Well+Good proudly presents Wellness in Color, a new series highlighting prominent wellness practitioners of color who are doing healing work in their communities. Featuring conversations led by Latham Thomas, a Well+Good Council member and the founder of Mama Glow, these stories will shine a spotlight on energy workers, nutrition experts, sexuality doulas, and other wellness luminaries. Here, entrepreneur Gianne Doherty talks about how she founded one of the country’s leading wellness conference series, WELL Summit.
Latham Thomas: Gianne, I would love for you to start by telling our community just a little bit about yourself.
Gianne Doherty: I am the co-founder of Organic Bath Co., an award-winning organic skin-care company based out of Boston. I’m also the founder of WELL Summit, a leading wellness conference series. My mission and purpose is to empower women to live their healthiest lives with both of my brands. With Organic Bath Co., our predominant focus is making sure that what you put on your body is nontoxic. With WELL Summit, we extend upon that conversation with our belief that wellness should be a 360-degree conversation.
What inspired you to take this path from skin care to a producing a wellness summit?
Back in 2014, I started marinating on the idea. Through my journey of Organic Bath Co., as I started sharing the importance of what you put on your body, I started getting more questions from friends and family and our customers. I realized that while I was in the wellness industry, a lot of my community had no idea where to start. I was looking for an event that was focused on community and education. I did not see it, so I created it. In particular, being a woman of color—I am half Afro-Caribbean and Belizean, as well as Irish-American—I didn’t see a lot of diversity on this stage from age, to race, to background. I want to make sure that as I’m growing WELL, I’m using my platform to help create an inclusive space in the wellness industry as well as to elevate all stories.
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In the creation of the work that you do around WELL Summit and with Organic Bath Co., what do you believe you do to support the well-being of others?
I believe that I make this information accessible and relatable. I’m a big believer in that kind of that 80/20 rule, so I’m clean and well probably 80 percent, but I still enjoy a glass of wine. Or maybe my nail polish is not always nontoxic. So I’m not that wellness figure who’s here to say, “I have this elaborate two-hour morning ritual as well as an elaborate two-hour evening ritual.” I’m like, “This is what I’m able to do as an entrepreneur.” I feel like I’m very honest with what I do and what I struggle with. My hope is to make it acceptable for people and to understand that there are different shades of wellness.
So you’re 80 percent Beyonce and 20 percent Rihanna?
Probably 70-30, actually, when you put it that way.
It’s important to keep a really strong network of soul friends around you.
Got it. Now, I know you have an entirely new conference you’re cooking up. What can you tell me about that?
We have a women’s entrepreneurship conference on June 22 in Boston. We’ll be having a real conversation about what it means to be an entrepreneur and taking that Instagram filter off the journey. I think a lot of times what is shown is, “I’m working at the beach, and I built up my six-figure business, and you can do it too.” And yes, you can—but what are the sacrifices to get there? How long does it take you to get there? We’ll be talking about the importance of community and about the mental health aspect of being an entrepreneur—how lonely and isolating it can be at times. This is for all entrepreneurs, but we are bringing the wellness factor to them.
The work can be so overwhelming and lonely at times. Can we talk a little bit about mental health? What are some of the practices that you employed for your own mental well-being as you’re balancing three different business ventures?
I’m a firm believer in therapy. I also think it’s important to keep a really strong network of soul friends around you. People that you feel comfortable being vulnerable with, people that believe in you. When I feel moments of doubt, I can call them, and they help build me back up. And I would say, prayer—praying as much as my parents probably hoped I would be when they taught me how to pray.
Prayer makes things possible. I know you spend a lot of time imparting wisdom and information to people. But what’s one of the things you think people get confused when it comes to self-care?
I think we all get caught up in this glorification of self-care. We think that self-care is an image or a look. But the simplest form of self-care is being able to ask yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” That could be a bubble bath, but it might mean, “I need to go step outside and take a moment. I need to pray. I need to step away from this relationship. I need to read a book.” There are a lot of things that we can be doing—that don’t necessarily cost money—that are self-care.
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What would you say your wellness mantra is?
I think it is, “What do I need in this moment? I focus in on that and then try to make it happen. I have a lot going on, so I try to look at that holistically and make sure that while I’m making things happen, I’m also making sure that there’s time scheduled for myself in there.
You have Afro-Caribbean roots and I’d be really interested in learning about any of the ancestral practices that inform your work.
I’m biracial. I grew up traveling the world. My father’s a diplomat, so even at this point in my life, I have still lived more outside the U.S. than in the U.S. I grew up with a very global view of the world, and a realization that the world is more than just black and white. So when I’m looking at diversity for our conferences, [I think,] “Yes, there are black women, but are there enough black women? Are there enough beautiful skin tones? Do I have Hispanic women, do I have Asian women, do I have different ages?” So I think I bring a very global view to diversity, that I’m always trying to hit. And with the Organic Bath Co., I’ve lived in a lot of third-world countries—so, for example, our shea butter is fair-trade certified organic shea butter from Ghana. It’s very important to me and my partner that we have an ethical supply chain from beginning to end.
Don’t see it as an obstacle—it’s an opportunity.
I love that it’s part of your commitment through and through. Is there any advice that an elder has shared with you that you feel like has impacted your work?
My mom. Her advice always keeps coming to me. It’s so simple and so silly. She told me to drink water. So I say, it’s all about starting within with wellness. You can buy the hottest lipstick or you can buy the best product, but wellness starts from within.
Gianne, is there anything that you want to say about being a woman of color who’s running two conferences and a beauty brand?
I think for anyone who has a platform, you have a responsibility to make sure that you’re shining a light on others who may not get a light shined on them frequently. For example, with our entrepreneurship conference, it was easy to identify women entrepreneurs who are killing it—and they happen to be white. But I was struggling to come up with an equally robust list of women-of-color entrepreneurs. So even though I may not know all of them, I’m doing the work to make sure that they’re represented. To have an inclusive environment, to have diversity represented, it’s going take work. And it’s not easy; if it were easy, it would already be happening. So do the work and make sure it happens. Don’t see it as an obstacle—it’s an opportunity.
What—or whom—should Latham write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to email@example.com.
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