Meet Yolanda Baker, Disco Ball Maker
The artist at work.
Photo: Courtesy of Richard Mazola/Omega National Products, LLC
On finding her groove thing
"In 1970, I was working in Omega's wood division when word came down that the mirror-ball department needed help. I'd never made a disco ball, but I've always been game for anything. Forty-seven years later, I've made disco balls as tiny as two inches and as large as ten feet. They say you can't live on past glories, but I think I'm doing pretty good."
On the hustle
"No matter the size, every disco ball begins as a hollow aluminum shell, which is then coated in strips of small mirrored squares. The middle is covered first with what I call the bellyband, a piece of mirrored cloth that wraps around the center. Getting that on straight is the most difficult—and most essential—step. I can tell which disco balls are mine because that band will be perfectly straight."
On stayin' alive
"At disco's peak, the mirror-ball department, which included 27 other women I supervised, built more than 145,000 globes each year. It was a lot of work and a total blast. Disco was always blaring. (My favorite is the Bee Gees' "More Than a Woman.") Now there are only three of us here, producing about 300 balls a year. But that doesn't mean disco is dead. I hope it makes a comeback soon."
Madonna rides one of Baker's creations during her 1993 Girlie Show tour.
Photo: Steve Eichner/Wireimage/Getty Images
On her greatest hits
"I've filled orders for Studio 54, Soul Train, Saturday Night Fever, Pearl Jam, Kid Rock—he purchased two 36-inch gold disco balls—and official Super Bowl pre-parties. One of my most exciting moments was watching a Madonna concert on TV, when she descended from the ceiling on a disco ball I built for her. How many people can say they've made something for Madonna—and that she rode it?"
A poster for Saturday Night Fever, one of the many clients that ordered Baker's shimmering globes during disco's heyday.
Photo: Everett Collection
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