Skip to main content
Credit: Dan Reid

Miss Monique: green light

When she fled Ukraine in 2022, Olesia Arkusha had no idea it would prove to be the most pivotal year of her career. In the years since, the DJ/producer has gained more than one million YouTube followers, remixed the work of Madonna, Blond:ish and David Guetta, and received wide acclaim for her subtle and melodic take on progressive house. DJ Mag’s Anna Wall details her rise.

“The crowd is very energetic and crazy, in the good meaning of this word. I feel a huge love from these people,” says Olesia Arkusha, better known as Miss Monique. We’re talking about her experience in Latin America after returning home yesterday. It's a part of the world that she loves to frequent, and home to a loyal fanbase that is growing exponentially.

In recent years we’ve watched the Ukraine-born, Lisbon-based DJ and producer rise to stardom, routinely gracing the main stages of festivals and clubs worldwide, nowadays with a dedicated following of one million and counting on her YouTube channel. But this is no overnight success: there’s been over a decade of commitment and a genuine unwavering passion for her craft that has paved the way to the exposure she’s experiencing now.

Yesterday, she returned home from tour, with the final destination being a headline set in Buenos Aires' Mandarine Park, a venue she had packed to the rafters. Amongst the crowd were fans in wigs, impersonating her vibrant green hair, some waving home-made banners with her name emblazoned across the front, some with Argentinian and Ukrainian flags, and many laden with presents to give her after the show.

“When I play my sets here, I wish time would stop for a while and give us a chance to enjoy those special moments together,” she says. We’re talking via Zoom from her apartment in the Portuguese capital, where she’s lived for the last two years. “I moved to Lisbon because on the 24th of February 2022, Russia attacked my home,” she tells DJ Mag. “I didn’t plan to move to another place, but unfortunately to have a chance to help Ukraine and Ukrainians I had to leave my country, as the logistics are very complicated there.” She pauses for a second. “I find Portugal a very beautiful country. Portuguese people are some of the kindest in the world and always trying to help with everything. And of course the nature and the food. This country truly impresses.”

These days her time at home is sometimes limited due to her non-stop touring schedule, but it’s a place where she’s found sanctuary. Miss Monique exudes a huge sense of admiration when discussing the crowds that come to see her play. During the Latin American tour, some of her most diligent fans joined her at every party – an impressive eight shows across two weeks. This isn’t a unique experience, however, and it never ceases to amaze Miss Monique how thoughtful her fans are.

“I also couldn’t not mention the moment when my listeners come and meet me at airports or hotels with green hair, creative flags, presents and photos. I would like them to know how much this means to me and how much I appreciate their presence in my life,” she says. It’s clear to see that her loyal fanbase has been a huge part of her journey, and perhaps it’s her love for connection and interaction that has nurtured such a mutual appreciation and strong affinity.

Photo of Miss Monique turning to face the camera with her green hair twirled out
Credit: Dan Reid

“I can’t find words to describe how happy and appreciative I am to my audience for their support. Some of those people have been with me since my first podcast on YouTube.”

Olesia Arkusha was born in Kirovograd, a small city in central Ukraine where she spent the first eight years of her life. “Kirovograd is a beautiful, not too big town, where everyone knows each other. I enjoyed the years I spent there, and being next to all my huge family made my childhood an amazing time,” she shares. When she turned eight, Arkusha’s family moved to Kyiv, the country’s capital and largest city, a place that became home — it was here that she first discovered dance music.

“I love Kyiv so much,” she says affectionately. “If you compare it to Kirovograd, it’s a big city with big opportunities. Moving there was my chance to find myself in this life.” She started frequenting clubs as young as sixteen years old and it quickly became a fascination for Arkusha. “A bit early!” she laughs. “I lied to my parents that I’m going to the club with my older friends who take care of me, but I didn’t. I was just with my best friend. That was a fun time,” she remembers.

Every weekend, she listened to Ukrainian DJs on the scene such as Smailov and Kon’, and although their musical paths may differ from her own, she still finds inspiration from them today, praising their unique skills and charisma. When she turned 18, she began exploring festivals and discovering artists that were touring through the country, such as Sander van Doorn. “During that time you could hear almost any genre of music,” she says. “Sometimes it was progressive house, another night it could be hip-hop or techno. From this side I think we had many options. Whatever you wanted to listen and dance to, you could easily find a party with that music.”

At home in Kyiv there were a multitude of scenes happening on her doorstep, but Arkusha’s taste was instantly drawn to the sounds of progressive house. It was 2010, around the time that the genre was experiencing another worldwide resurgence. Perhaps drawn to the mesmeric, melodic, groove-led records of the time, with their euphoric breakdowns that conjured copious amounts of energy or emotion, it was the genre that she was initiated into when she learnt how to DJ. Around the same time one of her close friends worked in a nightclub and gave her access to the DJ booth during the daytime to practise. Within the first six hours she’d learnt the art of mixing, and within days began playing the warm-up slot at the club.

Photo of Miss Monique DJing in front of a large crowd
Credit: Dan Reid

“I was learning the DJ equipment during my sets,” she reveals. The venue was called Prime Club and although the venue closed its doors in 2012, Arkusha spent two solid years in that booth honing her skills. Playing the warm-up set was a big learning curve, and is perhaps why she’s so adaptable to different spaces and scenarios today. During this time she was gaining recognition in Ukraine and neighbouring countries; she adopted the name Miss Monique as it felt more accessible to international audiences. Soon, her gig dates began to multiply.

For her first show in Mukachevo, a city in Western Ukraine, she remembers being both nervous and excited. Her mum came with her on the trip and it was the first time she’d seen her perform; at first her mum wanted her to be an air stewardess rather than a DJ, but she’s since come round to the idea and is proud of her daughter’s success. Miss Monique remembers her first gig in Europe clearly. “It was a party in Prague on a ship, with 200 or 300 people on board. It took us on a sunset ride at the rapids of the Vltava to the rhythms of progressive music. It was great!”

In spring 2013, fellow Ukrainian DJs Spartaque and Burzhuy started a new project called Radio Intense. It was an online radio station that was streamed and opened up the possibility to chat with listeners live. “I found this idea unique and wanted to be part of it so much,” she remembers. Unlike regular FM radio stations in Ukraine, this was an opportunity to share music with a much wider audience. On June 24th of the same year she broadcast her first live stream, a show called Mind Games, and since then she’s recorded over 80 episodes. She began uploading the Mind Games Podcast onto YouTube, and as the podcast series grew organically over time so did her followers. The shows encapsulated her personality and essence completely — her radiant energy in the booth, the contagious smile, and technical mixing skills that were nailed to perfection.

In 2018 she launched the MiMo Weekly podcast that was streamed live from her home studio. At first it was weekly, but naturally as her schedule became gradually more demanding it became monthly. Nevertheless, it was always eagerly awaited by her fans. In recent years she’s recorded from unique locations and picturesque settings such as the mystical city of Naunu in Bali, Indonesia, Tulum in Mexico, the Standard Spa at Miami Beach, and tranquil sunsets across coastlines in Ibiza and Guincho in Portugal.

Photo of Miss Monique posing with her hands on her head wearing a green jumper
Credit: Dan Reid

“Of course, I’m dreaming about peace in my country. Since the war started it’s hard to enjoy fully all beautiful things of life, when I know that my country is under Russian attacks and bombs. Pain for Ukraine is always in my heart.”

“Recording a video outside the studio is a completely different emotion and feeling. To record in a home studio, all you had to do was turn on the lights, press play, and you were done. Recording outside the studio requires a lot of preparation. Choosing a location, finding the necessary equipment, weather, the right time for the perfect mood,” she explains. She often adapts her sets to complement her surroundings, preparing special mixes that highlight the beauty of the locations as much as possible. Her annual podcast from Ibiza is one of the YouTube channel’s most popular recordings to date; the mix she recorded to celebrate her record label Siona Records’ third anniversary last year has amassed over twenty million views.

This year, her YouTube channel hit one million followers, and when we congratulate her on the milestone she appears grateful and excited in equal measures. “Thank you so much!” she beams. “I remember when we had 100 followers on the channel and I said, ‘This probably is my maximum and I’ll never get close to one million’. Never say never. I can’t find words to describe how happy and appreciative I am to my audience for their support. Some of those people have been with me since my first podcast on YouTube. I share this achievement with my listeners, and partly I have this result thanks to them.”

The connection she’s felt with her audience has been present since the beginning and she always makes the time to talk to her fans, whether that be via her online platforms or spending time with them after her shows at clubs and festivals.

As the podcasts and radio shows continued to multiply, so did her fanbase. The channel continued to grow organically over time, and in 2022 after the pandemic her tour dates exploded worldwide — it was one of her busiest years to date. For many of her fans, the channel provided a sanctuary during those times of lockdown and uncertainty. “Your music saved my life in Corona-pandemic. Thank you very much!!!” exclaims one listener on a recent podcast. “This lady has single-handedly got me through lockdown,” says another. The comment sections on her shows are constantly flooded with love, appreciation, and gratitude for “making my days better” or “transporting me to happiness”. Even through challenging times it was clear that her optimism beamed through on the live streams and people appreciated her uplifting positivity.

“After the pandemic what changed is that we could finally meet each other in real life, give many hugs and enjoy the music which we love so much all together,” she explains. “2022 was also the year when war in my country started. Maybe this year was good for my DJ career but I couldn’t enjoy it fully because all my thoughts were with Ukraine and our people. That was the hardest year in all of my life,” she explains.

Photo of Miss Monique posing with her hands in the pockets of her white sports jacket
Credit: Dan Reid

Recording regular podcasts and with an ever-growing tour schedule, Miss Monique is always on the hunt for new music to play in her sets. She used to spend three to four hours daily searching through new promo music, and nowadays she’ll make the time while on planes, in airports, at home, or wherever she can find an internet connection. Versatility and variety is important to Miss Monique; she can feel just as at home onstage at the A State Of Trance Festival in Rotterdam as at a Drumcode yacht week party across the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

She describes her sound as “groovy, soft, and harmonic”, characterised by the early sounds of progressive house and more recently the ever-growing behemoth that is melodic techno. “My friend who introduced me to DJing also introduced me to the progressive house genre. At the same time I was visiting parties where the DJs were playing this music, so I think my huge love came from those days. It’s a genre that I loved then and still love now,” she says passionately.

In recent years it’s come full circle as her music has been recognised by the early pioneers of progressive house and respected trance DJs including Sasha, Paul van Dyk and Armin van Buuren. It’s a sound that also resonates throughout her own productions.

Her journey into music-making began in 2015, and early tracks such as ‘No Fear’ and ‘Colours In Your Eyes’ — released on Freegrant Music — played around with vocals, emotive chord progressions, tension-building breakdowns, and atmospheric drops that no doubt created unforgettable dancefloor moments. Although the term ‘progressive’ has morphed over time, changing forms into a harder and faster offering as it travelled from the UK to the US, at times it’s thrown into the vast ‘EDM’ category. However, Miss Monique’s take on the genre often feels like it stays true to the genre’s early ‘90s roots.

Miss Monique’s catalogue of releases continued to grow and in 2019 she launched Siona Records, a platform to release her own music and to shine a spotlight on emerging talent. “Siona Records was originally conceived as a community of young artists who had great musical material but lacked a platform to showcase their creativity,” she explains. Through the MiMo Weekly and Mind Games podcasts, each Siona release was heard by over 500,000 listeners, and it became a powerful platform for her to premiere the imprint’s forthcoming music.

“I think we found a great formula for collaboration between the artist and the label,” she says. One year after its inception, Siona became one of the best-selling progressive house labels on Beatport. It’s also been an important springboard to highlight and celebrate talent from her hometown. “Yes, for me it was always important to support Ukrainian artists. Ukraine is rich in talented producers and I’m happy to have a chance to show them to a bigger audience,” she says.

Photo of Miss Monique DJing in front of a large crowd
Credit: Dan Reid

Every year in March, the label will solely focus on releasing music from Ukrainian producers. On the label’s website there’s also a form that producers can use to submit their unreleased music for consideration. Arkusha reveals that she listens to each and every demo sent to the label; sometimes up to 300 per week: “Usually artists come to us but sometimes if I find out about new names, I can contact the artist directly and ask if they’re interested in sending some demos to Siona.”

The label’s release schedule has been substantial since the beginning and the imprint has released over two hundred EPs to date. “It’s going to be our fifth anniversary this year. In the next weeks we will record our traditional Siona anniversary mix. That’s going to be a compilation of around 15 tracks which haven’t been released before. I like to work on these mixes, as it’s a bit of a different sound from what I usually play in the clubs. The Siona anniversary compilation always has progressive house tracks with lots of beautiful vocals, melodies and soft sounds,” she shares.

Arkusha’s own productions also traverse that route; as well as being suited for the dancefloor, they radiate plenty of emotion. She released a track called ‘Veselka’ in January this year, which translates from Ukrainian as ‘rainbow’. “This track was produced two years ago, a few weeks before war started in my country. I would say that ‘Veselka’ has a mood of upcoming springtime. Personally for me, this track reminds me also about the peaceful and beautiful time which we had before 24th February 2022.”

Arkusha favours road-testing her tracks before releasing them so that she can gauge the reaction from the crowd. Take her remix of Armin van Buuren for an example; started one year ago, and much to her fans’ suspense, it’s syet to be released as she continues to make tweaks and edits to it in the studio. She agrees that it’s an amazing feeling playing her own music in front of an audience. “I have a vocal track in collaboration with Asher Swissa and Sandhogs called ‘Electric’ and usually when I play it, people are singing every word. That’s a really unique feeling to see and hear it. Every time I have goosebumps,” she smiles.

Hazy photo of Miss Monique out in nature
Credit: Dan Reid

Remixes are an elemental part of her back catalogue — in 2022 her remix of Sied van Riel’s ‘Rush’ exploded, becoming the most sold progressive house track on Beatport that year — and it’s a creative process she very much enjoys. “Of course, I think that working on a remix, especially in the situation with ‘Rush’ — the original of which was released about 20 years ago — is a completely different kind of creativity. In it you need to try to save the spirit of the original and at the same time give it a breath of fresh air.”

Over the past year she’s remixed major artists including Madonna and Blond:ish, Robbie Williams’ dance music project Lufthaus, and most recently released a remix of David Guetta. Right now she’s working on another remix for a classic artist; although she admits it’s too early to share who it is, she’s clearly excited. Studio time is limited when she’s on tour but that hasn’t stopped her creative flow; nowadays she’ll be working on ideas on the move and while she travels on her trusty laptop.

Miss Monique’s fanbase is ever-growing and the lengths that they will go through to express their appreciation is often heartwarming, and sometimes surprising. As well as the flags and wigs, posters and presents, some even have her face tattooed on themselves.

“I’m increasingly seeing people at my parties with green hair. This is so cute... as for the tattoos, I find it very cool, but at the same time a serious step,” she laughs. “As a person who doesn’t have a single tattoo on her body, I’m not sure that I could do something like that, even if I am an unconditional fan of some artists,” she admits. Her fans have also shown an unwavering and continued support for her country and her people during the ongoing war. “I know some of these people personally and I saw how many good things they did for Ukraine. This is priceless, and I will always be grateful to them for this,” she says passionately.

The last two years have been non-stop for Arkusha, and understandably the relentless touring starts to take its toll on the mind and body. She believes that staying fit, healthy and taking care of her lifestyle is essential. “First of all I try to control what I eat and try to sleep as much as possible. I am very lucky, I can fall asleep even in the most uncomfortable conditions, for example, in an aeroplane seat. I also play sports whenever possible; lately I really like playing tennis. When I’m on tour, I’m walking or going to the gym, although much less often as I’m bored there,” she admits. “Now my life can’t be done without vitamins and most importantly, less stress. I filter what really makes sense in my life, and what is better not to focus my attention and nerves on.”

Photo of Miss Monique DJing in front of a large crowd
Credit: Dan Reid

“Even two years ago all those places were in my wish-list, and in 2024 I have these legendary clubs and festivals in my gigs schedule. Incredible!”

Lately, it’s been a year of dreams coming true for Arkusha; from playing iconic clubs like fabric in London and Watergate in Berlin, to first time appearances at Coachella and Ultra Music Festival. “Even two years ago all those places were in my wish-list, and in 2024 I have these legendary clubs and festivals in my gigs schedule. Incredible!” she exclaims. “Of course, with all these results it’s our teamwork. A year ago I moved to one of the best booking agencies in the world, WME, and since then I feel that we are on the right path all together.”

The variation of gigs she’s been booked for of late are testament to her versatility, and she welcomes the different experiences and scenarios, from small clubs to large festival stages. While you might hear her speeding up the BPM’s for a peak-time festival set, she’ll always come back to her roots of progressive. Miss Monique is hard-working and ambitious and it’s clear that all the hard graft is paying off; this year on the festival circuit she’ll be playing Tomorrowland, Timewarp and Awakenings, as well as Kappa Futur in Italy and Saga in Bucharest. She has upcoming gigs in France, Denmark, Hungary, Greece, Belgium, Switzerland, Turkey and the list goes on. She has nine shows in Ibiza across the summer playing at Club Chinois, Hï Ibiza and more.

“Every year I fall in love with this island more and more,” she says of Ibiza. “It’s become a very special place to me and to play with unique vibes. I feel so happy to be a part of it every season.” The most important thing that she holds closest to her is the hope of the war coming to an end. “From a personal side of course, I’m dreaming about peace in my country. Since the war started it’s hard to enjoy fully all beautiful things of life, when I know that my country is under Russian attacks and bombs. Pain for Ukraine is always in my heart.”

Miss Monique’s resilience is admirable, but what’s most striking is her eternal optimism, this sense that betters days lie ahead.

Want more? Read DJ Mag Ibiza’s recent cover interview with Sam Divine here

Anna Wall is a regular DJ Mag contributor and freelance music journalist. Follow her on X @DJAnnaWall

Pics: Dan Reid (@danreidphoto)