6 People of Color in Wellness You Should Be Following

It was a Sunday afternoon, sometime in the summer, when my mother and I walked into our first yoga class. I’d convinced her to go to an in-person session with the intention of experiencing relief and release from our long week. But looking back on this particular class, I only remember a sense of discomfort and a disconnection that made me feel almost shameful. Let me back up a little. Upon walking into the studio, my mother and I were greeted with smiles and what felt like warmth at first. After a quick scan around the room, I quickly realized that my mom and I were the only people of color present, and sadly we were being judged for it. Hidden under tight smiles and wide eyes, it was clear it was a surprise to have two people of color in the class or even the studio.

I tried to shake off the stares but began to feel increasingly self-conscious about being there and wondered if I even fit the “part” of the western ideal of a yogi, or if it was obvious that I was trying to. I couldn’t help but feel their eyes peering at us as if to say “good for you.” The whole experience made me feel uncomfortable, but I stayed because I really wanted to practice and feel more centered with myself. Now that I’m older and see how problematic this all was, I’d say to those judgy eyes, “Yes, good for me and my mom for taking an interest in our health and wellbeing.” Why is it such a shock to see a person of color in search of wellness?

One reason is the fact that the wellness industry has a major diversity problem. We constantly see big names like Gwyneth Paltrow spreading their ideal of wellness and clearly targeting one group of people. As a multiracial woman, how am I supposed to feel when I don’t see or hear other voices being heard on issues I’m dealing with too? Representation of people of color in the wellness industry is undoubtedly important. Wellness isn’t whiteness, it’s a state of being and wanting to care for yourself, so let’s drop the pretense that people of color aren’t made to feel alienated and that they don’t matter. I don’t want to feel ostracized when buying a green juice, or talking about my mental health. I want to know that I matter — to be heard and understood, and maybe even given advice by someone who knows what it’s like to feel what I feel. Being in good health is something for everyone to think about, and we all have our own journeys to go on, but knowing that YOU matter and that there is a space where you’re welcomed is so incredibly important. It’s frustrating to feel alienated in a space you hope to be a part of for personal growth, like that yoga class I went to with my mom.

These are all valid frustrations recognized by people who are trying to push through the clutter of whiteness in wellness that dominates Instagram. Below is a list of POC in the wellness industry to fill up your feed. To give us a little bit of insight into how they navigate the diversity issue, we asked them a few questions on how they feel about the industry.


Rachel Ricketts

  Photo by Bethany Schiedel

Photo by Bethany Schiedel

@iamrachelricketts
Rachel is a racial justice advocate, intuitive coach, and public speaker.

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing/practicing what you do?

I find motivation in knowing that faith requires action. This world can and must become a better, more egalitarian, and accepting place for all, particularly for womxn of colour. I know that I am on this planet at this time for a reason, so it is my duty to put that reason, my divine purpose, to work.

I am often asked how I can work to dismantle racist patriarchy every day without burning out. It is hard, exhausting, and at times traumatizing work, there is no question. But I found it far more exhausting and distressing to remain complicit in my own oppression and continue to put the comfort of white folx and white supremacy ahead of my own well-being. This work is part of my healing and my healing is my salvation.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

There are not enough folks of colour in the "wealth + hellness" industry and that is why we often see a white-washed version of wellness ripe with cultural appropriation, spiritual bypassing, lack of accessibility and the overall notion that people of colour do not belong. It is slowly getting better, folks like Lauren Ash, Latham Thomas, Dr. Crystal Jones, and Jessamyn Stanley are helping to push the dial, but it is nowhere near where it should be.

I am also seeing a lot of performative diversity — meaning white folks in this industry are beginning to understand that they need to appeal to a broader audience and try to include POC, so they use "woke" terminology or splash our faces on marketing materials. But they are not doing so in any meaningful or authentic way, for example, addressing pricing, decolonizing their practice, or confronting their own racism. That is why I created my Spiritual Activism 101 workshop, to help all hue-mans commit to authentic anti-racism and soulful social justice.

I believe POC, especially black and brown women, will continue to rise and pave the way for inclusive and accessible health and wellness, and we will ALL be better for it.

Best/worst advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

I've received a lifetime of awful advice about overcoming adversity, usually in the form of gaslighting, spiritual bypassing, and other forms of emotional violence that exist to invalidate my experience, along with the existence of institutionalized racism and oppression. My response to those forms of violence now is to stand firmer and deeper in my truth. In knowing who I am, that I am not alone, that my experiences are valid, and that no one truly benefits from white supremacy, not even white folks. That is not to say it doesn't cause grave harm and allow those with power and privilege to remain powerful and privileged, it does. But, on a soul level, to subscribe to whiteness requires you to defend, deny, and dissociate, and there is no true peace, health, or wellness in that.


Leah Thomas

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@greengirlleah
Leah is a sustainability lover and wellness blogger inspiring others to live a green life.

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing/practicing what you do?

One of my strengths, and at times weaknesses, is that I'm forward thinking. I know that feelings will pass and circumstances will always change. Holding onto the hope that if I try my best to manifest things that are meant for me [is what] keeps me going.

I love the quote from The Alchemist: "And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it." Not everything you want will be destined for you, but the things you want that are connected to your higher purpose also serves the universe, so things will fall into place when you work hard enough. I believe my desires to be in wellness or advocate for sustainability are connected to my purpose and honoring that keeps me motivated.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

It needs to be better. A lot of wellness practices have been appropriated from Eastern religions, without giving credit where it's due, which is inherently problematic. Sometimes in wellness, there seems to be an "All Lives Matter" approach where people don't realize that women of color have their own added stressors that may be systematic or generational. Black women wellness is so important to me because it's multifaceted. Black women are supposed to carry all of the emotional and sometimes financial burdens of their families, watch their sons and friends being incarcerated and killed, and somehow work twice as hard to get an education and a good job. The strong black woman stereotype is very real and I think black women, especially in this day and age, NEED wellness and self-care practices to improve our overall mental health. I'm excited accounts like @Alex_elle, @lalahdelia, and @blackgirlinom exist because they touch on black wellness a lot and provide a safe space for people of color to start their wellness journey. If I can help in any way, I'll continue to do that through my accounts.

Best/worst advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

The best advice that I've ever gotten is to practice self-compassion. Self-care is a buzzword in wellness right now, but self-compassion is a major part of having a healthy mindset. When you have a setback it's important to not be so hard on yourself and have positive self-talk. I tend to be much nicer or empathetic towards other people than myself and I had to work on changing that and be kind to myself. Also, studies have shown that people who "bounce back" more often have an internal locus of control. That means they believe they can influence some outcomes of their life, vs. an external locus of control where someone blames outside circumstances, other people, and so on for how their life turns out. When you have an internal locus of control, even when you feel powerless in situations OUT of your control, you can work to better yourself through things you can control, which will help you overcome adversity.


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Kimberly Fe’Lix

@kimberly_felix
Kimberly is a writer and wellness enthusiast who provides her readers with a “one-stop shop for all things wellness.”

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing / practicing what you do?

Simply put, I stay motivated because it’s still necessary. Before I got into the blogger/influencer space, I was in the health and wellness sphere on a path to become a doctor. I also worked in healthcare advocacy. Several years ago, I took a break from that path. Taking a step back from the pure science of medicine with international work and advocacy opened my eyes to broader aspects of wellness.

There are so many aspects to wellness that have nothing to do with the acute problems we rely on medicine to fix. I believe that what you put in and on your body matters, and I want to get more people thinking about these aspects of wellness. I am committed to inspiring others to improve by not only sharing information that empowers people to live more mindfully, but also makes doing so more accessible. I am especially passionate about working with mothers and women of color.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

The short answer is: we have a long way to go. Research shows that people of color are suffering at alarming rates from preventable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. I think this has a lot to do with wellness education and representation. I believe that the media around and marketing of wellness very clearly sends a message — through lack of representation — that wellness (yoga, healthy eating, exercise, clean beauty) isn’t for people of color. I’m hoping to change that narrative by sharing resources and research, and also by living a healthy and mindful life out loud so that others can see — this IS for you.

And this isn't just in the healthy food sphere, I see the trend of lack of representation across all well-living spaces, including sustainable clothing, clean beauty, and mindful living.

As for where it’s going, I think as a community more wellness influencers of color are speaking up, and making it known that we are here and that wellness is for us. I think brands are, very slowly, beginning to hear this message. And the more that we vote with our dollars, the more wellness brands will be forced to demonstrate some diversity in their offerings and their marketing.

Best/worst advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

It may be a little cliche, but I think the best advice I've been giving is to “keep doing you.” That authenticity will shine through, and while you might not be for everyone, the ones who you ARE for, and who need to find your message, will — and they will appreciate you sharing your gifts and your voice authentically.  


Manuela Baron

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@thegirlgonegreen
Manuela is on a mission to learn about sustainability and wellness practices from around world.

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing/practicing what you do?

With every passion and project, there is an inevitable burnout period. For me, what keeps me going is community. It's seeing other activists creating and inspiring. Seeing normal, everyday people changing the world through their daily actions. Not only do they keep me accountable, but this community also motivates me to do more to help the environment and social issues.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

Diversity is becoming trendy as people are demanding inclusive images and language. Hopefully, we'll be seeing more representation in the next few years. As for the wellness industry, right now there's a disconnect. Everyone needs wellness, but not everyone can achieve it through luxury spa treatments and week-long unplugged periods. Things need to change to fit people's everyday lives.

Best advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

Don't be afraid to MAKE your voice heard. Growing up, my father was a champion of Hispanic rights. When news outlets weren't featuring the issues of South America, he started his own publishing company to have his voice heard; through this, he had the opportunity to represent Hispanic Americans in discussions with both President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain.


Christine Gutierrez

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@cosmicchristine
Christine is a licensed therapist and love addiction coach with a mission to empower people to heal their pain and own their worth.

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing/practicing what you do?

I don’t have to find it per se. The motivation lives in soul and in my bones. I have, since the time I was a little girl, felt this deep soul call to help those that are marginalized or wounded or hurt. I see the hearts and spirits that are broken and I feel the call to hold the space so they can remember their worth and come home to their soul.

What I do is my soul purpose, my calling. I can’t imagine not doing it.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

First of all, I’ll say that for me the wellness industry means many things — wellness leaders are teachers, therapists, community activists, and many of these people don’t get seen in the mainstream and online wellness sphere. So I think that that is important to note. Many healers of color are out there in the field, so to speak, and not getting the publicity.

In addition, there is a lack of financial investment from many companies in their budget because they label it “mainstream” vs Hispanic market. I see this time and time again even if the Hispanic market is purchasing the goods.

In addition, [there is] the lack of spiritual Latina authors in the wellness field. There is a big need for diversity in the wellness community and spirituality world. I see changes happening. I see people standing for a stop to cultural appropriation. I see us women of color gathering together to support one another more and like-hearted people standing for more diversity. I see things changing and I will continue to work to open the spaces up for more diverse voices and leaders.

Best/worst advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

Best advice: one day at a time and think it through.


Valeria Hinojosa

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@waterthruskin
Valeria inspires her followers to chase the WaterThruSkin lifestyle.

How do you find the motivation to keep pursuing/practicing what you do?

By understanding that every day is different and magical, with the ups and downs. Every smile and every tear are part of this journey, and each day will always begin with an opportunity and end with a lesson. Changing my perspective and embracing everything as it comes has been the most important practice in my life.

How do you feel about the representation of people of color in the wellness industry and where do you see it going?

Change is taking place not only in the wellness industry but everywhere. We are finally understanding that the only way to thrive blissfully in life is by accepting each other and collaborating with each other because of our differences, not in spite of them. Differences make us unique and beautiful. Not less, not more. They are worthy of admiring. I now see humans awakening to the idea of speaking the language of compassion, acceptance, wisdom, and growth.

Best/worst advice you’ve gotten for overcoming adversity?

Best: Every single cell in you is magic.

Worst: Try to fit in. It’s painless.


More Communities for You

We can’t forget about the community-driven accounts that are doing their fair share of bringing diversity back into wellness. Some wonderful humans have created different online safe spaces for you to feel comfortable to begin or continue your wellness journey. OMNoire is a social wellness community for women of color whose mission is to connect people through events, retreats, and their online platform. WeAllGrowLatina is a collaborative space dedicated to helping Latinas connect with one another while offering a level of companionship that feeds the soul. By providing classes and fitness opportunities, and promoting healthy living and networking, these organizations provide an online space for inclusion and to make you feel welcomed and that YOU matter.