Author of Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide to Wellness
“The wellness industry is nowhere near where it needs to be when it comes to inclusivity and approachability,”
Like many of us, when she first sought out self-care Chloe Pierre found most options to be expensive, exclusive, and overwhelmingly white. Looking for something that was designed for her as a Black, plus-sized woman, Chloe’s experience drove her to create the change she wanted to see.
Chloe has said, “The pain of finding ‘self’ was unbearable, long-winded, isolating and uncertain, because there still aren’t enough resources or spaces for people who look, sound, act and want (in that order) all the things I aspire to be, making it all somewhat uncharted territory. At the same time of course, it was also rewarding because not only did I find self, and then @thy.self, but a few years further down the line, the opportunity to create this book [Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide to Wellness] then landed in my inbox.”
Based in the U.K, Chloe began her work to diversify self-care with Thy.self, and just this year, she published Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide to Wellness. We’re thrilled to be talking with Chloe Pierre today to learn more about redefining this critical space for Black women everywhere.
Let’s start with the basics.
In your book you ask, “What if the choices I make throughout my life on a day-to-day basis – including how to survive and to choose joy in all its forms – are wellness?”
How do you define wellness?
That’s exactly it. Wellness is in the everyday, it's in everything and most importantly, for me it's in the choices and actions I make and consider everyday which contribute to the life and healthy mindset I am striving for. Wellness most certainly is a journey and perspective helps you define how to embrace it.
How has that definition changed over time?
Firstly, wellness didn't actually feel applicable to me for a long time and when I ‘felt’ what it should be and how I could possibly embrace it, I didn't actually have the language to define it nevertheless share that with anyone else. Now, as I briefly described above, its in everything for me. I enjoy the awareness of making choices everyday that contribute to my overall wellness although like everything else in this life, it has its moments where my wellness isn't prioritised and I have to lean into that, accept it, understand why and give myself grace as previously my wellness has taken beatings through me not being able to control everything in my life which is toxic, definitely self sabotage and just not sustainable for the life I’m trying to lead.
What was missing from the wellness space when you first sought out better self-care in your own life?
Simply put, it lacked real authenticity in terms giving credit to all the amazing forms of wellness techniques we practice today, where they came from, the people who really helped keep it going through the centuries and culture through the intentional act of exclusivity especially against those who didn't fit the vanilla aesthetic. The more I thought about it, the more I saw it. It really is true, being awake and aware is disturbing at times because for a long time, I thought there was nothing I could actually do about it, I had to just accept this reality and that was painful.
I love this quote.
“This is the legacy and the generational wealth you hear of. It isn’t just for the families and communities we reside in; it’s for us all. It’s us saying: we exist and we exist loudly. We believe in ourselves. We believe in each other. We have a story, and most importantly, we take care of ourselves.”
Can you tell us more about this form of “generational wealth” and how you’re redefining self-care?
Everyone assumes that generational wealth is monetary and for multiple marginalised communities, the majority of ‘wealth’ or patterns we’ve passed down have been traumatic and sometimes blindly and unaware. So if in this sense what we have previously passed down being less than helpful and currently generations working tirelessly to shake these traumas and mindsets, we can create a new pattern, a new legacy which is conscious, loud and focused on wellness, the ownership of and the betterment of the practice for us - first and foremost and then fo those who come after us. It's all about conscious thinking - in my opinion. I’m actively redefining self-care as a generational practice in the way I communicate, to myself, to others, within my household, communities and especially around my child. I want him to be able to understand this inherently.
You started with @thy.self, and just a couple months ago your book Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide to Wellness launched. What has been your experience in launching this space and subsequent book?
It’s always a challenge to be completely honest with you. The thing about my work is that everyone has a different take on it and it's beautiful and I welcome this. The challenge sometimes means that I try to make it exactly what everyone wants as I sincerely want both projects to last and also help as many people as possible but I’m learning to accept I am only one part of this challenge so collaboration is key and working with others who are also on this journey to make the impact slightly bigger and get our message out to wider networks of people and communities. What I’ve also recognised is that Black women still have some work coming together and collectively expressing our worth. It's an inner and community level job but currently it seems just very individualist at most. I look forward to seeing that develop and us supporting ourselves and each other better.
Of thy.self you’ve said, “thy.self unapologetically connects women and people of all ages through genuinely positive self-care initiatives, self-love discussions and positive awareness…It’s about supporting and educating ourselves and others on the IRL applications of these theories that have so often felt out of reach for.”
What is the way(s) that thy.self and now Take Care have provided support and education to Black women that you are most proud of/excited and motivated by?
We work tirelessly as a community and a platform to educate people on every level as soon as they come into contact with us, whether that's through our events which activate a wide range of social causes and topics, our social media posts and content, our DM’s which we work to respond carefully to with 100% energy and fact or educating our partners and brands in order to make the spaces they own and occupy less exclusive and more inclusive on every level. If its something troubling to discuss, we’ll always have our hand up first to participate in. The beauty of our approach is we are always open to learning which makes a safer and progressive environment for real change.
Why carve out a space specifically for Black women that is distinct from all women?
It’s always been needed especially where wellness is concerned. It's long overdue that Black women are included and see themselves as being part of this movement. I believe that once Black women are catered for, it means everyone is. History and statistics repeatedly show that Black women have always been overlooked however they show up in every corner of factual evidence, so our elevation means elevation for all.
What are your top tips for Black women to take better care of themselves?
- Raise your voice: We don't all sound the same or think the same. The more we confidently express this and support each other with this narrative, the sooner we as Black women rise and see the changes we want to see. We can't silence each other or hold each other back anymore, consciously or unconsciously. Also having something to say is great, let's keep on making noise!
- Therapy is optional: Therapy in its traditional form is cool. Therapy and wellness is applicable to us and yes we deserve it. But is therapy right for you? Only you can decide. Don't get stuck on therapy being your only outlook as it's not right for everyone. Test out a few practices along your journey including art therapy, CBT Therapy, NPL Therapy or lean into spiritual practices instead, meditation, guided tapping, self massage. Discover what works for
Feel it out: We're not often parented as Black women to lean into our feelings and common phrases within the community like 'we have to work twice as hard' almost encourages us to bottle up our feelings and dive in harder. This will always set us back that much further. Instead spend time carving out a safe space whether that be physical, or a mental safe space for you to be able to lean into your feelings, understand them, appreciate them, validate them and when you are ready, do something about them. We are black women but most importantly, we are human - just like everyone else. We do not need to carry everyone and everything. No more.
Take a hard look at the numbers: Despite being an under researched groupo in these modern times, it's very important for us to be just as aware of the statistics surrounding us as a demographic as much as we feel it.
This week in the U.S. is Black Maternal Health Week (while in the UK it’s in September). The mortality rates among Black mothers are staggering to say the least. There is so much work to be done in the space–starting with lawmakers and medical professionals–but it takes tremendous efforts by advocates and funders to make this happen. Organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance and the Mama Glow Foundation work year-round to make changes from the top down and bottom up.
Just last year, President Biden proclaimed this week a national observance, saying, “I call upon all Americans to raise awareness of the state of Black maternal health in the United States by understanding the consequences of systemic discrimination, recognizing the scope of this problem and the need for urgent solutions, amplifying the voices and experiences of Black women, families, and communities, and committing to building a world in which Black women do not have to fear for their safety, their well-being, their dignity, or their lives before, during, and after pregnancy.”
How can your principles of self-care and wellness for Black women support pregnant and birthing people?
I believe that my principles of self-care and wellness for all helps advocate for better health facilities across the board. The issue with maternal health stats is that they have always been there, but were not shared as broadly. Now that we have them, we have a choice to do something about them, even if they don't typically affect us individually - that's advocating in my opinion and how change happens. It's already worked, in the UK the maternal mortality rates have already begun decreasing, and that's not by chance. Shout out to my girls Five X More on that one.
How has your work in this space impacted your identity as a mom?
It’s made me a more intentional parent and like all forms of activism it can be a heavy load to carry but as a Black woman I already know that too well, the difference now is I have a pool of resources to sustain me on this journey. I’m very grateful for this. It means with my child and parenting, I’m hopeful about making a change which starts in my home and goes out into the world.
How will it impact your perspective and approach to parenting?
I’m a conscious parent so I consider my language and behaviour and the long term effects. By doing so it means looking at my own experience of being parented and almost allows me to mother myself which is a really interesting concept to consider fully. This style of parenting for the current time, makes me very proud and grateful.
Any final words of wisdom to impart?
Whatever you are currently doing should be the best you can do and that's all you can do. That will help you sleep better at night and wake up well tomorrow.
“As a community, we are moving towards an unknown territory – one we have the power to shape – and individually, we are no longer glossing over or shamefully hiding our mental health or our challenges, and instead, we are speaking up about the inequalities, the feelings of inferiority, the struggle for equality, the abuse, the pain and the negligence that manifests itself as a result of these systems that didn’t and still don’t serve us – whether that’s through medical racism, institutional racism, lack of representation everywhere, power dynamics in our homes and the states of our homes and families, our minds, our bodies, Imposter Syndrome, anxiety disorders, sis, go ahead . . . you name it.”