Cusi Coyllur, (coo-see coy-your), Is an Incan princess name, and also the musical endeavour of one L.A. based, Shannen Roberts. Her experimental and confessional singer/songwriter styled compositions draw influence from artists such as Fiona Apple, Björk, Amanda Palmer, and St. Vincent. Shannen is also a mental health advocate who instructs yoga and is the founder of The Strange Is Beautiful, an Alternative Self-Help Guide which promotes mental health awareness and healing through interviews, articles, and beautiful artwork. She also hosted an Instagram Live Show called ‘Sick… or Something’, which deals with her own struggles with arthritis, IBS, and mind obstacles, a term she uses to refer to anxiety, depression, and other less desirable states of mental being.
Her latest single and music video, ‘amivulnerable?’, deals with the feelings and thought processes associated with being a victim of domestic abuse. We asked Shannen a few questions about her powerful new video. The video first premiered on October 2nd and has since been featured on Huffington Post and Ms. Magazine.
Why is raising awareness about domestic abuse important for you?
Originally, the music video was going to display different types of trauma – sexual, physical, emotional and psychological. I wanted it to show how different types trauma, whether that be rape or PTSD or even mind obstacles such as panic attacks, have similar impacts on a person’s body. I had just taken a Trauma Informed Training where we were discussing those similarities.
However, after a close loved one experienced domestic abuse, I reigned in my focus to be on that. It was ironic that I did so because in the process I discovered I was in a verbal abuse situation at home that even my doctors were saying I need to leave to heal and that’s exactly what I did. I’m currently living with my boyfriend in our new place with my beautiful kitten.
What do you want viewers to take away from viewing the video?
I hope viewers who haven’t experienced trauma will begin to understand what it feels like. Gaslighting needs to stop. Stigmatizing needs to stop. Normalizing abuse needs to stop. Especially within families, which is another reason why I felt domestic abuse was so important for me to tackle. In many cultures, and I know from experience this is so in Latino culture, families teach their children to love everyone in the family no matter what, that we stick together no matter what. “No matter what” includes abuse and they work really hard to keep their family’s image one of smiles and Christmas get-togethers with lots of food. It’s great to have close family and family that loves each other, but it’s not great to avoid confronting abusers in the family and to tell victims to still love them and forgive their behavior, just to stay a perfect family. I hope viewers can learn how harmful that is from the video.
Who is responsible for the video’s moving choreography?
ALEX FUCKING FLOYD (referencing Amanda Fucking Palmer right now hahaha). Alex Floyd is the best choreographer in Los Angeles. She has the ability to create impactful pieces using people like myself who are limited in movement. I love her so much, she has a horror dance company called OdDancity that you should check out!
What types of material will be included in your forthcoming “It’s not as simple as just leaving” zine?
You can download the zine for free and see for yourself at cusicoyllurmusic.com/zine 🙂
It contains interviews with survivors Janie Contreras Johnson, Bernadette Bolaños and Enrique Jesus Hernandez. They also offer resources and self-care such as music playlists, how to make your own affirmation flags, poetry and advice. My friend Georgia St. Jones helped me edit this zine greatly and Thanialucina Delgado did most of the beautiful artwork including the cover. It was a collaboration with my alternative self-help blog The Strange is Beautiful and I hope to have print black and white copies of them in November along with some IRL release events.
Also, Enrique just released a moving domestic abuse awareness music video as well, I think you’ll be really impacted by it, it definitely touched me. It’s called “theCHILD” and Georgia actually premiered it on my blog The Strange is Beautiful (TSIB).
Georgia is also an amazing musician, her music brings me to tears. Video performances and a video interview of Bernadette and her poetry will be up on TSIB as well later in October. And Thanialucina, she reached to me out to me through Instagram and is working on some zines of her own. Janie is someone who has been helping TSIB for along time, since the chaos of our first online Self-Care Gift Exchange. She lives in Colorado, and I’m in LA, but is fast to reply and extremely helpful in growing and tending to the TSIB community.
I’m so blessed to have worked with these beautiful souls on this zine. The internet can truly be a great place to collaborate and meet people like them. I met them all on the internet minus Georgia who I met through text through a mutual friend (I love you Jo!).
What projects do you have planned next? Will you continue to raise awareness for important causes such as domestic abuse?
My next single, “Woke Up From a Lazy Dream,” comes out November 13! After that I’m taking a self-care break and have another single coming in February and the full EP in March.
My music is forever linked with my activism so I will continue to raise awareness for different causes. I had a vision for this EP awhile ago to link each song to a different cause that I felt passionate about, so “Woke Up From a Lazy Dream” is very much linked to my panic attacks and teenage use of alcohol and drugs. I’m always weary about saying the second part of that because I think my mom’s voice of “don’t say that!” is forever there regarding alcohol and drugs. And also the word “drugs” can mean a lot of things and can be misleading so I’m still working on the wording. I’m very keen on wording. It’s so crucial, especially online, because things can be misunderstood and taken the wrong way. At my live shows I also talk openly about many of these issues and will continue to do so. It never feels right if I stay silent about it.