'I attract all kinds of people who wouldn't necessarily be coming out to dance.' 'I attract all kinds of people who wouldn't necessarily be coming out to dance.' 'I attract all kinds of people who wouldn't necessarily be coming out to dance.' (Photo: Nina Logan / Courtesy Grace Mozes)

Former Israeli model reinvents herself as D.C.-area DJ

Grace Mozes is using music to help heal herself and others.

Grace Mozes made a remarkable discovery after she got a divorce. "I found myself with something I never really had before – and that's evenings and weekends off."

The Arlington, Va., mom has shared custody of her three daughters, and when the girls were at their dad's house, Mozes was left home with not much to do. "I think it's very easy to fall into being lonely when you're used to being with kids," she told From The Grapevine when we caught up with her this week.

She confided with a couple of good friends who were also divorced, and they encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone. And that's when Mozes decided to become a DJ.

Grace (left) was encouraged to become a DJ by her fellow Brazilian friends Nina Logan (center) and Bella Iannotti (right). Grace (left) was encouraged to become a DJ by her fellow Brazilian friends Nina Logan (center) and Bella Iannotti (right). (Photo: Courtesy Grace Mozes)

"Part of how I cope with life is through music," she explained. "I lost one of my best friends a few years ago, but I found a way back to her. Every Friday, I post a song on her Facebook wall. It started off with songs of memories of things we used to do and it morphed into something that happened to me that week that I told her through song. And then my daughter would get involved and dedicate a song to her. So through music, I was able to find a really deep and meaningful connection to this good friend that I lost."

During her divorce, Mozes kept sharing playlists with others who were going through similar experiences. "When I was really upset or angry, I headed to my car and blasted Rage Against the Machine. Or I would play Carrie Underwood, or optimistic songs. It really helped me set the mood for myself and overcome whatever challenge I had that day."

DJ Grace Mozes had her first gig at the unlikeliest of places – Lyon Hall, a French bistro. Why there? "Well, the food is really good and I've been eating there for years," she said with a laugh. She asked the owner if she could DJ there after dinner one night and, before she knew it, her new career had begun.

'I know what people want to hear,' Mozes said. 'I have four decades of music in me, so I'm able to pull out those gems.' 'I know what people want to hear,' Mozes said. 'I have four decades of music in me, so I'm able to pull out those gems.' (Photo: Nina Logan / Courtesy Grace Mozes)

"I saw something on Facebook the other day that really resonated with me," she explained. "The secret to success is to start something when you're not ready. And that's what happened. I didn't feel like I was ready at all."

That was just a few short months ago, and Mozes is already making a name for herself in Arlington and nearby D.C. She DJs at Spanish restaurant Ser and the American-themed Spirits of '76. She plays with the Brazilian funk Pablo Regis band at the G.O.A.T sports bar. Outside the confines of a typical dance club, her sets attract others in her demographic – singles in their 30s and 40s and parents who found a babysitter for the night.

And this weekend she'll be DJing at her daughter Isabel's elementary school graduation party. "She's really proud, which makes me feel good," Mozes said. Her girls are learning to mix music and helping their mom create playlists.

From left to right: Daughters Isabel, Siana and Yarden serve as a constant source of inspiration. From left to right: Daughters Isabel, Siana and Yarden serve as a constant source of inspiration. (Photo: Courtesy Grace Mozes)

Moving, modeling and music

Mozes' circuitous route to becoming a DJ spans careers and countries. Her mother is Brazilian and her father is Israeli. The middle of five daughters, she spent her youth in São Paulo and Holland. When she was 11, the family moved to Israel, where Mozes spent her teen years trying to figure out what to do with her life. "I wanted to be happy," she said. "Some people knew exactly what they wanted to be and always strive to do just that. I think, for me, it was more the kind of life I wanted to live. And then I see what fits into that."

After high school, she spent a few years as a model – appearing in Israeli ad campaigns for clothing brands and sunglasses companies. She appeared in a commercial for Coca-Cola, and even tried her hand at acting. But she eventually opted for a job behind the camera. At the age of 22, she produced "Keep on Dancing," a documentary about the indestructible spirit of her fellow Israelis.

Mozes spent her early 20s as an Israeli fashion model. Mozes spent her early 20s as an Israeli fashion model. (Photo: Menachem Oz / Courtesy Grace Mozes)

When she got married and moved to the U.S., she dove further into the movie business. She now works in financing and development for film and television. Ari Pinchot is the president of Crystal City Entertainment and has worked on several movies with Mozes. "Grace is a creative and idealistic force who has a ton of heart and is constantly on a journey to discover new ways to express her artistic soul," he told us. "This new chapter of her life is just another example of the inability to put her in a box and define her limits."

Mozes tests those limits each time she opens her laptop and dons her headphones. "I still get nervous. Every time I have to play, I'm sure I'm going to fall flat on my face," she admitted. But it's her daughters who get her through the anxiety. "They're like, 'Mom, you've killed it before. You're gonna be just fine. Just breathe.' And they repeat to me all this good advice that I've said to them when they're nervous. And the moment I play that first song, I'm good."

She's still honing her craft, and will be returning to Tel Aviv this summer to play with her mentor, Kobi Saka, a well-known Israeli DJ. "He basically shaped my taste in music," Mozes said, adding that she loves the rock music stylings of Depeche Mode and The Cure. Now, she wants to give back as well. "I would love to start teaching more girls how to DJ and get more females into this awesome profession."

Seen here in Tel Aviv, Mozes returns to Israel three times a year to visit family. Seen here in Tel Aviv, Mozes returns to Israel three times a year to visit family. (Photo: Courtesy Grace Mozes)

All the while, Mozes realizes that she turned one of life's most difficult challenges into something positive. "Getting divorced sucks. Nobody gets married to get divorced. That's definitely not what I wanted for my life," she said, as we wrapped up our conversation. "The whole divorce process is really tough. But being divorced does not have to suck. A lot of women that go through this feel like life is over, and it definitely isn't. You can constantly reinvent yourself. What do you want to do in life? Which kind of energy do you want to surround yourself in?"

For Mozes, she repeats a mantra. "I just want to be happy."

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Former Israeli model reinvents herself as D.C.-area DJ
Grace Mozes is using music to help heal herself and others.