agunbiade

Jasmine Ellis at 92.9 NIN. Photo by Kaja Banas-Salsman

“Where’s Jazz?”

Jasmine Ellis could be anywhere.

At the moment, it’s 9 p.m. The only sustenance the mass communication major has had all day is Chex Mix and a burrito she washed down with a Red Bull in the 92.9 NIN parking lot.

92.9 is the radio station where she’s been DJing three days a week. It’s her second time behind the mic. Ellis made her first appearance on air as an intern for Hot 103.9, a competitor station, where she co-hosted with Kidd Cameron.

It was there, after her first few nights on air, that people began asking “Where’s Jazz?” on her nights off.

“People really responded to me and I became a regular,” she said.

On this day, as on many others, she’s squeezed in four classes between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. she attended a University Program Board meeting where she serves as executive chair. Then she went to her job at the radio station. She capped her night off by studying until midnight.

“My life isn’t impossible. It just takes a strict schedule and a lot of willpower,” she said.

Right now, though, radio is her passion.

On the Daily Midday show she introduces pop music in between commercials.

“I am very personal on the radio,” she said. “People feel they know me.”

Ellis thought back to high school where she was concerned with pleasing others and didn’t get to be herself.

Radio changed all that and brought her out of her shell.

“My mama always said, ‘Your gift is what you do best with the least effort,’” Ellis said. “I think I’m well-spoken. I’m really inquisitive and I know how to connect with people.”

Being the middle of three sisters, she said she had to cultivate her skills in order to stick out.

“I didn’t want to be just like my sisters.”

It upsets her when people assume she got the job because of her looks or to fill a gender quota.

“Someone asked me, ‘Did they just need a girl?’ I said, “No, they just needed me.

“I’m very conscious of what happens to women around the world. There are a lot of issues…sex trafficking, child abuse and domestic violence. I want to look at our social structure and ask why our world is this way. When you’re in the public eye, you have the chance to influence peoples’ opinions somewhat.”

During the summer she organized and hosted a benefit concert at the Grove apartments to raise money for the family of Krista Hodges, a little girl who died of cancer.

Ellis also has opportunities to talk to children motivationally. It brings her joy to deliver a message about staying in school and staying positive.

“You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take,” she said. “Basically, if you don’t try, you lose. As long as you try you have a chance to win.”

Being on the radio has its ups, but can also have its downs – Ellis said she’s had stalkers.

Guys she doesn’t know have called the station to talk to her. A listener hit on her at a bar several months ago. When she refused his advances he grabbed both her wrists and started screaming obscenities at her.

He was escorted out by security.

“I honestly never been more afraid,” she said.

But she isn’t about to let that incident slow her down. Her job as a radio DJ is a catalyst to helping her unwind.

“A lot of people reinvent themselves when they come to college,” she said. “I actually started being myself.”

   Send article as PDF