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Fitness memberships, workout classes, wellness services, beauty appointments and more.
The fitness, wellness, and beauty industries pride themselves on helping people look and feel their best, but they can often create environments that do not feel welcoming and inclusive to all. Our goal is to amplify Black voices in the wellness community and draw attention to any moments of discomfort that can help lead to positive changes.
We wanted to find out how business owners, fitness instructors, stylists, wellness practitioners, and community members alike can help improve these industries by highlighting real stories—both negative and positive—to provide perspective into marginalized experiences in wellness. We reached out to MBUnited, a diverse council of minority and allied team members dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue, awareness, and opportunity for minorities.
Here, three team members share their stories.
The lack of representation in mainstream media has been a longstanding battle against inclusivity. Many beauty advertisements, social media accounts, and magazines depict photos of blonde, thin, white women with long, straight hair. This is an issue for many reasons, as it sets a false standard of beauty that neglects most people in this country and seems to exclude them from the beauty market.
Not only that, but many women with textured hair have trouble finding a properly trained stylist who is respectful and inclusive in their practice. Antoinette Little, Technical Business Analyst at Mindbody, shared:
Hair shrinkage is natural for women with textured hair, and the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage you will have. For many years, images of white women with long, straightened hair have dominated, causing insecurity amongst black women. Being a black woman with long curly hair, I've experienced going to busy salons where I've been told ‘we don't service people with your type of hair’ while running fingers through my hair with disgust. As a result, causing me to be extremely self-conscious about the maintenance of my hair and the people I choose to service it.
Walking into a salon should be an exciting and comforting experience. These businesses and stylists exist to help us look and feel beautiful. If they are up-charging or turning some of us away, they are contributing to the false standard of beauty represented in the media and creating an environment that not only excludes but creates longstanding insecurities in Black women.
Group fitness is also often associated with one type of person. We see images of super-fit men with big biceps and six-packs, or skinny, blonde yogis in expensive athletic wear. Many have walked into fitness studios and felt out of place, whether because of their weight, age, skin color, background, or even clothing. This feeling can be reinforced—or diminished—by the type of instructors working in these businesses.
If a business is owned or operated by a diverse staff, it can provide an environment that is welcoming to all types of people. According to Nicole Ely, QA Analyst IV at Mindbody, “If you don't have a diverse staff, the chances your staff will have bias issues are WAY stronger.”
When asked about a wellness experience that stood out as welcoming and inclusive amongst the rest, many of our MBUnited team members mentioned diversity among staff, clientele, and social media.
I took a pole/aerial silk fitness class in New Jersey. The studio has since been closed, but it was the most welcoming experience I'd ever had. The studio was run and operated by black women. I'd never been to a studio run by black women, so the novelty appealed to me. The fact that they were so welcoming, patient, and encouraging made me feel like aerial silks weren't so scary and that they could be for me, a plus-sized black woman.
In classes, I noticed there were women of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, which made the class fun and interactive. Instructors never brought attention to any particular group or individual and played music that wasn't tailored to any specific genre. Oftentimes, I've attended workout sessions when instructors see too many Black faces, and they assume Rap is the type of music the group wants to work out to.
And Derelle Davis, Business Operations Specialist at Mindbody, said, “I love seeing fitness studios whose advertisements and social media looks like a melting pot.”
From diversity and inclusivity of staff, instructors, and clientele, to music played and images on social media accounts, there are so many ways businesses can contribute to a more inclusive environment for all.
If you’re an instructor, stylist, or business owner, be aware of these issues. Whether it’s remembering to encourage everyone equally, educating yourself on unconscious bias and how to eliminate it, or training on how to be a better ally, every step counts toward making positive change in the wellness industry.
When asked how businesses can do better, Ely suggested, "Hire external trainers to talk about bias. Study up about issues in wellness concerning black people and people of color. AND LISTEN when people of color are talking about what they want from their experience.”
Davis specifically mentioned giving each member of fitness classes direct eye contact and encouragement: “Saying something kind and simple like, ‘We're happy to have you, enjoy the class!’ can go a long way.”
If you’re a client at salons, spas, or fitness studios, you can also do your part to increase inclusivity and create a more welcoming environment for all.
If you walk into an establishment, and you see a person of color waiting, and the practitioner calls you up first, ask if you're in line after that other person. Call attention to the fact that someone isn't being seen. Don't support businesses that have race issues. Just because they're comfortable or familiar to you, let them know with your dollars that they need to be comfortable and familiar to everyone in the community.
And while your personal interaction with an establishment can go a long way towards promoting inclusivity, it also helps to marshal the support of friends—and the World Wide Web.
“Invite your friends to help add to the diversity, and write reviews not only explaining the service but including your ethnicity," encouraged Davis. "Personally, if I see Jane's Salon has a stylist that knows how to style African American hair, and they have a great review, I'm going to give them try.”
Over and over again, the message from our respondents was clear: sustained, intentional change from businesses requires sustained, intentional action from its clientele. Being clear about what you’d like to see from a business, leaving reviews about what you have seen, and voting with your wallet can all make a huge difference. As Little put it:
1. Engage with the business and its owners by providing ideas for improvement and feedback on the service you received.
2. Promote the business to your friends and social media groups. If business owners start to see a diverse group of recurring customers, they'll be more prone to expand the quality of service they're providing.
3. Don't give up easily! Once changes are made, business owners will sustain if forced to.
Overall, the wellness industry is supposed to exist to help everyone look and feel beautiful, safe, healthy, and welcomed. At Mindbody, our goal is connecting the world to wellness—not just the blonde yogi or shampoo model.
We all want to be well. And we all want each other to be well. But, in order for the wellness industry to feel attainable and inclusive to all, some changes need to be made. And these changes start with all of us.
In the words of Ely,
I want to support your business. I want to feel beautiful and fit. I want to have an amazing experience at your business! If you don't see people of color at your establishment, if they aren't coming back after coming in once, DO THE DEEP DIVE AND ASK WHY! Look at your staff. Look at your products. Look at your fitness plans. Do your homework and figure out if you can build the same experience for white people AND people of color with the tools and staff that you have. If the answer is no, fix it, and don't just write POC off as a ‘not our target clientele.’
Wellness transcends physical fitness. It’s a dedication to social, emotional, spiritual, and environmental well-being—everything that makes each of us and our communities whole. True wellness cannot be achieved while Black people face ongoing injustice. This is why we fight for Black lives.
To say the last year and a half was tough would be an understatement. In fact, it will probably go down as one of the most difficult times for our modern generation. In one of the many social polls we conducted during the pandemic, some of you described this time as a sheer “dumpster fire” or “like stepping on a Lego.” And to be honest, I couldn’t agree more.
Luckily, we’ve been able to get back to some form of normalcy in our lives and wellness routines over the last several months. As vaccines became available to the public, wellness businesses welcomed fitness fanatics, haircut seekers, and massage lovers back to in-person wellness experiences. And thank goodness for that—my roots and horrible posture from working from my bed were both getting wildly out of control. This girl needed a good massage and cupping session stat.
If there’s one thing we learned from the pandemic, it’s that our wellness routines are as personal as they are important. During shelter-at-home, those routines looked a bit different. For many, it meant taking a new approach to the “typical” wellness services we count on—I’m looking at you DIY haircuts, at-home waxing sessions (ouch!), and virtual swerking classes.
Now that we can leave our humble abodes to take advantage of in-person experiences again, the word “wellness” has seemingly taken on a new meaning.
Recently, we conducted another one of our famous social polls to see what wellness means to you, our Mindbody community, now that we're slowly but surely getting back to our regularly scheduled programming. We also tapped some of our most influential Mindbody business owners about the ever-evolving wellness landscape.
Here’s what you all had to say.
According to our annual Mindbody Wellness Index, 60% of Americans say they’re more focused on their health and wellness since COVID. Consumers are now realizing they need to take greater care of themselves to optimize and preserve their health. When we asked you on Instagram how important wellness is, a whopping 98% said it was more important than ever. When it comes to how you’re practicing wellness, though, the answers were all over the board. Many of you pointed to journaling, practicing breathwork, and daily workout routines (cycling and yoga topped the list) as being the activities that help you keep your chill throughout the week.
I’m also happy to report that over 50% said you tend to feel more blessed than stressed on a daily basis—which is more than likely a big improvement. Let’s be honest, a year ago I would’ve bet a billion dollars that 99.9% of us knew no other feeling than anxiety—am I right? But even with the stress in our lives dwindling, many of you are still experiencing burnout at the end of a long work week (guilty!). But instead of succumbing to a bottle of wine for relief (please, that was so 2020), you’re unwinding by going to your favorite workout classes—with hot yoga, barre, and Pilates as your faves.
Let’s be honest, we should credit the business owners in this space for helping us reignite our spark when it comes to our wellness routines, right? Thanks to them, we’ve been inspired to prioritize the activities that help us feel our best. In turn, we thought it’d be interesting to learn what wellness means to them—and how that definition has changed over the past eighteen months.
Here’s what they had to say.
“Wellness is living in balance—mind, body, spirit. Highs and lows. It all ebbs and flows and we can navigate it a bit better when we take time to move, breath and remember who we are, and how we are connected to this big, beautiful world.” - Jess Pierno, Founder, Owner, and Chief Inspiration Officer of Yoga Heights
“Wellness is a true balancing of the mental, physical, and spiritual. It has definitely evolved over the years for me—from something that I just thought was about exercising and eating a healthy diet—to also incorporating balancing and healing internally and spiritually.” - Stefanie Patterson, Owner, Indianapolis Salt Cave and Halotherapy Center
“My sense of wellness has evolved from staying healthy and motivated, mind/body/spirit... to being more gentle with myself, less demanding. Accepting my limitations, taking time for resting, and gaining real clarity about what's important. I care less about what people think of me—difficult as a performer and as a business owner with so many demands on me—and more about getting quiet and tapping into the divine source inside of me that helps me discern my next move. In this way, I know my motives are as pure as possible and I'm not getting distracted—not that I don't make mistakes! Those are necessary, that's how we learn!” - Johanna Krynytzky, Owner, Hip Expressions Belly Dance Studio
“My studio name reminds us that we are constantly evolving. The past 18 months have certainly shown us that! Wellness to me means doing your best on any given day to make sure that you are taking care of yourself as best you can. It leads to resilience. Diet, exercise, sleep, a sense of community, and some form of faith. It all matters. Setbacks happen all the time, and every day is a chance to start again. We strive to be 'cheerleaders' for our clients when we sense that things are coming out of balance in their lives. So many have been with us for 18 years and are friends—they are our community and we all watch out for each other.” - Mo Wolfe, Owner and Founder, Evolution Pilates
I think we can all agree that there isn’t one true definition of wellness anymore. To some of us, it means getting that hot yoga sesh in daily, and to others, it means carving out time to treat ourselves to a massage or manicure. As long as you’re actively pursuing wellness—whatever that means to you—you're on the right track.
Our MO has always been about connecting the world to wellness—a term that's seen a lot of change lately. Whether you’re fully embracing the in-person experience or still delighted by the convenience of practicing at-home wellness, the Mindbody app makes it easy for you to book experiences that help you feel like YOU again.