By Maura Marcellino
April is a very eventful month to say the least. Not only is it Autism Awareness/Appreciation/Acceptance Month, but it is also Earth Month. I had the chance to catch up with the person who not only showed me how to combine my love for the environment and working in the entertainment industry, but how much of a color wheel spectrum autism is, LEXIS YELÏS. She is a very multifaceted music industry professional with quite the impressive resume. In 2019, I met her while she was introducing the new sustainability department at Jiffy Lube Live. She had talked about working on Warped Tour the previous year and I knew she was someone I wanted to know. I was still waiting on my acceptance to transfer to George Mason University and feeling lost and stuck. Before I knew it I was switching departments at work, I was adding a Sustainability Studies minor at GMU and working the 25th Anniversary Weekend in Atlantic City for the Van’s Warped Tour on her team. She mentioned that she was autistic and has dyspraxia a few times and realized I could relate to a lot of things she went through/ was going through that I thought was normal ( surprise… NOT normal!), but I put the thought of me being autistic in the back of my mind until the next year within the first few months of lockdown (Learn more about my autistic journey with Cynthia Gross here.)
LEXIS YELÏS was born and raised in the NOVA/ DC area and moved to New York City after high school where she mainly resided (when not touring) until Fall of 2021when she moved to Atlanta, Georgia after she married her partner in life and music, IAMCOUCOUCHSURF. Growing up, she always knew she wanted to work in music. In first grade, when students had to journal with the prompt, “What Do You Want to Do When You Group?”, she wrote that she wanted to live in New York City and become a singer and drew stars in her eyes! Very few people live the dream they had when they were that young. I had written that I wanted to be an endocrinologist or an actress living in California with a film degree from the University of California ( two very different things, I know)…as you can tell, I am neither. She was not aware that she could do it professionally until she was around eleven when she started opera after being told during parent-teacher conferences her singing was a distraction and an outlet was needed. When she was seventeen, she became aware of the possibility of being a professional songwriter.
When it comes to live event sustainability, she did not really have anybody to look up to. This industry has blossomed in the last five years, most people are not even aware it exists. She did bring up the fact that this industry is currently almost solely run by women! There are events and programs that helped her step out of her comfort zones. LEXIS YELÏS is a “Forever Girl Scout” and got to go away to summer camp and go outside to appreciate nature. It was one of the first places she went backpacking, learned archery, and it led her to get more serious and become involved in the Student Conservation Association in high school after her AP Environmental teacher said she had too much “hippie energy.” She filled out an application and was sent to Vermont to build hiking trails. By eighteen, she was working with the National Park Service as a professional trail builder.
As I mentioned earlier, LEXIS YELÏS was one of the first people to plant the idea in my head that I was autistic. As it turns out, we have similar stories when it comes to learning later in life. As a young child, she showed common traits such as sensory issues, only being able to wear certain things certain ways, low muscle tone, and more. She was diagnosed with dyspraxia. We chatted about how a lot of women are coming out saying that their parents knew they were autistic, but it was kept hidden to be raised “regular.” She always knew that she was not like everyone else, not in a self-esteem way, but something she could not get that the rest of the world got. She thought everyone felt that way. When it comes to accessibility at live events, there seems to be a lack of accommodations for neurological and mental disabilities that is not the bathroom…which normally is not better. People pay money for VIP and may receive accommodations such as space to breathe, but it should be more accessible. A venue she recommended was The Eastern in Atlanta, which has a rooftop that is accessible during the show where they have screens to play the show on and you do not need to worry about re-entry rules. So far, Atlanta has been more accessible for physical and neurodivergent accommodations than anywhere she has lived.
Another thing she helped me come to terms with was college. Along with there being a stigma around autism, there is a stigma around how long it takes to graduate college. This year, she will walk with her peers at graduation at 28 years old. During our chat, we talked about how difficult it is to find jobs right out of college. I should have graduated this semester, but life had another plan for me. LEXIS YELÏS took her time trying to figure herself out, find schools, and especially gain experience that make her extremely hirable. I have her to thank for helping me understand college and the music industry. It is a weird thing. You have people with college degrees struggling to find a job and then you also have people without degrees getting hired for almost anything and everything. “Have some value in yourself” There should not be a time limit when it comes to education. The worry about getting into the music world does not exist to her since she is already in the world.
Favorite Broadway Musical: The Boy from Oz
Favorite DMV Spots: Any thrift store, burritos from Anita’s, Airport Park, Eden Center, Moby Dick’s, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, and Fairfax County Public Libraries
Go To Karaoke Songs: “Waking Up in Vegas” by Katy Perry Any song from High School Musical with a group of people
Food waste/ food sourcing is one of her top priorities when it comes to tour sustainability
She wants to change the gatekeeping in the industry
She sees her and her husband’s song “Between My Thighs” on shows like HBO’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls” and “And Just Like That”
Maura Marcellino is studying business and environmental sustainability at George Mason University. When she is not studying, Maura enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends and family.
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