Black women are so needed in the wellness industry. They’re the missing link between saying, formulating, and doing. While white-wellness companies can performatively post a message of solidarity, it’s not enough voices Villij co-founder, Kim Knight. She says in an interview with Refinery 29, “It took this for you guys to wake up, so let's see what you do with it. Let's move beyond words. It's not just about saying. It's about doing. Let's get more women of color and men of color as instructors in your spaces. Let's hire them. Let's uplift them.” But Villij co-founders aren’t waiting for a white-saturated wellness industry to make space for them. Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie created a wellness space that, The Combahee River Collective, would have called a safe space for the gathering of third world women.
The Combahee River Collective is a radical black feminist group that believes to change this society we live in we have to go beyond political ambitions and challenge “existing social norms and institutions.” It sounds like a lofty statement, but let’s narrow it down to the work that Knight and McKenzie are doing in Canada (and now virtually). Knight tells Refinery 29 that, “We knew we needed to create a space where people could talk about these things without fear of repercussions or not being understood. Unfortunately, due to the whiteness of the wellness industry, that was a struggle. Finding a therapist of color is a struggle, especially here in Canada.” The Villij's mission then became to create a safe place for people who often the only face of color in a wellness space.
While we may need even more black women to step into the wellness and beauty industry- there are so many who are already present. We want to point out a few of the black women and men who are breaking ground in an industry over-saturated in whiteness.
Black Women In The Wellness Industry
Kim Knight & Shanelle McKenzie, TheVillij.com
From their physical space to their virtual space, the ladies who make up the Villij, are covering all your wellness basics. Their blog covers topics from financial wellness, health, mental health, mindfulness, nutrition, to skincare.
Their mission? The advancement of all women of color. Or as they put it more profoundly: “We exist to build healthy, equitable communities.[...] To encourage and support the mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial advancement of womxn of color.”
Knight, was recently the recipient of the BMO Celebrating Women Grant Program. BMO standing for a bank-owned recognition program that focuses on North American women. Knight received the grant on behalf of her efforts and success in bringing wellness to marginalized communities both physically and virtually. Knights’ partner, Shanelle McKenzie co-founded The Villij with Knight while maintaining a position as a Field Engineering Coordinator. She works as an inclusive health and wellness advocate, keynote speaker, and panelist.
To learn more about McKenzie’s and Knight’s work you can check out TheVillij.com.
Ayanna Lee Rivears, Socacize Fitness Inc.
Dancer and choreographer, Ayanna Lee Rivears has danced since she was twelve-years-old and completed a degree in International Trade, Business, and Commerce before she started Socacize Fitness. A blend of Caribbean and African dance to burn up to 1,000 calories an hour. Socacize mission is founded on an empowering concept, which Ayanna calls the F.L.A.U.N.T lifestyle. Through dance, this Afro-Caribbean woman, is teaching women to (F) feel good, (L) look good, gain an (A) attitude, (U) unleash, (N) nice up yourself, and (T) take time for you- or F.L.A.U.N.T.” Ultimately Rivears is committed to helping people form healthy relationships, leaving them empowered through movement and culture.
You can find out more about Socacize’s virtual offerings, and Canadian-based physical offerings on Socacize.com.
Cynthia Johnson M.S, Cindy J Cosmetic Labs, LLC
This scientist got her shout-out in Harper’s Bazaar for her focus on helping small black-owned beauty brands source, “innovative new ingredients.” Although Johnson got a small personal shout-out in the magazine, they didn’t mention her LLC, Cindy J Cosmetic Labs. The lab works on the R&D side of things, for beauty business owners. They offer custom formulations in hair, skin, baby, and men’s care. Their formulations also cover bath, body, and color cosmetics. So if you’re outfitting-up to become the next Fenty Beauty, head over to this black-owned lab to think up your star beauty product! The New York Society Of Cosmetic Chemists sums up Johnson’s mission as, “Her goal is to first educate then formulate. Cynthia wants to help business owners gain knowledge behind their product; moreover, turn their product into their own testimony.”
Samantha Paulin, LISW, The Balanced Social Worker
“Balance to me means living mindfully, feeling grounded and holistically well,” voices Samantha Paulin in an interview with healthhuemans.com. Paulin is a Licensed Independent Social Worker, who focuses on promoting health and wellbeing. Her background in social work adds a punchy dynamic to her social media-based platform, The Balanced Social Worker. (Website coming soon). Only about 21.6 percent of active social workers in America were Black or African American found a 2017 workforce study. Beyond her seven years of experience as a LISW, Colorado-based Paulin, is a certified yoga instructor, wellness advocate, visionary, and entrepreneur.
You can follow Samantha’s journey on her Instagram page @balancedsocialworker.
Black Men In The Wellness & Beauty Industry
A landscape so often left untouched is growing for black men. Wellness initiatives for men are sprouting up like fresh vegetables in a summer garden. What’s better than Buttah skincare? Puns aside, L.A. native, Dorion Renaud, took melanin-skin-health into his own hands when he created Buttah Skin.
The Los Angeles Times positions Renaud as a founder who created a product line out of necessity. Stating the prevalent skin problems faced by black men are ignored by the beauty industry; including ingrown hairs and hyperpigmentation. Renaud’s brand then launched in 2018 is critical in the beauty market for its focus on the melanin-rich individual. But Buttah isn’t just for the black man, women, you can keep this black-owned brand in mind when you do your next beauty-haul, ladies.
To further support our black men, we’ve included some quick links to help you find the resources for the men in your life who may just need a little extra care this year!
Brooklyn-based Yoga instructor, Thai James loves to feature other inspiring yogi’s who may just look like you on his Instagram page
The Atlanta-based company, CNTRD.org, focuses on helping men find their center so they can continue chasing their dreams. You can follow their Instagram for innovative wellness content catered to the black male @iamcntrd.
Black male yogi’s for the culture is Black Boys OM Academy, find more about their online and community offerings at https://blackboysom.org
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