Young artist has passion for real causes

HARLINGEN — She presses a white cloth to her face, black hair hanging in sad tresses to her shoulders.

Devastation bleeds from her eyes. The gash on her forehead and the tragic bruise about her eye tells a story with no words. Because words can’t describe the abomination happening behind closed doors.

Anell McDaniel felt honored when Ryan Velasquez asked her to model for his Prismacolor painting to address domestic violence. Anell, a senior at Harlingen High School South, is a working model. However, this project was something different, a request from a new friend for a purpose.

“I feel very grateful he used me as his muse,” she said as they both laughed.

“Also I like the fact that he was doing it for a cause,” said Anell, 17. “He’s very talented, but he wasn’t doing it just to showcase his talent but to bring awareness.”

The work took first place in the Cameron County District Attorney Office’s Domestic Abuse Awareness art show in October. Ryan, 16, was in a time crunch and completed the work in about two days, but he felt the importance of the task at hand.

“I know so many people that have had this experience, physical abuse and mental abuse,” said Ryan, a junior at Harlingen South. “I thought, ‘All this was happening and nobody’s doing anything about it. Hopefully it will show people and really bring attention to it.”

Ryan’s artistic life and personal conscience express themselves in many ways. Not only is he a gifted visual artist, he also has a flair for the dramatic. Thursday night he won the Third Annual HCISD Talent Show with his performance of Lady Gaga’s “I’ll Never Love Again” from the movie “A Star is Born.”

“It was a surprise to me,” he said. “I consider myself an OK singer. It’s an overwhelming feeling. I am so grateful to have this opportunity.”

The song he sang has a rather poignant story, on the level of the nuances conveyed in his art work.

“Her husband has committed suicide,” he said. “She’s remembering the times when they were happy.”

What does he like more, singing or art work?

“Visual art definitely,” he said. “That’s what I started with since I was 4. Drawing has always been a passion of mine.”

His musical inclinations show up very well in his visual art, with passionate renditions of such notable singers as Selena. The late Latina artist has had a special impact on him.

“I grew up listening to Latin artists,” he said. “Selena was one of the main artists we listened to. Middle school was when I started following her, listening to her, understanding the lyrics. That’s how I came to learn Spanish.”

He especially admires her legacy of being humble and kind, values which he embraces in his own life. That’s why his friendship with Anell has taken off so well. They seem to admire these qualities in each other.


Some actions considered domestic abuse. Other actions can be on the list as well.

• Telling the victim that they can never do anything right

• Showing jealousy of the victim’s family and friends and time spent away

• Accusing the victim of cheating

• Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members

• Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs

• Controlling every penny spent in the household

• Taking the victim’s money or refusing to give them money for expenses

• Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing

• Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do

• Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc.

• Stalking the victim or monitoring their every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone)

• Preventing the victim from making their own decisions

• Telling the victim that they are a bad parent or threatening to hurt, kill, or take away their children

• Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets

• Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons

• Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with

• Forcing sex with others

• Refusing to use protection when having sex or sabotaging birth control

• Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol

• Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school

• Destroying the victim’s property

Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

More information

There have been 679 gun-related domestic violence fatalities this year

10 million people a year are physically abused by an intimate partner

20,000 calls are placed each day to a domestic violence hotline

20 percent of women in the U.S. have been raped.

Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence