How Wellness Got Whitewashed
TWO BLACK GIRLS TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING PODCAST: EPISODE 6
In this episode we talk to Anita Bhagwandas, author of the article “How Wellness Got Whitewashed” that was recently published in Glamour U.K.
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Speaker 1: (00:03)
Speaker 2: (00:25)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to the two black girls. Talk about everything podcast in today’s podcast. We talk to Anita Baghwandas who wrote a very interesting article on how wellness got whitewashed for glamour UK. We were fortunate not to talk to Anita, who is a, a multi award winning brand consultant, journalist, broadcaster, and speaker based in London.
Speaker 1: (00:57)
So DNI saw your article and I was really excited that you wrote it for glamour magazine. So tell us a little bit about why you felt it was important to talk about this. We all know why it’s important as people of color. We know that our culture is constantly appropriated and watered down and, uh, and whitewashed, and a lot of ways, why do you think it was important to write this article for, for glamour as, as like, as a beauty editor,
Speaker 3: (01:23)
It was really important because, um, glamour, well, it’s obviously a big title. It’s something that a lot of people read, um, and in glamour and, you know, I can’t come up comment on, um, like Canadian or, you know, American glamour, but British grammar is really, it’s got really strong opinions. It’s really smart. It really takes risks. And it’s really, really, it’s really great like that. And it’s, it’s such a great, great title to, you know, I’m a contributing editor there, so it’s a really great title to be associated with. And, and, um, and they really sort of, you know, they were like, what’s happening, you know, in beauty and wellness. And those two things are so synonymous these days, um, that is really, you know, isn’t being spoken about. And for me, this was a thing that I’d, I hadn’t any, I hadn’t seen anyone before this point really articulate it all together in one way, but it’s just, there are things that just been annoying me and they start off as like little niggles and you should pay attention to those niggles because invariably they say something, whether that says something about why the culture, or it says something about you, they say something.
Speaker 3: (02:23)
So these niggles started happening and I was like, Oh, that’s really annoying me. Why is that annoying me? All of a sudden that just all of these things just started accumulating. And I sort of realized that actually there was something there that hadn’t really been spoken about in, in sort of mainstream media in that way. So that’s kind of what led me off to that jumping point. And yeah, it was, it was, it was such an interesting picture to write and quite journey with it as well.
Speaker 1: (02:49)
I think it’s, I think it’s, uh, it’s mind blowing Dee and I are both of African descent and we both live in Canada and we can speak to having our culture appropriated all the time. So when I watch people like the Kardashians that have set the beauty standard in the world, and they’re all surgically enhanced, they’ve gotten lip fillers, right? That’s the big thing that’s really interesting to me is we get lip fillers and bud injections and self-tanners and all these things that make a make, I find white culture or white women or white people who are doing this kind of work, trying to make them seem culturally ambiguous. And that to me was like a pet peeve that I had, the things that were bothering me the most, because as black women, these are the things that we are demonized for and made fun of for yes, white women get to create this beauty standard for themselves and our praise for it. And I don’t understand how we got here. What are your thoughts?
Speaker 3: (03:46)
Yeah, I totally agree with that. It is it’s, it’s, it’s complete appropriation and it’s just so sad that we can’t like, well, not we, but society can’t appreciate these features on black women and can only appreciate them when they are on a white person. It’s so sad and it’s yeah. I, I find, I struggle with that as well. I just think that’s, it’s just so apparent really, if I’m honest.
Speaker 1: (04:09)
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, I just find it so upsetting that we get demonized for it, but they get to commodify it. And a while ago, I think Ariana Grande day was on the front of Vogue and she was looking very, um, culturally ambiguous and we’ve actually seen her kind of transition from, um, you know, she’s, she’s Italian, Italian American, but we’ve seen her like really kind of more from being this white girl when she was on the Disney channel to being kind of like an R and B artists that her whole whole look it’s changed and her whole demeanor has changed. And she’s at the top of her game and I think very much appropriating black culture. And I know I’m probably going to get fired for saying that, but I really do think it happens like the more culturally ambiguous you can be. Um, the more popular you are in modern culture.
Speaker 1: (05:01)
And I think it’s hurtful and I was, uh, doing a, a yoga presentation and there was a person who was of South Asia, South Asian descent. And we were talking about the word non mistake, right? How the word non-estate has lost its way or lost its meaning. And I think NPR did an article on it, which I’ll link to in the show notes. And he was saying, it was really amazing how white folks have taken wellness culture or taking yoga, rebranded it, repackaged it, and sold it back to South Asian people. And I was just that when he said that in that class, that blew my mind because I didn’t think of it as being packaged and refill back to the very people who created it. And you’ve seen that. And you make mention of that in your article, around, uh, around the appropriation of the wellness culture.
Speaker 3: (05:47)
Yeah. Yeah. The whole non mistake thing is very interesting. Um, I think, I think sort of within that, what, what, what you sort of said about it being sold back to people is really because, um, it’s almost like it has to, for it to resonate with its desired audience, which is why it has to have any kind of spirituality taken away from it. It has to have all the origins taken out of it and then it’s repackaged and then it’s sold back to people. See, you quite often see this with like the mention of chakras and particularly working in beauty, everything’s got a, got a shocker in it, but nobody ever says, Oh, you know what, that’s, that’s actually part of like the Indian Aryuvedic system . And then like, this is where it’s come from. And you know, this is, this is its origins. It’s this, this entity that is almost like separate on its own. It’s, it’s just this thing. And nobody has any idea where that’s come from or what we want to even means. And like you see the so many, and then there was an interesting, um, uh, um, might potentially say her name, wrong, Melissa, Leong, who is, um, really brilliant, um, Australian chef, um, I think she’s a chef. Um, and she sort of put something up recently where she, you know, she sort of saw, um, the guasha these sort of jade.
Speaker 4: (06:57)
Speaker 3: (07:01)
Yeah. Um, people were calling them like just this like beauty tool and there was no mention of it being guasha or there was no mention of traditional Chinese medicine or anything like that. It had just become like a makeup brush and she sort of called the out and it was really fascinating because that is what is happening. Any kind of heritage or culture or lineage has been taken away from so many different parts of and wellness and you know, and other things as well, um, to appeal to a wide audience. And the problem with that is that you, while you were raised all of those people in the culture where those things have come from, and then the problem on top of that is that quite often, you know, those cultures have been treated appallingly by the West and by, you know, the cultures that know consuming the things that, you know, they, they, well, they sort of, you know, they would Paige really appallingly in the past and there was such a long lineage of terrible treatment of people, but it’s, it’s okay to not take their things.
Speaker 3: (07:54)
I think that’s, that was very clearly put, but that’s sort of, I think what really got me and when I was having those moments where I was like, Oh, this is making me really angry. It was because I live in the UK and Britain has a really, a really bloody, awful history with India in terms of colonialism and that sort of thing. And it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like, it sort of sometimes feels as though, um, because Indian food is very popular in the UK. So it’s like, it’s kind of our, like most popular food after British food, I guess it’s like, it’s like everyone talks about having a Curry. It’s very like part of the culture. Um, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think, um, salvation people are the highest, the biggest minority in the UK, um, after white people. So it’s quite a big part of the culture and it sometimes feels like people are really happy to like dip in and like pick out bits of the culture that they’re into.
Speaker 3: (08:48)
But then, you know, we’ll still turn around and tell you to go back home or, you know, it’s that sort of rhetoric, particularly in the UK with Brexit and things like that. You know, there’s a lot of upheaval at the moment, but it, it, it feels like that. It’s like, I’ll take what I want from you, but you’re still, I’m still not going to accept you. I’m still gonna treat you like. I’m still not gonna represent you in, you know, if I, if I have a poster for a yoga class, you’re still, there’s still not gonna be any Brown people in it. It’s just that sort of rhetoric.
Speaker 1: (09:15)
Yeah. Yeah. Going back to, um, how you said, how your article came about and things that just kept coming, showing up and they were really annoying. You, once you wrote that article, how was it received? It was received.
Speaker 3: (09:37)
Um, it was quite polarized. And it’s funny because I sort of wrote it maybe must be like a year and a half ago, but every now and then someone will post it and then it will have like another resurgence. It’s quite funny because it is, I think it is an ongoing conversation, but in terms of its reception, I was really happy with it. And that’s normally my first barometer. I’m like, okay, it’s there saying what I needed to say. And I was really happy with it. Um, had a lot of Asian people reach out to me and go, Oh my God, accompany. If you set this in like a pre, it was in print and it was like the company, you said that you said this international likely, and this is amazing. This is what I’ve been feeling. This encapsulates everything that I feel like has been going on. Um, and then on the flip side of that, there were a few sort of, um, emails to the editor who, who, the people who were outraged that, you know, I can’t believe you’re taking away my light pastime, you know, it was, it was quite like, um, Ida behave like that. I’m not a racist. It was that sort of white fragility around
Speaker 1: (10:39)
All white people. Yeah.
Speaker 3: (10:40)
Yeah. Um, and it completely missed the point and it was very defensive and like, it was very not, I’m not a racist. It’s like, that’s, that’s an immediate, like, that’s that panic that people get. If, you know, as soon as he touched on anything in this area, I’m not a racist, which is like understand because nobody wants to be called a racist. And you know, in therapy, not everyone is a racist, but you do have to listen to what people of color are saying and accept that. And, you know, and think about it and like, just let it percolate for a bit. And just, you know, those knee-jerk reactions are invariably are like, ah, there are. They’re not, you know, the issue that’s at hand it’s, it’s usually like, this is a reaction to something. So yeah, it was mixed, but like overwhelmingly much more positive reaction. So, so that’s good.
Speaker 1: (11:30)
Yeah. I love that. Go ahead, Diane. You’re going to say, Oh no, no, no. Yeah. I just love it. When you said I, when people reached out to you, Southeastern people reached out to you and said, I can’t believe you said that because DNI on these podcasts have been talking about the truth of being black women. Right. And we had a podcast, what it means to teach yoga or be in wellness spaces as black women and have people look at you a certain way. And I, I, you know, I could feel everything you were saying. And I, I can’t speak for diva. I was feeling everything you were saying when there was like a, I’ll take this Curry and I’ll take this and I’ll take this there. But when you say black lives matter, I’m going to say all lives matter. And if you say this, then I’m going to say this and then to turn around and seeing that those actions that you do, aren’t biased, right?
Speaker 1: (12:15)
Like you get all in your feelings about being possibly called a racist or aligned with racist behavior like that. White fragility turns up right away. What I find there’s no self-reflection from white folks as to why we wouldn’t say that to you. Like when a Brown person or a black person or an Asian person says to you, something is racist. Then it is because we show up with this identity every single time. So everything that we experienced is from the lens of our identity, that we cannot take off. And when you approach appropriate culture and you change your skin tone and you can your skin and you do all that stuff at any time, you can go back to being a white woman. Like at any time you can take the braids out of your hair or whatever it is you’re doing. And go back to being white and slide right into all your white privilege.
Speaker 1: (13:04)
Right? Like my son came home from school the other day, all upset because his favorite Jordan shoes, he feels have been appropriated by white girl. So some really hot, this is what he said to me. So there’s three, there’s three black kids in his class, and they’re all sitting around and talking about stuff. And there’s these really cool Jordan shoes. I think they’re like the original Jordan shoes. And apparently there’s this really attractive basketball player that everybody likes. And he wears these shoes. So all these young women, these young white women were wearing these shoes now. And he, they were telling them, you stole this from us. Like, why can’t you pick something? That’s just your own? Like, why can’t you celebrate something that is your own culture and that, and in lies the problem here in North America, I feel like Canadians and Americans don’t really like have a culture because they like way to me, it’s just kind of blank.
Speaker 1: (13:54)
And it seems to me that they just kind of borrowed from everybody else and created, um, whatever they created. Like you said, without giving anybody else any benefit, like this comes from this, or this comes from this, everything just gets stripped them, its meaning. And they get to create the new meaning and they get to sell it back to us at what, what did you say? Like $4.2 trillion is the wellness industry and the people at the top of that pyramid are not people of color who these indigenous practices belong to. There are other people making trillions of dollars and that hurts.
Speaker 3: (14:27)
Yeah, absolutely. I think that visibility is probably one of the biggest things that Shani, um, I think you just, you know, even if you, like, I remember doing this, I’ve done this so many times for different features, but if you Google like yoga, you get this like white, I mean, I’m sure you’ve done the same. You get this like white able-bodied white girl on a beach. I just so like, I’m like, she’s usually blonde as well. And it just, um, not was anything wrong with green blonde, the stereotype of like a wellness girl. And this is, this is, this is what it’s, this is who it’s being sold to. This is who all these things are being salted. Um, and it’s just, it’s such a shame because as soon as you do that, and as soon as you put those labels on people in, as soon as you sell it to this elite group, then you, you literally, you stop everyone else being a part of it.
Speaker 3: (15:22)
And, you know, that’s what has happened in wellness culture. We have come to this point where, you know, all of these trends have come and most of them aren’t from, most of them are sort of East Asian or, you know, come from different places in the world or South Asian even, um, as well. But they sort of almost, it feels like, and I don’t know what you guys think, but it feels like a lot of it goes through this sort of LA like save and then comes out. And I listened to a lot of like wellness podcasts from LA. A lot of which I think are really brilliant, but it’s sort of like, it goes into LA, it gets like LA fied and then it comes out again and it’s all like green juice drinking. And like, you know, just like super like airy fairy.
Speaker 3: (16:04)
And like, it just comes out in this completely different way. That’s quite actually marginalized when you step back and look back at it all. Um, but invariably, none of those people that are being celebrated and people from those heritage heritage, heritage is even, um, or people of color or, you know, or have any kind of difference. It’s just, it just feels so super, super samey. And it is, it is elitist and it does keep people out of wellness, which is really sad because I think, you know, now more so than ever wellness as an industry has so much to offer people, but it’s really cut so many people out from being able to access it or, you know, thinking that you have to spend loads of money to get like a certain pair of leggings or, you know, whatever it is. It just it’s been marketed to this one kind of person and it’s become incredibly elitist.
Speaker 3: (16:55)
And that’s really sad for me. And I think I mentioned this in the piece, but you know, I definitely, and I, and I used to be the health and beauty editor at British women’s health. And, um, I used to, I used to get invited to go to things like, you know, like amazing like New York vehicle launches. And, um, I would walk it to the class and I would be the only plus size, um, women of color there. And I was just like, Oh God, I don’t want to go into this class surrounded by all of these, like people that are all at the same. And like, you know, I just don’t feel welcome here. And that that’s the issue is that I think in a lot of spaces, wellness, and I think particularly in your culture has become incredibly unwelcoming to anyone who doesn’t fit that, that very narrow definition of what a Yogi now looks like when actually a Yogi is traditionally sort of like an elder Indian guy in a loincloth. That’s what I like. So
Speaker 5: (17:52)
I know like it, and you know, you’re really hitting something that I’ve been also noticing observation. I feel like Yogi, when you go through scroll through social media, I see exactly what you’re saying. This was whitewashed. Um, um, women who obviously have a gymnastics background because they were so privileged to have this throughout their life. And it’s, it’s the, the spiritual journey and the self journey and the inner work is completely taken away because people that want to dip into this and they, you know, they want to do these things they’re looking at, at, you know, scrolling through social media and they’re seeing how it’s been taken over. And they’re saying like, there’s no way I can do that handstand. Right. So it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s too bad. It’s all I can say. It hurt. Yeah, it does. Because I know myself, I have went through such a journey through my yoga practice. I started off walking in and not knowing anything. Yeah.
Speaker 1: (18:59)
I mean, and not, and being the only black person or the only Brown skin presence or the only plus size person in a wellness space really makes it exclusive to one type of person, which is what you touch on in the book and in your article, I should say. And, um, what was really interesting to me, the newest thing that kind of irritates me is goop. Um, the brand from Gwenyth Paltrow, if that is not the height of, uh, of privilege, I don’t know what is, so a few months ago she made some kind of comment in a yoga class. Like if it worked for her yoga, wouldn’t be here in the West. I don’t know if you saw that.
Speaker 1: (19:34)
Yeah. You put it in a piece and she was just like, so like just the sense of entitlement and the other thing that we can also give away wellness as a charity. Oh, if you can’t afford it, well, we have these donation things, or you can do this over here, but this is really like a premium product that we were sharing for this group of people. Like I am. So I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked and I’ve spoken with people of color who were like, Oh, well, I can’t afford to go get a massage or I can’t afford like all the things that wellness has come to mean, not to me, like maybe go for a walk around the block or maybe turn off your cell phone an hour earlier, if you can. Or like, there’s all these people who don’t have the financial access to be able to participate in wellness.
Speaker 1: (20:20)
And when did this happen? And this is once again, how capitalism fails us, right? We take something that at its very nature should be something that’s accessible to all of us. And we, we put a price tag on it and now we divided up only these people do this. Like I, I’m just telling you nothing irritates me more than goop. Like I don’t ever want to participate that. Why do I need a candle that smells like when it’s cultural, it’s vagina? Like why is a thing and why do people buying into this idea? And then as people of color, why are we always trying to be accepted by white folks? Like, why are we always trying to go, well, include us, include us, include us. How about we say don’t steal our stuff and figure it out for yourself, how you want it, how you want to approach wellness, create your own thing without stealing from somebody else. Like, why can’t we say that?
Speaker 3: (21:11)
Yeah, that’s, it’s a really interesting point actually. And I do think then, you know, DuPont, aren’t the only one, there are so many platforms that are doing this and what they should be doing is, is, is using their fame and their celebrity to, to really promote women of color or, you know, not even just women of kind of any kind of minority in the space, um, celebrate those origins and, you know, um, really just celebrate, celebrate where these practices come from. But sadly that isn’t heartening. Um, and I guess just to touch about what you were saying about women of color and wellness as well, I think as well, you’re right. You know, it has, it has become this sort of thing where it doesn’t feel like it’s accessible to everyone, but the thing is, is that women of color and people of color, um, and actually any, any minority we need wellness, we probably need it more than, you know, the people who have that privilege, whatever privileges those are.
Speaker 3: (22:08)
Um, because you know, after years and years of sort of, you know, systematic, um, oppression and racism and you know, all of this stuff that’s going on and, you know, um, everything that you go through and that you take on ancestrally as well, we need those, we need those spaces to, to come back to ourselves. Um, I think it’s really, really important, I think. And I, I do think, and I can only sort of say this from my sort of experience of being Indian, but, um, Indian women in particular take on this role, you know, where they are literally doing everything for everyone and, you know, and they’re at the bottom of their to do list quite often traditionally. And I’ve seen that throughout my family, just looking at the women in my family, um, who were like really, you know, they’ve all got amazing jobs and they’re like, most of them are doctors and stuff like that, but you know, they’re still at the bottom of their to-do list.
Speaker 3: (22:59)
I’ve seen that model by, you know, really like immediate relatives. And I, I just think that is so often the case with women, you know, we women generally, but I do think women of color, we, you know, we are, we take on so much, we do so much, but we do sometimes end up at the bottom of her own to-do list. And I’ve seen that with, you know, black friends of mine or, you know, other Asian that’s my, like just I say it over and over again. So it might sound like a bit of a wild generalization, but anecdotally I’ve just seen that happen over and over again within my friendship group. Um, as well, I think, I think wellness is so important for us and I think that’s why I’m so vocal about it because I just think we need these things and we deserve these things. We deserve that time space.
Speaker 1: (23:41)
Yeah. I know a lot about that during our rents this summer, um, we,
Speaker 5: (23:46)
We would go down to the riverfront and the city that we lived in and oftentimes we wouldn’t see one other black or Brown person. And we talked a lot about that. It doesn’t seem as though, or feel as though it’s even part of the culture because we know we know that they are in the city, but we just don’t see them. Yeah.
Speaker 3: (24:08)
This is interesting.
Speaker 1: (24:11)
Oh no. I was going to say, and actually when I think about, um, wellness or taking care of ourselves, I don’t remember ever being taught anything like that from my mom. I remember it. Like you said, my mother was always doing things for other people. And then there’s this idea and I can only speak to my culture, but I see this idea for black and Brown people, um, that wellness or taking care of yourself and set aside time for yourself or self care. Some is somehow indulgent. So how many times have we been on Instagram? And we see moon means come around and say, self-care is not an indulgent. It’s a necessity. And even Audrey Lord, and I’m paraphrasing her hair says like, self-care is a revolutionary act. I don’t think we were meant to survive this long. I don’t think Brown and black people were meant to certain place this long.
Speaker 1: (25:02)
I think there’ve been lots of obstacles and impressions being put in our way to keep us down. So I really feel like when Audrey Lord is saying like, self-care is a revolutionary act, it’s never been for us. It’s never been about us and we don’t teach it to each other within our own friends or our own culture. We teach that it’s selfish to take time for yourself and we need to start teaching our kids, our family. We need to start telling our friends around us that self-care is important and giving people space for self care. The other thing I worry about is black women taking some time out for self-care and worrying or people of color worrying that while we’re taking the self care time on the world is spinning out of control. So maybe we can’t step out of that space, right? Like not being given, like we need, um, the dominant culture to step up and say, okay, we got it for now. You guys take care of yourself and that’s not going to happen. I think like we’re so afraid to step back and take self care. Cause if we, if we lose sight of the work that we’re doing, what does that mean? There’s not enough of the dominant culture, that character, that’s what I feel anyway. What were you going to say, Anita?
Speaker 3: (26:10)
Yeah. I mean, I’ve totally agree with that in that it’s really hard to take that kind of time to spare the time for self care when you are having to work, you know, twice as hard to prove yourself or twice as hard to get a job or, you know, or one of these things that, you know, hold, um, people of color back. It’s, it’s really hard. Um, the other thing I was gonna say, and, um, and there’s some interesting examples here, and you guys, you might know a bit more about this, but I, in the UK, you know, in terms of this is really interesting around walking and stuff like this particular, this has come up for me quite a lot in lockdown. And all of my friends would always joke. They’re always like, Oh, you don’t like walking. Do you? And I have to be honest, I’m not, I haven’t, I have always moaned whenever I’ve had to go for a walk.
Speaker 3: (26:55)
Um, but it wasn’t because I was lazy. It was just because I didn’t grow up in this culture of having like, you know, all the space to walk in or, you know, I didn’t, it just wasn’t part of my, my childhood. And I know, and I think in the way that is for a lot of white British people, um, maybe such, you know, white North American people too, it just wasn’t part of my culture. And my parents didn’t do that. We didn’t go for really a lot more walks because, and this is, you know, th my, my family moved to Britain in, um, from NGO in the UK and eighties, that was still not, and that was still a hostile time for people of color. Um, there was a lot going on in Britain. Um, we ha we had an, you know, we had Margaret Thatcher who was not, you know, not great prime minister.
Speaker 3: (27:43)
Um, and you know, it was still, it was a really, it was a really racist time. It was not safe for you to go out walking. It was not safe for me to have a little walk around the neighborhoods. It wasn’t safe, and this is what I think people forget. And I like, I always, I always remember after I’ve had a conversation like that with someone, and I’m like, Oh, I should have told them because they have no idea that this is what it’s like. There is that element of danger when you’re a person of color. Um, and on top of, you know, there, there is just this isn’t this like joyful sort of like stroll around your neighborhood. And I, I remember reading something in Oprah magazine, and it seems like this was a similar case in the U S as well, but it was, um, it was, uh, I think there was someone who was trying to encourage more and more black people to, um, you know, go for walks and be in nature and stuff like that more.
Speaker 3: (28:32)
But actually those spaces were really dangerous for black people, really dangerous and really traumatic spaces. And now you’re like, Oh, you should go for a walk in nature. You know, that’s, you know, that has to be, you know, that sort of, it’s such a disconnect there, you know, when you’ve got this historically scary thing and that’s a scary space. And then all of a sudden you’re meant to go and have a Walker because that’s what wellness is now. And I do think we need to address that area of history. It’s like, you can’t just go, okay. And now, now everything’s fine. There is still that legacy. And I just find that really fascinating. And in the UK, um, the countryside and outs, I mean, the cities can be tricky too, but outside of, um, the main cities, it’s, it’s quite hostile to people of color and you will be the only person of color in like a bent edge.
Speaker 3: (29:21)
And I’ve had it where I’ve been in parts of England where they’ve been quite remote and I’ve been there, I’ve been on the train. So like somewhere like Dorset and, um, I’ve been the only person of color on the train. And I can see people staring at me cause I think they’re like, they just, they’re just like, I wonder where she’s going. Like, where’s she going to get off? What’s her stop? Um, so it is, you know, these aren’t always like historically, um, and culturally safe spaces for people of color. So I think that’s something to really consider.
Speaker 1: (29:49)
I haven’t, I never even thought of that, but it makes sense because this past summer we saw in America, um, a mod Aubrey dye for jogging to her neighborhood. People think he shouldn’t be jogging through and DNI run through some pretty Shishi fruit from neighborhoods out here. And when we’re running, we’re always running for visibility. And when I’m out running in neighborhoods with big houses, I’m like, I wish somebody would try me out here. Like I feel like because we don’t have the crazy gun culture that America has. I feel relatively placed that I’m not going to get shot somebody, right. Somebody just going to come and tell me about myself or call me a name or when you and I were running the summer, D we were told to go back to Africa from, you know, some woman on the trail. And what kills me is like, these families been here for how many generations longer, I’m sure longer than her family.
Speaker 1: (30:41)
She looks like, you know, from her accent. Right. I could engage with European. I’m thinking, you’re telling her to go back to Africa. I think you should go back to Europe, but we were running in Shishi, froufrou neighborhoods. That’s my word tissue for a group, um, neighborhoods, um, just for visibility and kind of like, I was all in my feelings. Like I wished somebody would try me out here. Like I wish somebody would come out of here and say something to me that I shouldn’t be in the neighborhoods running and running for that visibility. There’s a lot of little, um, uh, groups here that are happening in North America. There’s girl track. Um, there’s black girl running that are trying to encourage women of color to get out there and, and do some exercise. And we have been talking about what you said, Anita, how historically being outside in nature or running, uh, would often, um, be dangerous.
Speaker 1: (31:31)
Like when I first started running into come see when my husband and I moved here, 16 years ago, we had a police car, like kind of tail us on the main road here. And I turned to my husband and he was irritated and he’s white. I turned to my husband. I go, it’s not like running with a television set. Like, why is this police officer just there slowly driving their car next to us. And again, that we are not seen in these spaces because we are not welcome in these spaces. And historically these spaces haven’t been about us. And I’ve heard about people, black folks, uh, hiking in America and having white folks on the trail call the police because they’re hiking on the trail like everybody else. And how are we supposed to enjoy wellness? How are we supposed to deal with this structural racism and white supremacy and, and, and have a moment to be in nature when the minute you’re in nature, somebody’s going to call the police on you for being Brown in nature, being Brown at the park, being Brown at Walmart. You know what I mean? Like, and why isn’t this? Why aren’t more people understanding this in the wellness community and wellness spaces, and why are wellness spaces reaching out to people of color? Why is it we always have to create our own spaces. And when we create our own wellness spaces, all of a sudden we’re in the race, it’s because we want wellness spaces where we don’t have to deal with white supremacy.
Speaker 3: (32:56)
Yeah, absolutely. This is, it’s such a big thing. And I think it’s hard because in some ways it’s nice to have those spaces that you can feel safe and you can say everything, but then it’s this weird issue. Isn’t it around inclusivity as a word. Um, and I, I sort of always struggled that word a little bit because it sort of means it sort of feels a bit like, um, you know, he has a seat at our table and you know, we’re going to let you in finally after how many years,
Speaker 1: (33:26)
But you can only sit over there.
Speaker 3: (33:32)
Yeah. And that’s what wellness feels like. I think from the outside, it can really, it can feel very elitist and, and yeah. Yeah. I totally agree with everything you said, but I don’t know what the way forward is. You know, it’s hard because we, you know, we should be able to benefit from using those great big platforms that other people have, but we should have our points of view equally considered and you know, spoken about. And I do think that is happening a lot more. Um, I don’t always think as the best, um, goals from the people who are publishing, but not the people who are creating that content. But I think about that, I think people know that and the thing with a sort of vaguely, um, you know, controversial race related title will probably do quite well. And I think it’s a bit clickbait.
Speaker 1: (34:15)
Speaker 3: (34:16)
But you know, like it’s all heading in the right direction, I think in terms of like, you know, conversations like this and, you know, conversations that everyone is having in different wellness spaces, but it’s still a shame. The shame that I think for me, that those people who are at the, you know, at the top of all those wellness pillars and the people that people really look up to and to think of like the Queens of wellness are invariably still that person, you know, they’re still the skinny, skinny, rich Y yoga girl. It’s still that girl. And that’s such a shame. And, you know, part of that does come back to really the things that people don’t often think about. So a lot of that comes back to AI, um, which is, is hugely racist. You know, like teams of AI, you know, it’s sort of really belt on.
Speaker 3: (35:04)
It’s blow out, particularly on Instagram and stuff like that. It’s really built around the algorithms of what people look like and faces and, uh, treat a seatbelt, perceived attractiveness. And it’s all built around having a beautiful sort of white face, really paraphrase that it’s obviously much more complicated than that, but it’s all built around that. And so, you know, those are the people who were getting all of that space on social media. Those are the people who are now, um, you know, have got hundreds of followers and, and have, you know, all of his prominence who are getting all the money, you were getting all the ad campaigns were getting all this and it just perpetuates. So now AI has become part of this issue as well. And this happens on dating apps. So I’m actually quite fascinated with how this works on dating apps and stuff like that. You know, in terms of the AI, keeping people of color like lower down in the sort of search results up, um, um, it just keeps perpetuating where we still don’t have any visibility or any space or anywhere to kind of just be able to create our own thing, I guess, in so many ways.
Speaker 1: (36:07)
Yeah. I’ve been moving away from the word inclusivity to the word equity, how do we create spaces that are equitable? How do we create spaces that when we look out, we see everybody represented because I, I I’m with you on that whole inclusivity thing where I’m like, okay, well, you can come. It’s like, it’s like standing in line and I’m really going to date myself with this reference. It’s like standing in line at club 54, who are we going to wedding? I’m going to somebody who’s at the front of the room with a clipboard. So in, um, inclusivity still feels to me, like there were a lot of gatekeepers of yoga and wellness spaces that there are a lot of people who get to determine who gets to be the celebrity. And I like to read from your article here, because we talked about this earlier in the podcast, when it’s founder for lifestyle brand goop, and more recently target online, [inaudible] in a recent interview.
Speaker 1: (36:59)
When she said, I went to a yoga class in LA and I was a 22 year old girl behind the counter was like, have you ever done yoga before? And I was like, this is my expectation. I was like, Oh, you have a job because I done yoga before. And I remember getting on Twitter and just coming for Gwen in, like, I just, my biggest issue, as you mentioned in your article as well, my biggest issue is the commodify, the commodifying of this, of wellness and the stealing of these practices. I read somewhere that, um, Paulo Santos, uh, that Sage, that everybody in Burnie is now harder to find and harder to come by by indigenous cultures because people are harvesting it and selling it to everybody to burn and where people are burning it without knowing why they’re burning stays or what, what the, what the cultural representation is behind.
Speaker 1: (37:50)
It. It’s the same as when we, um, when Victoria secrets a few years ago, got in trouble for letting for dressing up one of their models in a war bonnet and letting her wear a bikini that appropriated, um, indigenous American culture or North American culture, because it looks cool that they get to wear a, um, a warm on it. And when you get called down on it, your first reaction is defensiveness, which you mentioned earlier in the podcast. I think we need to add, start asking white folks and people who are in the dominant culture when you feel defensive about something, or when you think you’re being attacked about something. Can you pause for a second and ask why you feel so defensive, why you feel your first knee-jerk reaction is to go, I’m not a racist. Yeah. You might not be a racist, but there’s a difference between I’m not a racist and what you did was racist. And I think people need to know the distinction and need to know that because you’ve always been the dominant culture and you’ve always had access to everything that you don’t necessarily deserve access to everything and that everything isn’t just yours to take. And that’s, that’s some deep work that people have to do when they have this knee jerk reaction. That’s my soapbox moment.
Speaker 3: (39:00)
Yeah. I totally agree with that. Another thing I think is interesting, and this is only something I’ve really started doing much more recently, um, is a say to your friends and, you know, they don’t always, it doesn’t have to be just your white friends, you know, just when things don’t feel right. Or if something doesn’t occur to them, just say it. I mean, I had some, obviously I think a lot of us have had these conversations after this sort of lost last year, but those are, my friends came to me and were like, Oh my God, what, you know, have you experienced this? And the shock because you just get on with things, um, because you know, some amount of racist behavior, it feels normalized. You forget how people, when things aren’t okay. And you know, this is the other thing, is that in the past, I know that I’ve been sort of, you know, I’ve said, Oh, I feel like I might say this to a white friend to feel like something’s gone on there.
Speaker 3: (39:55)
And I feel like I’ve been discriminated against. And they’re like, Oh, but you know, we’re heavy really, maybe in a job that was just like, maybe it was something else. Maybe there’s like this. And it is, is being, it is gaslighting because you know, like you are as a person kind of, you know, when someone is discriminating against you because of your race, because you’ve had it so much time. So many times it’s like this in belt, you just know, you know? Um, and I just think that, um, we need to keep saying to people, but actually, you know, when I walk into this space, when I walk into this yoga space and everyone is, you know, everyone looks a certain way or there’s no, you know, there’s no diversity or, you know, the teacher hasn’t even referenced that we’re doing Kundalini yoga or whatever it is.
Speaker 3: (40:42)
And do you know where that’s come from? Or, you know, where these words come from or anything, whatever I have to speak, um, that it made me feel uncomfortable. And you know, when we have to, we have to feed those things back. And whether it looks antagonistic or not, whether, you know, it looks like we’re just going on about all these things all the time, which is sometimes what I think people get a bit like, Oh, but it’s just, it’s just my yoga practice. I just want to do my yoga and get on with my day. I think there is that like, people put wellness in a box where they’re like, I don’t have to think, I don’t want to have to think about anything serious related to vest because I need it. That helps my mental health. I need it in my life. I don’t want to make it serious.
Speaker 3: (41:20)
I don’t want to over-complicate it, it has to be this really simple thing. Um, but it’s not this simple thing because it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s bigger than that. And you know, it comes from a culture and it comes from a heritage and it comes from a continent. And, um, all of these, you know, all of these things have an origin and yeah, I think people are quite often, don’t want to say, I want to make things too serious, but you know, these good things make people feel rubbish. You know, it makes me feel rubbish when I go to the class and I see that everyone is white or, you know, I don’t feel welcome or, you know, something is off or whatever it happens to be. So why do you think we need to be having these conversations all the time, whenever they occur?
Speaker 1: (42:02)
I am so grateful that you wrote this article Dee and I are really grateful that you came on the podcast. The article was published in glamour. Was it last month? It’s back in January. I’m looking to see the date here. Yeah. January, 2020, how wellness got white. Wish I liked your Nama stay mug, but can you tell me the ancient history behind it? So I really appreciate you speaking up to this. I really appreciate glamour taking an opportunity to address this. And I think it would DNI, thank you for coming on the podcast. I loved everything you had to say. I think it’s something that we really have to talk about and keep bringing up. And I loved it. When you, when you said people are always saying to you, I can’t believe that that, um, I think people need to hear it. And I think people need to hear it the way it feels to us often when I’m doing a workshop, I’ll use the N word. And I won’t say the N word. I’ll actually say the word like, well, you need to hear it the way I hear it. Because I think sometimes when we say the N word, we sanitize it for people. So they don’t have to feel quite so uncomfortable by it. But this is what I got called boss week. So you need to, you need to know,
Speaker 5: (43:07)
And you know, you really hit a thing with me, Anita, when you said, you’ve said you’ve been in situations where you’re like, was, did that person mean what that meant? Did that really mean that because I’ve had that my whole life being light-skinned black woman and I walk into places and I have the white people looking at me at the corner of the eye and it’s like this whole, like trying to figure it out. And then I’ve also gotten the same thing from black people as well from people looking at me like, where do I place her and Diane and I had a talk this summer when we were running. And I said to her, I have my whole life experience, such terrible discrimination and has, had heard so much crap. And I think I can say here because people I have kind of flown under the radar of people’s racism and the things that they talk about out in the open when they’re together. Um, because they might not necessarily right away realize who I am. And, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s this thing that’s inside of you. Right. I can think back to so many situations that I’ve had in my life where I just, I, when I was younger, especially, and I just think, Oh, I should’ve said something. I should have said something, but it’s like, I walked away. Cause I didn’t really, I was still, I guess, trying to figure it out. Yeah.
Speaker 3: (44:32)
It’s really hard. Isn’t it sometimes. Yeah,
Speaker 5: (44:35)
Yeah. Yeah. Or did they mean it that way? Was that what they meant? You know? Yeah. I, uh, I, I have this one, uh, I talked to, this was talking to this girl one day in the gym. It’s like the specific time that really stands out to me. And I, I swear, I wish I could like see her again. So I could say something to her and we were working out, we would just like kind of pass by each other. And I, I always used to wear a really, really short haircut. So it was under the curl line. So my hair actually wasn’t big and curly and I had started to let it grow. So it was getting, getting really curly. And she, I forget exactly how she said it, but she was like, first of all, she looked at each other, like, what are you?
Speaker 5: (45:21)
Okay. And then, so I’ve had that my whole life, that, what are you? And then, so like I told her, like my, you know, my whole, I said, well, first of all, I’m human, but this is what you’re really asking me. So I told her like where my dad’s from, where my mother is from. And she’s like, Oh, cause I wonder, cause like I looked at that nice butt and I seen the hair and I was like, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, and I walked away and I was like, was that a compliment? Was that, what was that? What was that?
Speaker 3: (45:56)
Yeah. It’s interesting. Isn’t it? So it’s sort of read like that makes it, that really others you at the same time and I get it a lot on dating apps. Um, and yeah, it’s, it’s sort of like, you get this weird question where it’s like, what, so where are you from? And then was like, Oh, like I’m in London now. But I grew up in South Wales and then they’re sort of like, but where you really, where are you from?
Speaker 5: (46:22)
You’re basically asking me why I’m Brown. Exactly. It must be why I’m
Speaker 3: (46:27)
Not white asking me,
Speaker 5: (46:30)
Asking me why I had a big butt. Why? And I had tight curls. That’s why, what she was asking you. She wanted to know that, but she kind of it’s. I wish, I wish he could just ask people. I wish he could say that. Maybe we, since Thursday night, are you asking me why I’m Brown? Like, you don’t need to be like, just say it out loud and wants their reaction being racist, but that’s low. That’s low key racist. Do you know what I mean? There’s some things where it’s like blatantly racist and then there’s low-key racist, right? Like, no, where, you know, where are you from? And my husband ran into that because somebody saw him with our kids and they said to him, Oh, where’d you get them? Oh my God, what do you mean by that? These are my sons. And then the guy started backtracking because he had, um, adopted a little girl
Speaker 1: (47:30)
From Honduras. I’m like, this is the person that’s raising this little girl. Right. So what’s going to happen to this little girl from Honduras, his sense of identity when these are the kinds of questions her dad is asking a random stranger integrates the store. Like that kind of stuff freaks me out. Like whenever I see a white family with a black child, I’m like, how well were they screened? What is this kid going to know about their culture? Is this kid going to grow up with a lot of self hate because are they low key racist? And they don’t even know.
Speaker 5: (48:04)
Yeah. Well I think back, I think back in the day with the adoption, I think that they did. And I think only through their way of thinking. And I think because obviously there was more racism, I think back then they would keep children of the same culture. But I think now everything is just kind of so wide open, they’re just mixing families. Right. So there is that problem with that is, is people losing their identity and their, their, um, their, their input or their racial culture. Yeah.
Speaker 3: (48:45)
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s such a big thing. That’s yeah. It’s very interesting. Isn’t it? That whole subject is huge, but yeah, it’s, it’s not like, you know, do you weigh up a, child’s having a safe home against this like, you know, cultural issue that was probably in their identity and their heritage and you know, that they’re like pride in themselves and where they’ve come from. It’s really, it’s really hard. I mean, there’s definitely a way to do it well. Um, and like, I think that’s totally doable, but it’s, it would require being really active in that, like in everything in that child’s life, you know, from what cartoons are they watching to, you know, what dolls they’re paying, where to what they like, who their friends are to, you know, like all of that’s, what, everything that consuming would have to be really looked at to make sure that it reflected them back at them.
Speaker 1: (49:39)
The whole thing scares me. The whole entire thing scares me every time I see it. I’m like, because I’m not a lot of, uh, mixed race children who have a parent who’s white who’s low-key racist and says all kinds of stuff because you can still marry a person and be a racist toward their culture and kind of do that whole well, you’re not like those other people kind of thing. And there’s a lot of self hate that happens there because I have met quite a few people from mixed race families who have some serious, um, issues with who they are. And when I think about all the unpacking I’ve had to do from just watching TV, from the culture of just being black in a white dominated society, all the things that I’ve had to unpack for myself as a black person, and I have to do that work to survive, white folks don’t have to do that work to survive.
Speaker 1: (50:29)
So how were they showing up for the black people they love in their lives when they haven’t even done the hard work? Like it took me a long time to figure out these stereotypes aren’t me. And there’s lots of different ways to be Brown or Asian or, or black or of mixed parentage. There’s lots of different ways to be those things. And when we just have these singular stereotypes showing up in media and we don’t identify with any of these singular stereotypes, then all of a sudden there’s something wrong with us. Right. And who gets to determine what these stereotypes are? Usually the dominant culture who sets the standard. Yeah.
Speaker 1: (52:22)
No. How you would, how you identify
Speaker 3: (52:26)
Amazing book. Um, and it is, she is a British, I’ve actually got it here. I’m going to grab it. Um, really suggest you read this. It’s so amazing. It’s, it’s, it’s about British it’s, you know, it’s sort of based in Britain, but it’s, it’s by AfuaHirsch who was an amazing journalist. Um, I think she’s half Ghanaian, half German. Um, and she, you know, she’s British, she went to Oxford university. She’s really smart. This is Thurber. This is such a good book. I read this. And even, even though I’m Indian and I’m, you know, I’ve got different heritage, everything about the, I just thought this is amazing. It’s so it’s so interesting and how she was kind of like navigating sort of almost like going back to her Ghanaian roots. And I think she moved to Ghana for a bit. And then she was like, Oh, I don’t fit in Harry about, and it’s that like whole search for identity?
Speaker 3: (53:13)
Like even, you know, like, like you were saying, I like, I grew up as a, that being Indian in a really white area. And there were no black people in my school at all. Um, I didn’t meet a Jewish person until I moved to just because it’s like, it’s just what your little bubble. It’s just what you see, everyone, everyone in my school was white. Um, and there was, there were a few Asian people, but yeah, it’s just, you sort of just almost like lose yourself. And I dunno, I think, I don’t know for me, I spent, I spent quite a lot of mine. Like I came in my mid days now, but I spent quite a lot of this periods in my thirties and late twenties, like trying to come back to myself and try and like refined all of these things. I’d spent so much in my teenage years rejecting it, just running away from yeah. Fascinating conversation and put it all together in this podcast. I’m interested to see what your next article would be. Cause I feel like you’re leaning toward that dating app article. I have a dating app, Rob. Yeah, because you mentioned it a couple of times.
Speaker 3: (54:18)
Um, do you know what I haven’t? I think because, yeah, I mean, I’m so fed up with dating apps in Germany, but I I’m actually, I am actually working on a book, so that’s my next, um, which sort of encompasses all of these different, different things, but, um, yeah, that’s, that’s sort of my next project. Um, and knowing that I can’t say much about it yet, but, um, I wish I could. Yes. But yeah, it’s, it’s going to be an exciting project, but these, that these are always the sort of topics I’m kind of writing about. I sort of like, I love that pick those, those things that people aren’t necessarily saying. I love that you’re saying, and I think more, so I need a, where can we find your work and where can people get in touch with you if they want to talk to you about any of these topics that we discussed in the podcast?
Speaker 3: (55:08)
Yeah, absolutely. I am on Instagram. It’s me. I need to be. Um, so definitely, you know, I talk about these things quite often. Um, but I also talk about, you know, I’m a beauty journalist. Do you quite often just talk about lipstick a bit as well, which is also fun if you particularly got, I’ve got a lot of niches I’m really into vintage things and fully dimensional. I’ve got a lot of interest. We liked vintage stuff and he liked music and stuff like that. Then definitely come, come and say hi, we’ll be linking that in the show notes. Once again. Thank you for being on the pod. Thank you guys. It’s been super fun.
Speaker 2: (55:50)
Thank you so much for tuning into two black girls. Talk about everything. Podcasts where today we talked to, uh, Anita Baghwandas about the white washing of wellness culture and about cultural appropriation in the wellness space. Please, if you are enjoying these podcasts, we’d love it. If you would go to Apple podcast rate like subscribe and share, it really does help to get the podcast out there to more people can hear us. You can also get in contact with Dee and myself online on our Instagram. For me, it’s Dianne yoga official. And for D you can find her at deevine intentions. Thanks so much for listening to the podcast and we’ll catch you next time
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