We had the good fortune of connecting with Sanyu Estelle and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sanyu, what is the most important factor behind your success?
As someone is who is most commonly known as a Soothsayer, a Word Witch and a writer, the most important factors of my work are my integrity and my word. Soothsayer means, at its root of Proto-Indo-European, “being, existence” + “to say, utter.” Then it also described a “true teller.” Both writing and truth telling came very naturally to me as a child. I asked my mother to teach me how to read in preschool because I was enamored of bedtime stories. By kindergarten I was writing my own stories and throughout elementary school I was getting in trouble with adults for asking too many questions about the way things were.

I have written everything from theses, to Spoken Word poetry, to High Fantasy, to esoteric essays, to sociological observations, to card readings. What ties all these things together has been my lifelong interest in words (definitions), their origins (etymology) and the culture that has been created by the spreading of them (philology). Also, probably the fact that both my sun and mercury are in Pisces. I’m very mutable and have great compassion for all types of others as a result! Yet, something consistent about me is that I change and I often do it in a very public way. I’m from the Care Bears generation. “Sharing is caring.”

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a spoken, written, singing and performance artist. It didn’t really happen in that order! Writing came first and I was a more introverted child with a lot of inner dialogue. Then I learned public speaking through being raised in the church as well as being a lay reader and, later, a SLAM Poet. Singing I did throughout my life in different ways, but I didn’t feel connected enough to dive into music personally until my father passed away in 2020. Performing has a place in all these practices, but is also just a natural part of Soothsaying.

I’ve found that being a writer is one of the least appreciated forms of art. Literacy has become central in a world that used to be dominated by both oratory and logographic languages. Many of us write as a means of communication, as a factor of domestic life and to express ourselves more creatively or emotionally. The ability is not rare, but writing artistically can be a delicate business of creativity and construction. Yet, authors are appreciated not so much as artists but as descriptive geniuses or as “Literary Minds.” Why aren’t we artistic minds or word artists?

At the same time, I also sing words, speak words in performance, speak works educationally. I write in all these ways as well. So I do not feel constricted in my ability to use words to describe my circumstances or ideas. It’s more that I have an interest in playing with words as construct and as concept outside of books or the internet. I would love to do huge installations of word art in addition to prose, poetry, spec-fic and esoteric writing. The older I get the closer I feel to that.

Singing my own music is something that I felt compelled to do when my Dad died in January 2020. I grew up listening to and singing jazz and blues as well as writing my own original poetry. I just never bothered to combine those two skills until my Dad transitioned. I featured on a few friends projects, but I never really did anything inspired by myself. Then my Dad died, Covid hit and I used all of 2020 to write, arrange and sing an entire 15 track album. It was a really cathartic process at the time and I learned so much about myself by choosing to transmute my grief in that way.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hahaha. I mean, I’m from Los Angeles so I’m not really wanting to blow the places I love up because this city has no loyalty on a governance level.

What I’m willing to say is when my bestie from Venice, Italy visited I made sure she ate tacos, saw the beach, the desert, the mountains, a rave, a kick back, a park, Hollywood, a movie in a movie theater, a family affair, a birthday party, thrifting and the rest of California.

It’s important to show people the spectrum here. If someone has just explored one neighborhood in Los Angeles they haven’t really seen it.

I have a song on my debut album, Good Grief, called Lost in Los Angeles (LiLA) and the opening lines are: “You think you know my city?/You think you know her name?/Thought you’d land in Hollwyood/But you in LA County.”

I say that because people see movies about LA their whole entire lives and then they think of Hollywood as all of Los Angeles. Then they get here and it’s a rude awakening. A sprawling city with no constancy. And I get it because I was raised here, but locals aren’t the reason Los Angeles is ruthless.

. . . I got off topic. All that is to say the most interesting thing about Los Angeles is the people. Get to know us!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m born, bred and buttered in Los Angeles so there are many to thank here. My parents for choosing LA after living in the United States; my friends, family and community for socializing me and teaching me about companionship; the city and the natural environment beneath it for giving me a sense of place; every collaborator who has helped me transmute thoughts and dreams into tangible realities; and my willingness to be curious, reflective and creative.

Big shoutouts to past versions of me who did what they thought they needed to do so that the me of the present can have the advantage of perspective and judgment.

Then there are so many to shout out for their influences: my Papa (may he remain in peaceful power in the realms of the Ancestors), Anansi, Nina Simone, Father Lewis Bohler, Belize, Namutamba, family members, my mother, my siblings, books of all kinds, PBS, Taoism, documentaries, Ifa, writing, travel, dance, singing and so much more. Also, Earth of course.

Website: www.sanyuestelle.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sanyuestelle/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanyuestelle/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCexAx40S_irHzE8yplYgW1w

Image Credits
Under water photo by Jimmy Joe Photography All other photos by Acid Smile Studios

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