Healthyish Homecoming Produced by Bon Appétit Curated A Dope Wellness Summit That Was Dripping With Melanin Magic
SOOOOOOOOOOO ..... We had the amazing opportunity to attend the first Healthyish Homecoming last weekend and it was the dopest mainstream Wellness Event ever!
Healthyish, a unique wellness site created by the editors of Bon Appétit, created "Healthyish Homecoming" which is an all-day fest filled with delicious food and inspiring conversations, with people who are changing the way we think about wellness. With exceptional breakout panel discussions and one-on-one mentoring sessions this event was a mosaic of sisterhood, community, with an emphasis of damn good food (and displays) by Two Hands, Botanica and Lil' Deb's Oasis! And all of this took place at stunning eco luxe hotel - 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge - which made this experience that much more brilliant.
Photos courtesy of Emma Fishman, Bon Appétit
But as much as we'd love to just give a basic overview of the event - that's not what this feature is about! It's about sharing that this is the first time attending a fairly large scale mainstream wellness event (300+ attendees) with an intentional presence of WOC across conversations of self care, natural beauty, food justice and entrepreneurship. Black women and WOC made up the majority of the panelist throughout the day - despite having a diverse yet still predominantly white audience.
BREAKING. FUCKING. BARRIERS.
We spoke with founder and Healthyish editor, Amanda Shapiro, who shared her philosophy on curating a wellness event that actually has texture in every sense of the word:
"When I was putting this event together, I wanted it to reflect the diversity of the wellness world - which obviously is incredibly diverse - but it’s not always reflected in the mainstream media representation of what wellness looks like. And that’s really been the mission of Healthyish since we launched and it seems pretty obvious that Healthyish Homecoming would want to do the same things. So I reached out to people who inspire me and what came together (I hope) is a reflection of all of the exciting work that’s being done out there in wellness. It’s time for people to come together in real life and celebrate all of that together. A time to get off the internet and get into our bodies and come to a place where we can really have these conversations together face to face." - Amanda Shapiro
After a tasty breakfast, opening remarks and a morning stretch, the event kicked off with gust of inspiration from Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning Actress Cynthia Erivo. With messages of health, wellness and fitness, her major take away was the importance of "downloading".
Instead of downloading at the end of the week - which essentially is taking the personal time to reflect and recharge; she talks about the importance of downloading continuously throughout the week.
"Paying attention to me, tune into me throughout the week. Thirty minutes to an hour a day dedicated to me. Give to yourself this gift so that you can download - feed yourself from the inside out." Perhaps the most intriguing personal fitness advice was: "The best way to run is to run with silence so that you can listen to your body".
Erivo's personal journey as a fitness enthusiast and actress stresses the simple importance of taking time for yourself to listen to yourself.
The layout of this event consisted of 5 separate panel discussions, in which all 5 discussions would break out in their own rooms and have a conversation centered around their focused topic for an hour. The same panels took place twice so that guest got the opportunity to sit in on two selected discussions.
The 5 topics were:
Entrepreneurs Run the World
What Are Adaptogens and Can They Really Change Your Life
Redefining Natural Beauty
Self-Care: Indulgence or Activism
Why Food Sovereignty Matters
The first discussion I attended was Redefining Natural Beauty with Desiree Pais, Sophia Roe, Abena Boamah-Acheampong and Zora Casebere with stellar moderation by the Senior Beauty Editor from the Cut - Ashley Weartherford.
... AND THIS DISCUSSION WAS EVERYTHING!
The beauty industry is over-saturated, white washed and is notorious for green washing. Just the sheer site of of all that melanin sharing stories, providing suggestions and authentically engaging in a conversation about actually redefining beauty standards, was simply magical. Sophie Roe who is a chef, wellness expert and empowerment architect was wildly passionate about un-defining beauty so that we're not boxed in - and her emphasis on staying away from silicone was golden. Desiree, who is a wellness advocate and beauty editor at Herbivore Botanicals stressed the importance of creating rituals that amplify your beauty. Zora who is an all around community badass got real about the complexities around natural beauty: how it's experienced versus how it's marketed. And last but not least, Abena who is the founder of shea butter brand Hanahana Beauty (MelaninASS Vanguard) , kept the crowd laughing while talking about the importance of research and not conforming to the masses.
AS MIND BLOWING AS THIS CONVERSATION WAS, WE WANTED TO GET A BIT MORE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH A FEW OF THE PANELIST:
We asked panelist, Abena to give us a quick sound bite regarding her feelings about this event:
"I’ve been in such a state of transition - from grad school being done and being in this space where you have to be this full entrepreneur type of person - being here to do this has helped me to affirm that I can be in this space. You are knowledgeable of this information and you know how to give it out in a way that’s accessible. It’s been really great to be on a panel where I can look around and see black women talking about natural beauty and not being a minority. Being in a space especially when it comes to natural beauty - a space that is actually our space because it comes from us - I’m like “Thank You”. This makes me feel so good and I’m really happy to be here. This makes me happy!" - Abena Boamah-Acheampong
We then had the opportunity to have a real sit down conversation with Sophia Roe. We asked about her feelings about the panel and she gave us this chilling response:
This experience has been super welcoming, super personal - for me so far. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me very personal questions - not in an invasive way but about themselves. I could not have had a better panel experience. I do panels all of the time and this is the first time I was a on a panel where the majority of us were African American women - 3 out of the 4 of us! Almost the entire front row were women of color and that was important for me as a woman of color.
Sophia kept our 1 on 1 conversation going we asked her give us one tip for WOC when it comes to wellness:
GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just because that yoga class has 90% white women and it doesn’t feel comfortable to you. It is our job to break whatever boundary that is. When we allow that to keep us from going to that yoga class or whatever it is that is too white washed - you’re keeping a chain on yourself that has no business being there. So be confident and comfortable with being a black woman or WOC in that sort of environment. I think that the more presence we have - the more we are saying … 'see how there’s only one of me'. As cisgendered white women aren’t having the conversations that they need to have - I don’t know that it’s there fault - they don’t even think about it probably - however … our narrative is ours. Not only are we in the right to stand up and make this an issue when nobody else is. It’s important for you to make this an issue. In there wellness space, there was nobody I could physically identify with from being a restaurant chef, to being private chef to quitting everything and deciding that I wanted to work in the beauty industry. With all of those steps - the one thing that always held true was that there was not a lot of me. In the food space in particular which feels very white washed and regal and sometimes like I don’t belong there, it’s important the way that I feel and I feel like there’s a lot of value in that. I’ve been in this industry for 11 years and for one of the first times, and as a WOC I feel important and this is a proud moment for me.
I don’t know any construct of sisterhood stronger than WOC. We are pioneers for women being together. Everything is all feminist now, togetherness now … BUT IS IT?
I think that it’s very important to register all facets of being a female - however, being a WOC female is its own thing. And to say that it is not - I’m sorry that’s almost offensive itself. I’m saying that as a WOC that's admittedly the “polite version”. I'm the acceptable version. I think there needs to be a little more honesty of that in the WOC space.
I absolutely realize that there are times that I get invited to things - like “she’s the black girl, let me check that box off”. I’m sorry - if you want me to be that, I’m calling you out on that. And so that’s me. I’m your Lisa Bonet and you can go fuck yourself!!!
My dad is Brazilian Japanese and my mom is 100% French. I have a chaotic narrative, I never met my real dad (he died before I could meet him). And my mom to this day is a substance abuser. I was in and out of foster care as a kid - It’s important for WOC to not be ashamed of who they are.
You can’t be ashamed - that’s more chains … so get out of your own way. You deserve to be here. Arguably, this fucking yoga class is more important to me then it is to Sally who has the great upbringing, who came from money. This is for me - and I feel like, in order for black women in particular and WOC to really claim and have a space - you have to really believe that you deserve it and get out of your own way! That’s my biggest thing - it’s too important for us.
It’s not about reclaiming your time, because I’m not about missed time or missed opportunity. that’s not the narrative I want to come from. It’s really about - you’re exactly where you need to be - and you’re right on time! This is the time.
As WOC we walk around uncomfortable and mad as hell all of time. And this industry is here to make space. A lot of us feel really alone in the wellness space. It’s about loving yourself, even the hard things about yourself. A green smoothie and kale salad is not wellness - the difficult conversations are what’s going to be the most helpful for the WOC demographic because we all have a difficult narrative.
(Can we just take a moment and let Sophia's very raw and honest words set in)
NOW - This discussion, by an 100% ethnic panel, was very much in your face unapologetic conversations around breaking down barriers of colonization and ways to cultivate healthy food options for communities of color. Yemi, who is the founder and farm manager at Oko Farms discussed how access to food should not be a burden, thus her work is always centered around awareness. Additionally, she focuses on helping people to think about the growers who work tremendously hard while not taking the process for granted. Reem - a Palestinian restaurant owner in Oakland ( Reem's California) focused a lot around the identity politics around food and the apparent ethnic cleansing in America. Food is a source of healing and she is passionate about giving a voice to the marginalized communities. As a Native American, Neftali was unapologetically transparent about this land being Indigenous land where people were displaced and how food is literally a means for survival. His powerful stance on how cultural food is trendy meanwhile, cultured people don't have access. Neftali shares how important it is to "find your safe space where you have to be on display".
Overall, and intensely deep conversation about how agency and ownership leads to self determination was the powerful narrative that needs to continuously be discussed in food conversations.
So we sat down with Reem to dig a little deeper about her story and feelings:
"I feel uplifted as one of the few Arab women chefs out there, to be able to speak voice and truth to the narrative at what I perceive to be more mainstream places. You can preach to the choir but it will only get you so much. To be on sort of these national platforms where I get to talk about food and the resilience of Palestinians -It feels very empowering to me. People being hungry for this knowledge - this is a new frontier. I’m really proud to talk about my heritage and the culture of my people. It took a long time to get to this place - a lot of decolonization. Experiencing racism and not being able to have an analysis of it - it sat in the body for a long time ... I moved to California (from Boston), which was a healing space for me to rediscover my identity. Oakland and Bay Area was a place for me to heal from years of trauma of racism and not feeling like I had a voice.
It feels like a privilege to come back to these broader places and tell that story.
After an afternoon of breakout session - all 300 and something attendees came back together for the "Big Talk". Lauren Ash founder of Black Girl in Om sat alongside Jenna Wortham who is a staff writer for NYT and Co-Host of 'Still Processing', came together for a powerful closing conversation moderated by Amanda Shapiro.
The conversation was full of realness - a realness that is very much needed in wellness conversations. Discussions manifested into conversations around intention, vulnerability, the commodification of wellness, personal wellness vs community wellness, the power of critical reflection and how wellness is a continuous learning and growing journey. Too hear two successful black women on a big stage talk about the struggles and importance of balance and how self check in is key, was monumental.
We caught up with the beautiful Lauren Ash and she shared a few thoughts with us:
"Certainly with Black Girl in Om,it is my mission to hold sacred safe space for WOC to explore healthy living, mindufulness, what it means to thrive and Im very very enthusiastic when I see black and brown femme women at events that are associated with brands that are for the mainstream. I’m really grateful to be apart of the Healthyish lineup and seeing some of my girls - Abena from Hanahana beauty, Sara Elise from Harvest and Revel - just a lot not just WOC but WOC who are pushing the boundaries of wellness and beauty and self care. To have them here unapologetically sharing their insights, wisdom with all of us. I’m thrilled - I’m so happy." - Lauren Ash
OVERALL, THE ENTIRE EVENT WAS A VIBE! FROM THE BREATH TAKING VENUE AND VIEWS TO THE CONSCIOUSLY CRAFTED FOOD, ALL THE WAY TO THE MELANIN DRIPPING ACROSS CONVERSATIONS OF HEALTHY-ISH LIVING. THE TAKE AWAY IS THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO SHOW UP AND SHOW OUT IN THE JOURNEY OF WELLNESS. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE YOU HAVE TO BE SELFISH IN ORDER TO BE SELFLESS AND TO REALLY EXPAND THE CHALLENGING NARRATIVES THAT COME WITH HOLISTIC WELLNESS.
Thanks so much for this amazing Swag Bag!