The founder of wellness community thy.self on why feeling lost inspired her platform.
By Audra Heinrichs.
It’s been a particularly trying week for women and femmes in the U.K.—and everywhere-as the internet continues to regurgitate the more salacious parts of Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah and many grieve for Sarah Everard, a young woman who was murdered this month after walking home in London’s Clapham area. Amid a pandemic, women and femmes have been made even more acutely aware that they’re anything but safe—from both online vitriol and physical violence.
Chloe Pierre is the founder of thy.self, a community Instagram platform and disruptive wellness brand that encourages diversity in the health and wellness industry. The brand has a dual focus on both mental and physical health, and understands that community care for women and femmes is more important now than ever.
In just three years since its founding, thy.self has cultivated a vast network of women and femmes and provided them with a place for human connection. Global brands like Nike, Samsung, ASOS, and Instagram have tapped Pierre for special projects surrounding self-love and staying positive in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
Over Zoom from London, Pierre opens up e about thy.self’s conception, calling out racism and appropriation within the health and wellness industry, and how she’s making the most of this moment.
Audra Heinrichs: How and when did you start thy.self?
Chloe Pierre: We officially launched thy.self in October 2018, but it was really a brainchild for more than a year or so (before then). As I traveled, I got to see different concepts of wellness in different spaces—Europe, the United States and obviously, the U.K. I’d say there’s a lot of appropriation going on and not a lot of accreditation to where these concepts, techniques, and spiritual awakenings actually came from. There’s also an issue of exclusivity in wellness. Despite their origins, many of us could be alienated from spaces or made to feel like we were the “other.” That feeling of being the other is an issue, but it’s also been what most has inspired me to do this.
At first, I just wanted to make wellness accessible. Very quickly though, mainly because I am a Black woman, what ended up becoming something I wanted to tackle was the racism and appropriation in the industry.
AH: It’s been a very difficult week for women and femmes, in the U.K. especially. Between the death of Sarah Everard and the toxic racist and sexist reactions to the Meghan Markle interview, how are you and your community coping right now?
CP: I’ve spent the day crying, if I’m honest with you. There’s just so many things that make you realize you’re not far from it. Also, to think that a person with authority might have done something to Sarah and knowing full well that if he says he didn’t do it, he’d be believed, feels hopeless [editor’s note: since this interview took place, the police officer in question has been charged with Everard’s murder]. After the year we’ve had, stories like these just feel a bit relentless.
AH: What do you think are the foremost things the wellness industry is getting wrong and right?
CP: I’ve learned it’s really hard in this day and age to do something without some kind of financial backing. I didn’t create thy.self to be a commercial business, but it kind of just happened anyway. I look at all of these other big companies and maybe they started out with some kind of good intention, but the business element always comes into it and it becomes really sordid and commercialized and it just takes the heart out of everything. When it comes to the wellness industry, it’s all about money. Since the pandemic, I have seen a lot of brands and companies dropping their metrics and becoming more conscious of their communities and trying to understand them.
AH: Prior to the pandemic, thy.self held in-person events and meet-ups for its community. What has it been like to go from that to only being able to hold space online?
CP: We’ve definitely been listening to our community and the social chambers that we’re part of. But it’s been so hard pivoting the business. Last year, we did a few events but slowly started to do more collaborations with other brands on an online basis. We grew more last year than I ever thought we would during a pandemic, but it’s very hard to solely operate online because we’re not a computer software company. We’re actual people with actual feelings and a lot of life going on as well. I don’t believe in breaking yourself to keep up with anything and I don’t want to oversaturate the market either, which is why platforms and brands the likes of Goop are checking us out. They don’t have the same ability to stand back and watch.
AH: What has gotten you through this pandemic? Any tips for those struggling right now?
CP: That’s a very difficult question and my answer has probably changed about a million times since last year, but I would say the most consistent thing has been working out because it’s given me a routine and it’s so good for my mental health. Also, being able to explore different parts of London, and food, though I’ve been on a journey with it. And thank god for the internet! It helps you realize you’re not alone and to choose to see good things.
I’m so affected by the news and stuff today, but I’m choosing to be in that space. I’m choosing to be at one with the other women that are feeling the same way, and soon, I’ll be able to rebuild from that. thy.self wasn’t built because I was happy. It was built because I was lost.
Image credit: Chloe Pierre