Cynthia Cherish Malaran—aka CherishTheLuv—has been dubbed the “drama-free DJ.” A music missionary committed to reconnecting people with joy, she brings beats to massive events across the globe, as well as orphanages in Ecuador and hospices right here in NYC.
KS: When are you happiest?
CM: That’s easy: when I get someone dancing who typically does not dance. It’s so awesome to see, even for thirty seconds. Sometimes I grab my mic and say, “Who here’s having a bad day?” and, when someone raises their hand, I yell “Not anymore!” and start throwing down some afrobeat or something that rattles them from the core out. And I see them just shake it off.
Also, working with kids. I’ve worked with traumatized girls in South America, teaching self-confidence under the guise of DJing. How to speak up, choose your volume and get inspired to move. It’s the best thing in the world.
KS: Has one piece of advice ever changed the course of your life?
CM: I was doing volunteer work for TEDxTeen, and the powerhouse behind it is music legend, Nile Rodgers. When we first met, Nile had been cancer-free for a few years, and soon I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. Weeks go by and I see him the night of my first chemo treatment. He said to me, “play as much music as you can.” I thought to myself, I am going to follow what this man says. And I got my NED (No Evidence of Disease) status from Memorial Sloan Kettering this past March… almost three years to the day of my diagnosis!… which is amazing because I was taken off of treatment back in 2015 due to adverse reactions. Music was, and continues to be, my healing medicine.
KS: That is so wonderful! Has your battle with cancer altered your outlook at all?
I listen to myself now, which is something I never used to do. I have a hum—I don’t know how better to describe it. When I feel The Hum, it means I am getting tired. Maybe of an experience, of a person, or something else—but I know now what that hum means. It’s my nervous system getting irritated. And when that happens, I know to step away. Otherwise my immune system would have to compensate.
I step away from anything, now, that is not delicious to me. Because it’s too important. Health is too important. I know the power of taking breaks and finding relief. Of letting your nervous system rest and finding joy. That’s how we stay healthy and that’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to bring joy, in the form of great music, to those who need it the most.
KS: How do you make room for loss and disappointment in your life?
I turn fear into curiosity now. When something is scary for me, I try to think “What if?” or “I wonder” instead. I used to fear losing things so much and my mind would get very creative with exactly how I would lose it. There would be this little projector screen on the back of my skull and I would see these vivid scenarios playing out. I don’t do that anymore.
KS: What does love mean to you?
CM: Love is about myself… and I feel a little bit nervous saying that—love is all about how I treat myself, and everything else falls in after that—because it might trigger something for someone and come off as narcissistic or egotistical. But I am none of that. I believe love is taking care of you and then glowing, and sharing that glow with others. Not this “we complete each other” thing.
In the past, I have been a martyr. I’ve sacrificed everything about myself for somebody else, thinking that was love. But love is about giving each other the dignity to be yourselves. It’s looking into a person’s eyes and not being scared. Love, to me, is that which sparks healing.
KS: And what is wealth, for you?
CM: For me, it’s the amount of time you have. That’s the true possession. I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve thought it was really the end for me, and those times have been the poorest I’ve ever felt. It doesn’t compare to looking at your bank account and seeing a minus number. That, you can fix.
KS: Finally, what are your top three songs of all time?
CM: That’s so hard!
There’s this specific afrobeat rhythm—I don’t have the name for it—that shows up in Brazilian samba. It’s like a heartbeat to me. That’s number three.
Number two is a really corny song from when I was a kid: “We Built This City” by Starship. To me, it’s a song about community in a really fun way. As well as being really catchy.
And my number one song… there are so many! But it has to be Sonique, “It Feels So Good.”
DJ CherishTheLuv’s charity is CityKids Foundation Inc: a powerhouse of social and emotional learning for young people. For thirty years, CityKids has helped channel positive youth development into real, lasting social change. Their motto? “Each one reach one; Each one teach one; Each one pull one into the sun”.