In 2018 the word wellness is ubiquitous. From coworkers chatting about their newly adopted vegan lifestyle to the endless images of perfectly postured yogis on Instagram, it seems as if nearly everyone is in a feverish race toward optimal self-care. But for Lauren Ash, founder and executive director of Black Girl in Om, wellness is nothing new: “Looking back now, in my life [I can see] where the seeds were planted.”
Using her voice, Ash has dedicated the past four years to creating a space for women of color to breathe easy and “help change modern representations and notions of well-being,” she says.
The company, which she describes as “equal parts lifestyle brand and global sisterhood,” resonates deeply with Black women and fills a much-needed void in the market, as evidenced by the more than 70,000 Instagram followers.
The Black Girl in Om site is a digital place for us to get in tune with ourselves and one another. In addition, the eponymous podcast, hosted by Ash and Deun Ivory, covers topics like reclaiming our beauty and intentional living.
Ash, a certified yoga instructor, wants to remind everyone that “wellness is ours [Black women’s] and always has been, but the way that it’s currently being packaged and marketed often causes us to forget that.”
She also believes that there needs to be a slight shift in the way we approach wellness: It’s not about what you do or don’t do, but about “just opening yourself up to being on a journey, playing an active role in discovering what it is that brings you balance, peace and strength.”
In many ways the yin to Ash’s yang is Black Girl in Om’s art director, Deun Ivory. After they had admired each other’s endeavors from afar, an introduction by a mutual friend three years ago changed everything. “Lauren called me—I was living in Houston at the time—and we talked about my work.”
After collaborating on what was thought to be a one-off project for Black Girl in Om, the two have since formed a friendship and a shared commitment to reshaping how Black women are depicted visually. Ivory says she loves that she is afforded the opportunity to celebrate women of color through this outlet.
“I get to place Black women at the forefront of a gorgeous aesthetic in photography and illustration,” she says with immense pride at her efforts on the site and other digital arenas. While she has been aware of her artistic abilities for some time, Ivory’s intentional wellness exploration is relatively new.
“I started practicing wellness when I moved to Chicago in July 2016,” she says. Though her journey may not seem long, it has certainly been life-altering. When asked what has been the transformative practice for her, Ivory says, it’s “setting intentions and goals for where you want to see yourself. It’s important to take note of who you are and where you are in your journey.”
This advice is simple yet profound. Ivory and Ash’s work, and that of other Black women like them, is vital. It not only helps to reclaim something that is ours, but also expands the possibility of what Black women can and ought to be: their most whole and healthy selves.