Her website says it best: There’s nothing quiet about Shelah Marie. Publicly, she is always asking questions and looking for new experiences. She’s best known as an author, content creator, and entrepreneur, three distinct spaces that allow her to inject her authentic, rebellious, yet playful personality into her work daily. However, before the world discovered her light, Marie grew up as the only Black woman in her household, which led her on a journey toward self-discovery and created a burning desire for a safe space. As a result, she accidentally created a sisterhood collective of nearly a million women fully invested in their healing and growth called Curvy, Curly, Conscious.
“Curvy, Curly, Conscious centers the Black woman’s experience and bridges the gap between ‘self-help’ and ‘real talk.’ My mission is to create a global movement of total self-love, self-care, and liberation for women,” says Marie. And she’s well on her way.
A vital cornerstone of the Curvy, Curly, Conscious community is the annual Unruly Retreat, an unapologetic weekend for Black women to come together in a truly safe space where they can be honored, experience joy, work through issues and, of course, get a little unruly. The retreat seeks to disrupt the status quo and help Black women begin the work of healing and releasing thoughts and behaviors that are holding them back from living their best and most authentic lives.
After a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Unruly Retreat is back, better than ever and headed back to Montego Bay, Jamaica from May 31-June 4. So naturally, we caught up with Marie to find out what attendees can expect, what she says to people who call The Unruly Retreat divisive, how Black men can support the Black women in their lives, and why she thinks Black women should explore the world.
What Makes the Unruly Retreat Special
When I started producing retreats, they were for all women of color, but things began to change right around the time of the George Floyd murder — seeing so much unrest in the world and feeling like we didn’t have anywhere to go where we could commune in safety. Where could we heal? Where could we speak without being undermined? Where could we share our feelings and thoughts without being challenged? My community started to express that they wanted a space just for us. So that’s when I transitioned The Unruly Retreat to being strictly for those who share a Black woman’s daily experience.
The Unruly Retreat is all about rediscovering your power. It embodies the practice of creating a safer, friendlier, kinder space where Black women can feel safe enough to let down their guards, be vulnerable, heal – and have a damn good time. Ladies can expect the signature non-judgmental, fun atmosphere of past Unruly Retreats, with improved workshops, daily yoga, a boat day, and a few fun surprises.
On Protecting Black Women Only Spaces
Some people only feel left out because they feel entitled to it in the first place. The world is conditioned to feel entitled to Black people’s labor, time, and private spaces. I don’t feel left out of people having chess clubs or other types of private organizations. I also never get interrogated by men asking why they can’t come to a women’s retreat.
This outside entitlement is a hallmark of living as a Black woman. The world feels entitled to Black women’s experience, so when we say no, certain non-Black women feel like they are being robbed of something that was theirs. But that space was never theirs. Separation is not bad; it’s a necessary part of the healing process.
I plan to produce more retreats for all women of color shortly, but The Unruly Retreat will always be a safe space for Black women.
How Black Men Can Protect Black Women
Many women in my community are caretakers, wives, and mothers and could benefit from someone else taking the initiative to help them heal. I’ve had men book spots at The Unruly Retreat for their wives as a surprise, which is super sweet. Many women want to heal, but that burden usually falls on her shoulders alone. Take the initiative. If you need couples therapy, be proactive and look into some therapists on your own time. If you see she needs a break, book a staycation or a dinner, or handle the nighttime routine with the kids so she can rest. Taking some mental labor off her plate is one of the best ways to offer support.
My husband, Ace Hood, supports me by letting me be myself. He doesn’t try to micromanage me or tell me what to do. He’s patient, and he nurtures and supports my dreams. Knowing that I have someone in my corner who will help me through my life changes and phases is hugely profound. I don’t take that for granted.
Her Travel Style
I have done the backpacking, I have done the hostels, I have lived with families in other countries, and I even once slept outside in a hammock for a summer. I am too grown for all of that now. I’m especially into a mix of luxury and nature. I want to see birds, trees, and animals and then go back to my room and have a nice bath with a glass of wine. We love a dynamic travel experience.