Roxiny is a singer/songwriter, from New York City, who is also a badass activist who continues to fight for women’s rights. I got to chat with this talented artist about being an activist for women’s rights, her new music, and what her plans are for next year.
TYF: Tell us a little bit about your activist work that centers around women’s rights.
Roxiny: I started working with GEMS a little over 2 years ago. It’s is an organization that empowers, mentors and serves girls/young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Sexual exploitation has always been something important to me as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I remember how long it took me to deal with that experience in my life, and the shame, anger, instability, lack of trust and internal violence that came with it. It took me so long to heal, but I was lucky to have music, my parents, and a place to channel that energy. Once I found the courage to confront my own experience, I decided to use the tools that helped me heal to contribute to the healing process of other girls. That’s what brought me to GEMS. Rachel Lloyd, the founder, was a survivor. She’s created a space where young women can feel safe, empowered, and loved. It’s been an incredible experience for me.
TYF: What inspired you to become an activist for women’s rights?
Roxiny: My activist spirit was ignited early. My parents were both born and raised in the Dominican Republic, which is still to this day a very machista culture. I remember going for summer vacations and having to abide by all of these ridiculous rules imposed on me because I was a girl. I was told as a pre-teen I could no longer hang out with my guy friends because I was of a certain age. I remember certain mothers thinking I was a bad influence on their daughters because I refused to abide by those rules, and then realizing that although it’s a bit more extreme in the Dominican Republic, these invisible lines exist almost everywhere. As I got older I started working on my own #metoo moment and speaking more openly about my experiences with other women which lead to having my girlfriends open up about their own. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with a secret. I had friends who had been raped in college and humiliated by the police rather than protected. I had friends who blamed themselves for being assaulted. I had friends who shared with me that they had gone to meet with that famous celebrity who promised to consider their music, and how he took advantage of them, but they remained silent for fear of not being believed or have any hopes of a career destroyed. I honestly don’t think I’ve met a woman yet who doesn’t have at least one story of their own. In the end, whether it was my story or the stories of all the other girls who have entrusted me with theirs along the way, what inspired me was a need to fight injustice.
TYF: Who are some female icons that you look up to who are currently speaking their mind and fighting for women’s rights?
Roxiny: I’m so inspired by the women who had the courage to speak up in the midst of the campaign, and every other woman who has had the courage to put her name, life, and career at risk of ridicule in order to help stop this predatory behavior against women. I’m inspired by Uma Thurman, Rose McGowan, and women like Tarana Burke, who founded the #metoo movement more than a decade ago to unify women who have been victims of sexual violence. I’m inspired by Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS, a survivor who turned her experience into an organization that now empowers and mentors girls who have been sexually exploited.
TYF: What can our young female readers do now to have their voices be heard?
Roxiny: Speak out and support one another. Encourage positive masculinity. If something someone says or does makes you uncomfortable speak up. Volunteer and support organizations that serve women who have been victims of sexual violence. You can join my #9MonthsGirlsRising campaign on Instagram, share your stories, grab a copy of “9 Months” on iTunes where 100% of the proceeds are going to such organizations. If you’d rather donate directly I’ve added donation links to 9 organizations that are doing incredible work on my website. There’s so much that can be done. Be the force that you are.
TYF: As we learn more about your life and career, can you tell us about your upbringing?
Roxiny: I was born in the Dominican Republic. We moved to Andalucia, Spain when I was about 4 years old and I was raised there and in Madrid most of my childhood into my teens. I’d still go back to the Dominican Republic every summer break and Christmas vacation. My parents thought it important that we knew where we came from, so I was very close with my maternal grandmother who was a strong woman and revolutionary spirit. I found out later on that she helped disseminate information for the anti-Trujillo movement. When I was 15 we moved to Napoli, Italy which I credit for my street smarts. Napoli was my beautiful chaos. It feels like one of those places that are just frozen in time. I was defiant and angry…a consequence of being sexually abused as a child I’d say. I stopped trusting adults and institutions early on. My parents had no idea, which made it very difficult for them to deal with me. I ran away at 17 to California. I look back now and honestly I had the best childhood. I spent most days near the ocean as a kid. Southern Spain is one of the most beautiful places to be as a child.
TYF: Has your Dominican heritage inspired your music? If so, how has it?
Roxiny: Absolutely. The Dominican Republic has such a rich musical heritage, and I was raised in a household with a father who is a music aficionado. My mother has a beautiful voice, my father plays the saxophone, some guitar, the flute. I hear he used to jam in NYC when he first moved to the city as a college student. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful forms of music from the Dominican Republic is also one of the country’s best-kept secrets- Palo and salve. It’s transcendent, powerful and it comes from our Afro-Dominican roots.
TYF: What’s the story behind your new song, “The Lights”?
Roxiny: “The Lights” was my reaction to the bombs that went off on 23rd street last year, and everything I felt in the hours that followed. I was riding in a taxi in Brooklyn when I heard the news. I’d just left my best friend. He was heading in that direction. I couldn’t get a hold of him and I didn’t know what to do in that moment. It’s about this energy we’re feeling right now. It hasn’t stopped or slowed down. We’re all just trying to deal with it as best we can. I don’t want to become numb to it, fearful of it, or hateful with it. I want to be bigger than that. We’re living through trying times, times of change. I just hope in the end, it brings more of the humanity out of us. I believe it will.
TYF: What was it like co-directing your music video for “The Lights”?
Roxiny: It was amazing for me- I was able to see my vision through completely from beginning to end. I knew what I wanted this video to feel like from the moment I wrote the song. I just wanted it to be a glimpse into my world, an escape, and NYC through my eyes. I had no idea that everything would fall into place the way it did though. I met Rebecca over the summer and she wanted to shoot some stills of me. We got along so well, that the 5-day shoot became a video shoot for “The Lights” too. I loved working with her, and she instinctively got where I was trying to go with it. I don’t think either of us slept more than 3 hours a night that week between the stills and her capturing real moments for the video. We had so many ideas between the two of us and all of them meshed so well together. Some of it was so ambitious but we went for it. We also just had an amazing crew of people participate in it- from my dancers- Soraia, Jendaya, Luisa and Alexzandra Knapp who also choreographed everything to my friends and skaters David and Stephan. Rebeca’s friend and artist Michna who volunteered his time, space and strobe lights, and my friend and legendary NYC artist and downtown legend Michael Holman as well as my man and filmmaker Shan Nicholson who was there to help with the edit and general support. It really was a team effort.
TYF: What was it like getting to work with Rebeca Diaz on the video?
Roxiny: It felt like freedom. Everything we thought up, we tried. Rebeca has such an incredible eye, and it just comes naturally to her. We’re already coming up with ideas for our next one. That’s my girl!
TYF: Let’s now switch gears and talk about your doe EP. What was it like putting together “Rituals”?
Roxiny: I found my voice with Rituals. It was a very selfish, insular process for me. The only people I let in were my guys Chris Coady, Jonathan Kreinik and Sheare. They co-wrote and co-produced it with me. Every once in awhile I’d get some feedback from my guy Shan Nicholson but I made it clear that this was mine and I would listen to suggestions but I wasn’t going to necessarily agree. I just really needed to do this for myself. Sometimes you need to quiet the voices around you to find your own. Once I committed to that, everything just started to flow quite naturally. I’m very grateful to Chris and Jonathan in particular who spent so much time in the studio with me making space for my lyrics and melodies, creating this sound with me, and helping me find my way…all the while understanding how important it was that my voice came through. In the end, I was happy with it, and that was a first for me.
TYF: Speaking of rituals, do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before a show?
Roxiny: I light candles the night before and lay my clothes beside them. Right before I go on stage I jam out to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Off With Your Head” over and over and over again. Lol!
TYF: And I also read that you hosted a benefit show, what was it teaming up with menswear designer, By Robert James, on the benefit show for Planned Parenthood?
Roxiny: I loved teaming up with Robert James because I feel it’s really important that this movement be inclusive. Men need to be a part of this conversation, and Robert is one of those guys who has always used his art as a platform for activism, so I was very honored when he made me the face for his campaign and invited me to perform a benefit for Planned Parenthood at his space. Plus it was so dope getting to prance around in some killer suits.
TYF: Why did you decide to put together a benefit show for Planned Parenthood?
Roxiny: My first benefit for Planned Parenthood was at the beginning of the summer. I did it at Overthrow NYC and performed in a boxing ring. Planned Parenthood is one of the 9 organizations I’m supporting throughout my #9MonthsGirlsRising campaign because as a woman I have a right to dictate what happens to my body. We all do, so until there are laws keeping men from their viagra, I will be fighting for a woman’s right to govern her own body.
TYF: Is fashion also another area of interest besides music?
Roxiny: Yes absolutely. I believe fashion is a form of expression and extension of our personalities. My best friend is an incredible designer- Sara Lundgren. She started at Alexander McQueen and she’s been a huge inspiration. Who knows maybe one day the two of us will do something together.
TYF: Lastly, with the new year just around the corner, do you have anything planned that fans can get hyped about?
Roxiny: I’ll be celebrating this new year in Madrid, Spain which I’m psyched about, so if that’s a sign of things to come 2018 should be killer! I’m releasing my EP Rituals. The first part in March which is pretty exciting. My #9MonthsGirlsRising campaign culminates in March too with one more benefit event. I’m also looking forward to being on the road much more, working on some film projects, a mixtape, and launching a feminixt podcast with some friends called Brujas Radio. 2018 should be pretty busy. I probably won’t sleep much, but I’ll be doing what I love. That’s worth staying up for.