Season 2, Episode 3: From Paralysis to Action - Interview with a Singer-Songwriter


Episode

Paralyzed -  Music Video

You’re listening to Episode 13 of the Trafficking Dispatch, a biweekly podcast that briefs you on human trafficking issues in a brief amount of time. I’m your host, Victoria Erdel. In this episode, we’ll hear from a singer-songwriter who uses her talents to raise awareness about sex trafficking.

That was the last few seconds of the song “Paralyzed”, which was released in early December, last year. The link to the music video will be included in the shownotes. If you want to pause this episode and watch it first, it may help you better understand this episode. If you go back and listen to the lines, “Paralyzed, I am a captive, and I can’t break free”, you’ll notice that the lyrics definitely hint at something sinister. The message behind the lyrics becomes clear if you watch the music video. The first scene takes place in a store, where a young man strikes up a brief conversation with a young woman. As the video progresses, we can see how they “fall in love.” Except it isn’t really love. The woman is being groomed, and is eventually trafficked by her so-called “boyfriend” for sex. The music video is powerful, haunting, and definitely worth watching.

And the brains behind this music video? That would be Juliana Lyons, a singer-songwriter, filmmaker, producer, and all-around creative force. She not only wrote the lyrics to “Paralyzed” and recorded the song, she filmed and edited the music video as well. Born into a musical family, Juliana has been trained from a young age to use her musical and creative abilities. This encouragement from her family has led her to complete freelance work with brands like AwesomenessTV, and she has also written songs for movies like Grace Stirs up Success. But Juliana has also decided to use her talents to raise awareness about sex trafficking. We now turn to her to learn about how she infuses anti-trafficking messages into her creative work.

Victoria: So Juliana, aside from just your song "Paralyzed", I was kind of watching your other videos, and I came across "Beautifully Flawed." I realized that your music kind of focuses on social issues. So I was wondering how you decided to use your music to confront social issues, and more specifically, why you chose to highlight sex trafficking in "Paralyzed."

Juliana: Okay, yeah. I love creativity, obviously. I've always been, just, super focused on making things and expressing myself through different mediums, but honestly, that's not my biggest passion in life. I would say that my biggest passion is talking about things that need to be talked about, and opening up conversations about things that are important. And so, I think I realized, kind of recently, that what I want to do in life is to use the talents that I have, the creative skills in order to bring light to things that I think are important. Just because, I feel like especially as a girl, all I see is makeup tutorials and fashion blogs and cooking. And like, there's nothing wrong with that, because I read all of those articles too, I love doing my makeup, don't get me wrong, I love cooking, like I'm not bashing those people at all. But, I just feel like there's more that I can do than that. There's more important things that I feel really strongly about and I don't want to be just another girl who is putting out music videos of me looking really pretty and singing, because there's so many people doing that. I don't think the world needs another person to do that. That's covered, you know? So, I'm like, what can I do that is going to help people in some way, or just have something beneficial? Because I feel like society now is pretty focused on fluff and things that aren't super important. And so, I can tend to be on the intense side of things, but I've always been the person in conversation who was like, "Oh let's talk about this uncomfortable." It doesn't bother me, you know, like, I kind of like that tension and I like discussion. I don't know, I just, I just felt like if there's anything that I can do with my creativity, that would make people think about something differently, or talk about something differently, then that's what I want to do. So with "Paralyzed", to answer the second part of your question, what made me really interested in that topic is, my godmother and godfather started a church 20 years ago. And they just started it in their basement, and now, it has over 10,000 people attending it, and it's really blossomed into this really big, awesome thing. And, one facet of their ministry is, they have like a safehouse for women who got out of being trafficked, and then they can go to that safehouse. I know there's lots of programs like that, but they started one a few years ago. And so, I was talking with them about it, and they were explaining to me that one of the main -- or the biggest -- ways that girls get involved is through guys who are pretending to be interested in them romantically. That just blew me away, because I was just not super educated on it. And I fell into the category of people who believed the stereotype that you're walking in a dark alley and someone just grabs you into their van. That's literally what I thought happened when people get trafficked. And so, just hearing about all the different ways is -- it's such a multi-faceted and layered problem, and so many people ways that people get caught up in it. But, just learning about that made me really moved to do something that would, I guess different. Because there's so many articles about it, there's so many documentaries. They're all very informative, but what struck me is that people who are getting trafficked, usually young girls, they're not reading articles about it, and they're not watching documentaries. They are watching music videos, and they are like on Twitter and on Snapchat, and they're consuming much shorter, and much more creatively-framed media. And so, I was like, "well, if I make a music video, then I feel like that would really appeal more to the demographic of girls who are likely to be victimized." So, that was my inspiration for it. I mean, people don't really want to do things that are creative about sex trafficking, I think because it's such a sensitive subject and you could easily cross some sort of line and make something that's too graphic, or like, too heavy, and like, that's something that I was like, "well, how do I make something that doesn't cross that line?" I mean, it makes sense why people don't really do too much creative wise with it, but, I wanted to take a stab at it and see if I could do that. You know, like, tastefully.

Victoria: Of course! I think that's a really good reason to make a music video, as opposed to other mediums. So, going back to the story element, you said you learned that sex trafficking isn't necessarily snatching girls of the street, but it's usually a lot more subtle. You know, guys pretending to really love and care for girls and kind of trapping them in that way. So, for "Paralyzed" specifically, I guess for the listeners that haven't seen it yet, it starts off with an attractive young man asking to borrow the phone of a young woman. Was this storyline specifically based on a story you knew about, or was it just drawing on general themes?

Juliana: No, it wasn't based on anything specific. I just was brainstorming different ways that I could paint a picture of something that could happen. I, I could have wanted it to be sort of generic in that sense, because my goal was never to like outline the textbook example of like, "This is exactly what could happen to you." It was more so like, "What can I do that will give people an idea of what happens, or what could happen?" You know what I mean?

Victoria: Mhmm, yeah. Yeah, no I think that's a really good -- I really like how you framed it as, "It's not a textbook example." Because you know sex trafficking happens in so many ways. I also read on your blog that you actually had "Paralyzed" saved on your computer for 2 years before you decided to post it. So what prompted you to release it now?

Juliana: Well, I'm honestly the most ridiculous person. I'm like the world's biggest procrastinator, and on top of that, I have this huge issue with perfectionism. So, I filmed the whole music video in one day. And so, it was pretty much done a few months after that. I don't know. I just felt like I couldn't put it out yet, like it wasn't ready, and like, I had all these big excuses like, "oh, I need to fix this" or "I need to make sure this is right." But in reality, I was just pretty afraid. I was just scared, because knowing that everything that you put out on the internet is bound to be criticized, I wasn't ready for: what if people say, "oh this is stupid! This isn't accurate"? And like, I don't know, I just got really caught up in my head and like, not to be super cliche, but I actually am always paralyzed by fear in like, many different aspects of my life. I have these ideas or these things I want to try out. And I just can't bring myself to do them because I go through all the "what ifs?" And I think everyone goes through that to an extent. But anyways, I just think that after 2 years I was like, "Alright, this is ridiculous. I have this thing sitting on my computer, and why am I not putting it out? Because I'm afraid? Like, that is so dumb." So, I finally just hit my breaking point where I was like, "Ok, I need to get over it, put on my big girl pants, and put it out." Just making a big deal out of nothing, kind of.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean I totally understand that too. Because, just as a personal example, when I was first starting this podcast, I also thought, "Am I qualified enough to talk about human trafficking? What if I'm not accurate?" You know? Things like that. So, I think it's a very natural reaction. But I'm glad you did end up posting it because it really is eye-opening. Um, so I also saw at the beginning of your blog post that you have some organizations that viewers can look into if they want to help. So I was just curious about how you identified these specific organizations? Did you actually work with them before, or did you just know about them?

Juliana: No, I just -- I knew about them. And, one of them A21, that is affiliated with a church that my godmother -- whom I mentioned earlier -- has ties with. And so, I've known about that one for a while. I am definitely not even close to being well-versed in sex trafficking facts. I'm not an expert at all. I've done research, and like, looked into it a lot, but my main goal is to be the person who kind of just sparks that interest in learning more, and like, I wanted to be that catalyst so that people would be like, "Oh I want to learn more too!" But I'm definitely not, myself, the educator in the situation. You know like, in the chain reaction of events that I hope to happen with my video, I just want to be like that first step, like, "Hey you should like, learn more! You should be careful!" And so, I just want to point people to organizations that I know are doing good things and organizations that I personally have done research on their website. So yeah, I just wanted to give people a springboard they could go look things up after they found the video.

Victoria: Yeah, so it's like moving people out of analysis paralysis and encouraging them to be proactive in the fight against sex trafficking. That actually leads really well then into the next question. So, The Trafficking Dispatch is all about educating our listeners about human trafficking issues so that they can be empowered to create change. As someone who uses music for change, particularly in regards to the issue of sex trafficking, what advice would you have for other young adults that want to use their talents to fight human trafficking?

Juliana: That's the cool question. Well, I really believe that each person has their own set of unique passions and talents. And so, I think that there's really no limit to what you can do with what you're good at. I don't know if you -- you've probably heard of Dressember? Yeah, I think that's a super cool example because the creator was super into fashion and now, like, she's turning a huge movement about fashion into sex trafficking. And so, that's just a small example of how something super unrelated can be changed and turned around into really fighting against it. And so, I guess I would say, you have to figure out what you love doing, and what isn't going to feel like work to you, and then whatever that is, you can figure out how to translate it into fighting against this problem. Because, I think everyone feels upset when they hear about it. You know, no one's like, "Oh, sex trafficking. Alright, that doesn't bother me." You know? Like everyone's irritated by it. So I think figuring out how you can align what you're passionate about doing with your anger towards the issue and like, how that can coincide.

Victoria: I think that's a really good piece of advice. I really like how you worded it as, "Find something that doesn't feel like work." Human trafficking is a very heavy subject, so it’s important to raise awareness about it in a way that doesn’t constantly burn you out. So my last question is pretty general: how can listeners of this podcast find your work?

Juliana: Oh, ok! Well, I'm mostly on Instagram and Facebook, and YouTube. But, all three of those things you can just search my name, which is Juliana Lyons, and you should find me. I should pop up. Or you can go to julianalyons.com and that kind of has my blog and links to other stuff too. So yeah, everything's just under my name.

Juliana’s work demonstrates how we don’t have to totally reinvent yourself to fight human trafficking. Instead, you can use the skills and passions you already have to make a difference. Whether you’re a songwriter like Juliana, a web designer, or something else, human trafficking is a multifaceted issue that needs people from all backgrounds to put an end to it.

This has been the Trafficking Dispatch with Victoria Erdel. You can subscribe to our SoundCloud channel and tune into our next episode which will be released on February 25th at 5 pm. Or, if you would like to interact with us before then, you can visit our website at thetraffickingdispatch.com, follow us on our social media accounts – our handles are below – or email us with any questions or suggestions at thetraffickingdispatch@gmail.com. Thank you for tuning into this episode, and we hope you’ll tune in again to join the fight against human trafficking.

Juliana Lyon's Blog: julianalyons.com

Facebook: @thetraffickingdispatch
Twitter: @ttdpodcast
Instagram: @ttdpodcast_official

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