As the girl in junior high listening to new wave and making mixtapes, it was no surprise that when Zarnaz “Zee” Zandi moved from Seattle to Las Vegas in ’94 to open her own coffee shop (next to the late, great Utopia Nightclub), her passion for electronic music turned into a lifestyle. Dubbed the Queen of House, Zandi is a longtime industry champion who quickly moved up from cocktail waitress to bartender, then from being one of the first female VIP hosts to booking her favorite electronic acts at our best venues including the Angel Management Group properties. Zandi was most recently crowned director of nightlife entertainment at the Wynn Resorts, and is making of the elegant resort’s nightlife landscape an electronic dreamland.
You’ve always seemed to know Vegas was destined to be a house music mecca. How do you balance your personal friendships with the DJs with the needs of the business?
I never let the business side affect my relationship side. I always make sure there’s a separation. I never cross the line of going straight to the DJ; I follow the guidelines. You do become close with people, and you don’t ever want to put a DJ in a situation that they feel uncomfortable in. You don’t want to make them feel like they can’t do what’s best for them and their career.
Being around all that testosterone, there has to be a DJ around whom you get star-struck?
There’s only one DJ that’s made me nervous, and I’ve never crossed the lines of business and pleasure! I’ve always had one DJ crush, though: Armand Van Helden. He’s the only DJ that I’ve ever picked up for work, and on the car ride I’m literally stuttering. I could sit up next to the president and not be affected, but sitting next to [Van Helden] I can’t even hold a conversation. Really funny and embarrassing at the same time!
Maybe he feels the same! You’re the Vegas scene’s biggest supporter. How have you opened Las Vegas’ ears to the mesmerizing music’s world?
I think by sticking to what I love and believed in. I was fortunate enough in my career—especially in the past 10 years—to have people that believed in me and believed in the music, and people could support something that wasn’t mainstream.
Going against the mainstream sets you apart. What else has helped you?
I’ve always been very genuine. I value all my relationships as friendships; it’s something my mother taught me—“Treat people the same way you want to be treated.” She said, “Whatever you do in life, make sure when you wake up in the morning and you look in the mirror, you’re happy with who you are.” That’s really stayed with me. You just have to be real yourself. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver. The more honest you are with somebody, the more successful you’re going to be.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, was it difficult to gain credibility?
Absolutely, at first. I think in the whole nightlife industry there are only a few girls that can survive. You have to have a hard backbone. You cannot be sensitive, you have to take things as they are. It’s a difficult industry; it’s an amazing industry. In anything, though, you have to gain respect, no matter who you are.
Was there a moment when you realized this is what you wanted to be doing the rest of your life?
I think that moment happened to me when I did a show at The Joint with Swedish House Mafia. Neil [Moffitt] had my back in believing in SHM. That was the one show that I took a step back and was like, “Wow, I’m so blessed that I have such an amazing job.” That was the first thing that I had ever worked on where I was like, “I can’t see myself doing anything else, besides being a full-time mom.”
Is your son Dimitri influenced by your exciting lifestyle?
The other day we saw a magazine that had Deadmau5 on the cover, and he’s 10, should know about Mickey Mouse, but he turns around and goes, “Hey mom, isn’t that your friend Deadmau5?” I thought, “Oh, boy. Have I made a mistake, or is he just awesome?” I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t have a child who wasn’t such an amazing little boy.