Shayla Cunico isn’t fragmented, she’s kaleidoscopic.
Cunico, the culture editor for the Daily Lobo said her time at the University helped to transform how she sees the world and carve out space for her authentic self. She’s learning now that despite being pulled in different directions, she could be a whole person and create something new.
Graduation is looming but afterward she’s headed to Arizona State University, where orientation starts for her Masters in Visual Communication Design on May 28.
Cunico said she feels she has one foot in two places as she finishes here but looks ahead to the program.
“I’ve been trying to go through my head and see how I feel,” Cunico said. “But it’s difficult.”
Cunico said college wasn’t a straightforward path, and that it took time to come to recognize what she wanted to do didn’t align with the ideas she had when she first started college — something she said no one should be ashamed of.
She was influenced by her family’s career paths to choose something in STEM, as her mother and aunt are nurses and her father is an engineer.
“I thought STEM was what I was supposed to do, I came in as a nursing major and did that for a year,” Cunico said. She transferred to biology to explore careers in research — but later realized it wasn’t the research she was interested in, but writing about the research.
“I’m really lucky because my parents always supported me when I said I wanted to go into journalism,” Cunico said.
Coming to that realization was difficult and put her in a rough patch with all the stress. She considered dropping out, she said. In order to cope, she turned to journaling, which provided her an outlet, and led her to study journalism — which she had done since the sixth grade. She attended Sierra Middle school — a school specializing in media — and learned to produce videos, photos and audio In high school, she also ran track, did cheer, and often felt like an outsider looking in.
Cunico struggled with what she was supposed to do, because she never felt called to one particular aspect. She felt she was competent in writing, design, videos and photos but was looking for something more.
“I know I have all these things, and it really didn’t make sense that I wasn’t good at just one of them, because everyone else was really good at one thing,” Cunico said. “Everyone had their pocket, like niche that they fit in, and I didn’t.”
Frank Ocean’s Boys Don’t Cry magazine changed all of that. The reclusive singer displayed his prowess beyond writing, for photos, design, the complete package. Cunico said that inspired her to apply for something different in graduate school, to push beyond the boundaries.
“He created at that. It made me think that it’s possible for me to be successful by using everything I can do, together to complement myself,” Cunico said.
She found her way to the student newspaper but never expected to write for it. She started as a culture reporter in January 2018, and was hired as culture editor in May. She also worked for the student-publishing lab New Mexico News Port. For now, continuing in journalism isn’t in her path.
“It’s scary. It’s terrifying that you can’t get a job in journalism, and I didn’t want to feel that way forever,” Cunico said.
Her work at the Lobo includes the expansion of arts and culture coverage and bringing back the “Five and Whys,” a popular medium to discuss people’s favorite, albums, books and other art. Cunico talks about the influence of art and how it shaped her as a person.
The Daily Lobo did a quick Five and Why with Cunico on what her personal soundtrack is:
- "Peach" - Kevin Abstract: “My favorite song, I play it as soon as I get in the shower — it get’s my day started.”
- "Sellout" - Rico Nasty: “When she talks about being herself ‘I’m the best of being me, and the lot of y’all can’t relate,’ I just love that.”
- "Boy" - Yung Baby Tate: “It’s super 90s but it’s not carbon copy, this song is super cool, it’s just missing the water drop sound-effect.”
- "She’s Better" - Cássio: A friend of a friend who lives in Los Angeles and produces for big names. “It’s a good song, and not just because he’s a friend.”
- "2009" - Mac Miller: “I like to remember how I felt at a certain time make myself playlists, I write things down and tweet stuff as an ‘emotional scrapbook’ for me to come back to when I want to evoke an emotion. Swimming came out right when one of my friends passed away, and I met my other friends from Cruces and started hanging out.”
One of her close friends, Tara Briones, is a sophomore at UNM studying architecture and design. While they grew up in the same hometown of Las Cruces, their friendship blossomed after seeing a Cuco concert together and finding they shared much more than a home zip code.
She said they are “dreamer creatives” and as Earth signs, they find comfort in many of the same things. She said of the memories created with Cunico such as traveling to Los Angeles, the best memories are the simple ones.
“My favorite memories with Shayla were when we would just kick it,” Briones said. “We’d open a bottle of wine and go on walks in the summer, or skate in my front driveway.”
Briones said she will miss many aspects of their friendship, the day-to-day of walking to school or plans on the weekends — but especially the easy, genuine nature.
“She’s loyal to her friends and herself, and she always knew how to be there,” Briones said.
Danielle Prokop is the interim news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.