“How can we do something together?”
I met Cynthia Cherish Malaran — aka DJ Cherish the Luv — through Heritage Radio Network. She’s the host of Wedding Cake, and when I remarked that I have never done a Facebook live video on Love Bites, she swiftly volunteered to come on and teach me how. Collaboration is how she rolls.
Curious in return, I started to observe her.
Cynthia radiates energy and enthusiasm. She has a broad smile and a bold aesthetic. She seems to fit New York City and looks at ease around the globe, too. In studying attributes of presence and strength in my own life, I find myself seeking it in others; these Cynthia has in spades. Energized or exhausted, inspired or scared, she’s here.
That often doesn’t just happen in people. I know this through personal experience, too.
I learned that Cynthia survived an aggressive form of breast cancer. Before that, an accident left her body broken and her mind with amnesia — she had completely forgotten her life as a graphic designer. One in which she was successful, but miserable.
Wanting to capture her story as fully as possible, I formally interviewed Cynthia for a client. Then we talked in preparation for her Love Bites episode. The following is a bit of that prequel; what she detailed of her earlier life so that I could understand the significance of who she is now — a successful DJ spinning for celebrities, working with non-profits, and teaching.
The sum story across these mediums equals a testament to starting over. To being brave. To having hope. To believing in love, and magic.
Her words tell the story best. Read them slowly, and enjoy:
After Amnesia, A New Beginning
Cynthia Cherish Malaran
As told to Jacqueline Raposo
On May 7th, 1976, a very curious little rebel girl was born here in the east village, in the same apartment I’m in now.
She was born to stomp through life and enjoy what it had to offer. But she was also born into a guilt-based Catholic, Filipino world. And those two things conflict. You can’t enjoy life and have guilt about enjoying life. You get sick. You get really sick. Being guilt programed with heaven and hell, everything is made with judgment calls: Listen to what your parents say, and don’t disrespect them.
My mom’s a nurse, my dad’s an engineer; the only responsible career choices were nurse, doctor, lawyer, architect, and engineer. I didn’t want to be any of those things. I kept leaning towards music and art, both because they felt natural to me and also because my parents put me in piano lessons by age for our five. But they were considered only hobbies for us Filipinos — you don’t get paid for that — so I’d learn how to play instruments, and then feel guilty and put them down. I’d take art classes and get art awards, but could never celebrate them. I’d get creative writing awards, and couldn’t be proud of them. They felt stupid. Like, if I could get them than anyone could.
In High School, I learned about graphic design!! Suddenly, it was everything I wanted to do. I told my parents, and they were like, No! They couldn’t understand the concept. I put myself through art school.
By twenty, I was working at a big design firm and thinking life was set. I didn’t need a boyfriend! I didn’t need to tell my parents I was succeeding! But then I got a sense of, “I don’t like this anymore….”
On my twenty-first birthday, my friends in the design department asked how old I was, and then they turned on me; they were all around thirty-eight. They couldn’t understand how I was making more money than them. It was the first time I got the sense of nastiness in the workplace. I decided I could no longer just go to work in a town car, and back, every day. I quit to go freelance.
But I want to make music!
I got a job in Sony through a friend – they were looking for album and production designers – so in my head I was working in music. But I wasn’t – I was working in design. Even though I had these images projected in Madison Square Garden, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to stare at computers anymore. I wanted to be around people. In my life as a designer, I wasn’t around people: I was freelancing for clients around the globe, working around the clock, and super proud of that. I was trying to tell my parents, “Please be proud of me because I’m making money.” And they just weren’t. I was this failure child, even though I was succeeding. I couldn’t find the peace in that and eventually had to accept that’s just how they were. I was losing it.
But this time I’m married. I’m a miserable married partner, and my partner is pretty miserable.
Life is not good. I needed a huge change.
And then I had my accident.
My husband and I were in Sweden. We were longboarding. (Longboards are those really long skateboards that you cruise on flat land or, if you’re crazy, down hills.) While packing at home something told me to bring my helmet, but I didn’t want my husband to have to carry it. As I’m about to go down this hill a voice inside of me goes, “Cynthia,” – I swear this is verbatim, and this voice was as loud as you’re hearing me right now – “Cynthia, this hill does not have your name on it.” But people were waiting. I felt so guilty. So, again, I don’t listen to my intuition; I listen to my guilty conscience.
The last thing I remember, I hit a little pebble of some kind, and the board started to wobble. I blink, and suddenly I’m sitting there cross-legged in the grass, and I’m like:
Where the hell am I? I’m sitting with my legs crossed? What the fuck?
I turn to the right and see my husband running down the hill in slow motion. It was like, Whoa that’s weird! And then I see him falling in slow motion – wow, he’s floating! I turn my head again and am looking straight ahead of me, and it’s all grass and this field, and I look down at my hands, and my palms are pooling up with blood. And I’m like, Oh shit, my hands were all scraped and fucked up, and I must have like fallen or something! And I realize the blood is coming from my face, dripping down into my hands. Oh, shit! This blood is coming from my face! And as I’m about to say something, I’m like, Oh, my teeth are missing. I remember thinking in that moment, Oh, this is what hockey players feel like. And I black out.
My cousin said he saw me hit my head on the road at full speed three times – I don’t know how I am alive. My teeth were shattered. I got SCAT scan – I’d broken my kneecaps, and my shoulder. I don’t know how my nose wasn’t scraped off of my face – I’m so grateful. I had holes in my head – it was a mess getting through customs.
My best friend flies me back to the States, and I don’t know who the fuck I am. I was suffering from something called Post Concussive Syndrome. I walked around almost for two years with amnesia. I had no idea who I was. I filed for divorce – I just didn’t understand my husband anymore. It was super liberating and fucking petrifying at the same time.
But in a weird way, I felt worry-free. There was nothing for me to worry about because I was not in touch with anything! Slowly I started to come back – that’s how the healing process goes. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months. For me, it was two years. I don’t know where those two years went.
Of course, I was not able to work, and didn’t have the awareness to even tell clients what was wrong, or friends. So, easily, a year or a year and a half pass. I go into the second room of my apartment where there are three computers – two laptops and one tower monitor. I look at all the dust on those computers. I remember thinking, “I must be very good at what I did if I have three computers.” But I wasn’t that anymore. I opened one, and my mail app starts dinging almost two years of emails – 7,998 emails in my inbox. I scroll through, and one of the emails is from Julie, one of my dearest friends that I had completely forgotten about. Clients I hadn’t invoiced. All these things.
I had disappeared – but I was here. I got the change! It was what I wanted but in the wrong way! I wanted the change but wasn’t sure enough to say in good conditions!
This was the most freeing moment because there was a piece of me that sensed that. I also lost the guilt. I knew I had the guilty but cognitively I didn’t feel it. I’d see it in my journals: It was like, “This person’s a tense little bitch, who’s grateful for nothing! Who is this person? Oh, it was me!” I had always been an avid journaler and was like, “Wow, I don’t like this person.” There was nothing that wanted to go back to that being.
The first thing that came to my natural sensibility was to be free! I wanted to create stuff! But… I didn’t remember what it was that I wanted to create.
Slowly, it all started coming back, and I started wanting to know. I started going to therapy. I slowly started to realize that I was hurt and broken; I hadn’t sensed before that I was wounded and healing from the accident, that I was injured. There was no pity, I just kept wanting to figure out who I was so I could rebuild or do something because it had been a solid two years of not doing anything. They call that your ‘healing time.’
I don’t remember where it was, but I remember hearing this Paul Anka song Lonely Girl. For the first time in two years, I was able to access a memory of childhood. It was mind-blowing. I kept listening to the radio station and then listening to music on my computer.
Music started bringing memories back to me. Music woke me up in every way.
That’s the start of how I got to be a professional DJ for celebrities. If I hadn’t gotten into that accident, I would still be miserable in this other job. Making money, but dying very slowly, and miserable.