Diversifying the Wellness Space (guest)

While I’m traveling in Italy, I will be sharing guest posts written by a few incredible women! This post was written by Lestraundra, founder of Balanced Black Girl and an online friend of mine for 3+ years. Her platform, which includes the Balanced Black Girl Podcast, is dedicated to empowering women of color to live well. She also has the best Spotify playlists, so do yourself a favor and check them out.

Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt uncomfortable? Like something about the energy was just off? I have, many times.  Especially in the wellness space. I can’t tell you how many workout classes, seminars, trainings, and studios I have walked into and immediately felt like I didn’t belong. A lot of people feel that way in those spaces for various reasons. One major reason being, the lack of diversity displayed in many wellness spaces and images, along with the exclusive nature of the wellness industry today.

Remember a few years ago when the Oscars got called out for the lack of diversity among its nominees? Also known as #OscarsSoWhite? I certainly do, and now it’s time to tackle what I call, #WellnessSoWhite – aka the lack of diversity and perpetual cultural appropriation in the online wellness space.

In 2018, I really stepped my game up when it came to attending events. While on one hand doing so was great for networking, on the other hand I was often taken aback by what I saw. At the beginning of the year, I attended a day-long celebration of all things wellness in Los Angeles. As a wellness junkie, I enjoyed hearing from the speakers, trying the different products, and meeting several of my wellness blogger friends in real life. However, there was just one caveat – there were hundreds of women there to celebrate wellness, and I could count the women of color in attendance (and on the speaker line-up) with one hand. I pushed my discomfort aside to smile through the day, but the feeling was still there. And I wasn’t the only person who noticed.

Right after the event, I got an email from a reader who had been following the weekend closely on social media, and she noticed the same thing. She shared with me that she is a Latina and struggled to feel represented by influencers in the online wellness space – which is what drew her to me. I was one of the few women of color she saw represented in larger wellness conversations online, and me simply showing up made her feel like her health mattered too.

Not to sound dramatic, but this email changed the entire trajectory of my brand, business, and life. While I echoed the same feelings this reader shared with me, I often stuffed them down, afraid of speaking up because I didn’t want to rock the boat. But after hearing from this woman, I realized just how much representation truly matters. Throughout the year as I began attending similar events and had the same feelings continuously pop up, I could no longer ignore it.  After attending a self-care themed event in the fall of 2018 and feeling uncomfortable being the only woman of color in the room, I decided I had enough. There are so many incredible people who don’t fit the mold of a traditional wellness influencer who have incredible knowledge to share, and rarely get equal air time on platforms to teach and inspire.

So I decided to create one, and Balanced Black Girl was born. Every week on Balanced Black Girl Podcast, I feature a woman of color expert on a wellness and/or lifestyle topic and have candid conversations about what wellness looks like through a more diverse lens. In every conversation I learn something. I am leaning into growth, perspective, and expansion along with my audience, because it’s going to take a village to help make the wellness space feel inclusive and representative for all.

Tune into new episodes of Balanced Black Girl Podcast every Tuesday and Friday on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. Keep up with our community events and news at BalancedBlackGirl.com.

Lestraundra is the founder of Balanced Black Girl and the host of the Balanced Black Girl Podcast. She’s a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, and natural beauty junkie who loves 90’s R&B, trying new skincare products, and creating recipes in the Instant Pot. She created Balanced Black Girl to provide content and experiences empowering women of color to live well.