When we look ahead to 2020 and beyond, the below 27 people are poised to be the driving forces behind innovation and advancement in this booming wellness space. Their brands, inventions, and organizations are changing the way we eat, move, and think—and they have their sights set on helping everyone, regardless of age, location or socioeconomic status, live a well life. Wellness is not—and should not be—an exclusive lifestyle for the 1 percent, and these influential people have made it their mission to make wellness practices accessible and available to more people than ever before. Learn their names now, you'll be hearing much more from them.
Keep reading to meet the Changemakers, the most influential people in wellness in 2020 (in no particular order)
1. Nicole Cardoza
Founder and Executive Director, Yoga Foster
Founder, Reclamation Ventures
“All of us inherently have the right to feel good,” yoga instructor and entrepreneur Nicole Cardoza has said. And she’s made it her goal to share well-being practices with communities that are often left out of the wellness conversation, including people of color and children living in urban areas. Yoga Foster, Cardoza’s non-profit dedicated to teaching yoga in elementary schools, has brought the practice to 512 schools across 48 states. And in 2019, Cardoza founded Reclamation Ventures, an impact grant “dedicated to investing in underestimated entrepreneurs closing the wellness gap,” in order to amplify the work of others. Mental and physical health are the cornerstones of Yoga Foster’s and Reclamation Ventures’ missions, but their bedrock is Cardoza’s desire to make wellness available to everyone, everywhere.
2. Robin Berzin, MD
Founder and CEO, Parsley Health
Outside of a brief annual checkup, most of us see a doctor only when something's gone wrong. Robin Berzin, MD, thinks patients deserve more. A functional medicine doctor, she's also the founder and CEO of Parsley Health, a primary care medical practice, which offers patients visits online and at locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. "I started Parsley Health because I saw how broken health care is today," she says.
Her approach to fix it is simple and disruptive. Parsley's mission is to treat the body as a whole, integrated system while creating highly personalized, doctor-developed plans. The focus is on getting to the root causes of illness to achieve optimum health, not just treating problems when they pop up. For patients, this could mean having up to 10 annual visits with their health-care team, using technology tracking to measure the effects of diet and lifestyle changes, or advanced testing to measure hormone and gut health. Ten years ago, Dr. Berzin's philosophy would have been considered radical by the mainstream. Today, it looks like the future.
3. Lauren Singer
Founder, Trash Is for Tossers
CEO, Package Free
Lauren Singer is likely best known by her cheeky Instagram handle @TrashIsForTossers, an alias she adopted after committing to a zero-waste lifestyle back in 2012, way before everyone was ditching their plastic straws and water bottles. When she hosted her first Package Free pop-up shop in New York City in 2017, aimed at turning conscientious millennials onto sustainable consumer packaged goods (e.g. shampoo bars, stainless steel razors, reusable coffee cups, etc.), it was an unexpected hit. A year later, she launched the business full-time as both a brick-and-mortar storefront in Brooklyn and an e-commerce shop that sell only brands that use natural ingredients, are plastic-free, and even ship without plastic. Late this year, Singer raised $4.5 million to scale Package Free, with the ultimate goal of bringing down the cost of sustainable, package-free goods to match their tossable equivalents.
4. Latham Thomas
Founder, Mama Glow
New York-based and globally influential, Latham Thomas is a wellness coach and doula working to improve maternal health outcomes. Through her organization, Mama Glow, she offers everything from doula training to prenatal yoga, and in 2019, she founded the 2019 Continuum Conference: a gathering of birth workers, activists, medical professionals, and allies connecting about everything from holistic fertility to infant loss.
Thomas's warmth and style give her a hip Brooklyn-mama vibe, but she is fiercely uncompromising when it comes to fighting health inequity. In the United States, black women are four to five times more likely than white women to die from childbirth-related causes. This crisis is not just tragic, it's avoidable—and through her advocacy and support of fellow doulas of color, Thomas is just the woman to lead the charge for a better experience for all mothers.
5. Mary Cain
Professional long-distance runner and advocate
When she was 17 years old, long distance runner Mary Cain became the youngest American to ever make a World Championship track and field team. She was known for breaking records, and was poised to become an Olympian—until, as she told the New York Times in November, an abusive training regimen with Nike’s elite Oregon Project nearly ended her career. Now, the 23-year-old is partnering with brands like activewear company Outdoor Voices in order to use her platform to advocate for young athletes and redefine women’s sports. As Cain sees it, training regimens for all athletes are most often (too often) created with the male body in mind, which can cause women to overtrain and harm their bodies in pursuit of an impossible ideal. So she’s calling for an overhaul to the system, and demanding athletes listen to their bodies first and their coaches second.
6. Andy Puddicombe
The widespread practice of meditation and mindfulness in the pursuit of a healthier, happier life isn’t new. But the fact that it’s become such a tenet of self care in recent years is thanks in large part to Andy Puddicombe, the Buddhist monk and meditation teacher who co-founded the wildly popular app Headspace. With the meditation market booming (according to market research, the total meditation market surpassed the billion-dollar mark back in 2016, and is predicted to nearly double by 2022), you can expect Headspace, led by Puddicombe, to bring mindfulness to even more people’s lives through channels like physical activity, eating, play, and healthy sleep habits. Making that happen is the goal of Headspace Health, the first-ever prescription meditation app. Upon launch, it aims to infuse health care with mindfulness, which aligns with Puddicombe’s mission to open the doors of meditation to as many people as possible.
7. The Generation Z Climate Activists
Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor, Ayakha Melithafa, Carl Smith, Catarina Lorenzo, Emma Lin, Jamie Margolin
Just over one year ago, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg began skipping school in order to protest against climate change inaction outside of Sweden’s Parliament. This one remarkable teen’s voice has since been joined by millions worldwide to form a non-hierarchical organization called Fridays for Future, which has rallied climate strikes around the globe. In short order, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named Time’s Person of the Year. This past September, she and her fellow teen environmental activists Alexandria Villaseñor, Ayakha Melithafa, Carl Smith, Catarina Lorenzo, and others filed a complaint with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of a Child regarding the failure by certain member nations to adequately address climate change.
Thunberg’s not the only thought leader in the space. Other notable youth-led climate movements include Emma Lin’s #NoFutureNoChlidren pledge, Melithafa’s Project 90 by 2030, Jamie Margolin’s Zero Hour, and more. Collectively, these teens have drawn an important type of awareness to climate change, one that paints it as not just an emergency, but also a social justice issue.
8. Sheena Yaitanes
Founder, Kosas Cosmetics
Sheena Yaitanes, who has a background in chemistry and art, launched Kosas Cosmetics in 2015 with a mission to make fun, pigmented makeup that flatters every skin tone and is designed to work for your skin—not against it—by using ingredients often found in skin-care products. The brand manages to be popular among the masses and clean beauty aficionados, and execs from retailers like Sephora and Credo Beauty have told us that Kosas is a constant best-seller. And Yaitanes isn’t slowing down: In 2020, watch for her to launch more makeup/skin-care innovations that will shake things up in the world of cosmetics.
9. Mark Hyman, MD
Functional medicine doctor and best-selling author
Few doctors have embraced the food-as-medicine mentality as much as Mark Hyman, MD, founder and director of The UltraWellness Center and head of strategy and innovation for the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. Dr. Hyman coined the term “pegan” to describe the plant-based, Paleo approach to eating that he widely recommends. Proof that it’s caught on? His 2019 book, Food: What the Heck Should I Cook?, became his 12th best-seller.
Dr. Hyman isn’t satisfied with just raising awareness of healthier lifestyles, he’s actively working with legislators to change food policy. (One example: In 2015, he helped bring the ENRICH Act to Congress in order to fund nutrition in medical education.) And with a newly launched sleep program designed to help Americans solve their sleep woes, it’s clear he’s not stopping at food. Dr. Hyman won’t rest until Americans are living better.
10. Rachel Ricketts
Activist and author
Rachel Ricketts doesn’t mind making you uncomfortable. As an activist, speaker, and writer, Ricketts aims to dismantle the racist heteropatriarchy, something that requires pushing individuals outside of their comfort zones. Undoing thousands of years of white, cisgender male supremacy is no small task, but Ricketts is raising her voice on Instagram (where she has nearly 42,000 followers) to challenge the status quo.
She also hosts in-person and online spiritual workshops, which, while open to anyone, are specifically aimed at educating white women on their role in perpetuating the racial hierarchy. She believes that current iterations of white feminism and allyship are largely performative, and wants to remedy this by raising awareness. Given that the vast majority of women of color voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and that the same can not be said of white women, expect Ricketts to supercharge her efforts throughout the 2020 election cycle.
11. Elisa Shankle
Wellness centers that put different healing modalities under one roof have been opening all over the country. But Elisa Shankle found that many of these centers were missing a couple of (important) things: accessibility and diversity. So in 2018, she and co-founder Darian Hall opened HealHaus in Brooklyn, New York—a place where people can come for daily yoga and meditation classes, to sip on tonics, get an acupuncture or reiki treatment, attend workshops, and even book a private therapy session (which Shankle says is the most popular service of all).
In 2020, HealHaus will offer teacher training and retreats for its community, and plans on opening other locations in both New York and Los Angeles. Also in the works? A HealHaus app, which will put its treatments into the hands of those who aren't located on the coasts, as well as a product line. "The goal is to have global access," says Shankle, so expect HealHaus to become a larger force in making wellness friendly to everyone.
12. Brynn Putnam
Founder and CEO, Mirror
In 2018, Brynn Putnam (a former professional dancer and Harvard grad) had the ingenious idea of putting all the qualities that make a boutique fitness class feel special—a sense of community, form corrections from trainers, a way to track your metrics—into a single, sleek piece of at-home equipment. The Mirror is (no surprise) a full-length mirror that allows you to stream live and on-demand digital fitness classes and have real-time sessions with personal trainers. In June of 2019, Mirror was valued at nearly $300 million, and after just 15 months on the market, it has amassed a following of tens of thousands of subscribers, including A-listers like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, and Reese Witherspoon.
In the coming year, you can expect Putnam to continue thinking outside the box, as she plans to expand Mirror’s offerings beyond fitness. Mirror is partnering with Lululemon to launch meditation content in 2020, and Putnam has her sights set on telemedicine, beauty, and fashion as future areas for expansion.
13. Ethan Brown
Founder and CEO, Beyond Meat
If someone had told us five years ago that plant-based burgers would be one of the biggest food trends of the decade, we would have laughed: Going from “Where’s the beef?” to meatless patties in a single generation felt like too much of a leap. But Ethan Brown, the founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, has helped make a truly meat-like, vegan burger a hot commodity. Under his leadership, the company’s constant innovation and ambitious growth strategy—focused on fast food outlets like Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC—have made it a household name. With a record-setting IPO in May, a state-of-the-art research facility, and continued consumer interest in plant-based eating, expect to see Beyond Meat expand its offerings and its reach in 2020...and beyond.
14. Gina Bartasi
Founder and CEO, Kindbody
In 2020, fertility treatments are set to be more available than ever before—and Gina Bartasi is a major power player making IVF, egg freezing, and embryo freezing an option for a wider range of people. As the CEO and founder of Kindbody, the fertility-industry veteran presided over the company when it snagged $15 million in Series A funding and opened three impeccably styled clinics—in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles—offering a full suite of fertility services at prices significantly lower than those of its competitors. (And that was in 2019 alone.)
Five more Kindbody clinics are set to open in the year to come, but equally exciting is that Bertasi has her sights set on more than just baby-making. Kindbody recently launched general gynecological, nutrition, and mental-health offerings, with memberships starting at just $10 a month for an annual exam, urgent care, virtual visits, and counseling around birth control and conception planning. In a health-care system that’s desperate for disruption, Bertasi’s vision is right on time.
15. Chelsey Luger
Co-founder, Well for Culture
One of the first to report on the Dakota Access Pipeline, Chelsey Luger is a Native American journalist, activist, and entrepreneur whose grassroots initiative Well for Culture aims to reclaim Indigenous health. Through the organization, she and co-founder and husband, Thosh Collins, study the wellness practices of their ancestors in order to reintroduce them to the next generation of Native Americans through a podcast, articles, and workshops in the Indigenous community. Ultimately, their goal is to strengthen a population struggling with the long-term negative effects—including alcoholism and poverty—of displacement and disenfranchisement by reconnecting people with the holistic health culture that should be their natural inheritance.
16. Tonya Rapley-Flash, Mary Pryor, and Charlese Antoinette
When Tonya Rapley-Flash, Mary Pryor, and Charlese Antoinette started attending cannabis industry events in the mid-2010s, they were often the only women of color in the room. They responded by launching Cannaclusive, an organization delivering events, education, and content designed to diversify the booming cannabis space—one that’s predicted to be worth $40.6 billion by 2024.
The group’s initiatives include a stereotype-smashing stock photo library, business-strategy consulting services for underrepresented cannabis entrepreneurs, and, in collaboration with Kieryn Wang of Almost Consulting, InclusiveBase, a database of minority-owned cannabis brands that makes it easier for consumers, retailers, and event organizers to find and support them. Cannaclusive’s overarching mission is clear: To give people of color—who are four times more likely to be arrested than white people for marijuana possession, despite the fact that that both groups use the plant in equal measure—a seat at the table as cannabis becomes a legal (and highly lucrative) industry in a growing number of states.
17. Veronica Garza
Chief Innovation Officer, president, and co-founder, Siete Family Foods
After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Veronica Garza had to stop eating grains, but she didn’t want to give up some of her family’s favorite foods, like tortillas. When she couldn’t find any grain-free options available, she cooked up her own almond flour version—which is how her company, Siete Family Foods (co-founded with her brother, Miguel), was born in 2014. The Mexican-American food brand is now one of the top-sellers at Whole Foods, and by the end of the year, will be available in 13,300 stores nationwide—including Walmart, Target, and Kroger. With a recent $90 million investment and plans for fast-past product rollouts (all developed by Garza herself), expect to see Siete become a household name in the next few years—regardless of whether or not you eat grains.
18. Tyler Haney
Founder, Outdoor Voices
Tyler Haney founded her cool-to-be-active brand Outdoor Voices in 2014 to simplify the fitness uniform. Six years later, she’s still making some of the most covetable leggings around, but she’s also getting crystal-clear on the brand's mission: She wants to create a movement to move.
From the get-go, Haney has celebrated “doing things” over “winning the race”—and never has her mission felt more apropos than now. As Americans are skipping workouts at record rates because we’re too tired and burned out, Haney is taking the happy trail, encouraging her customers to move however makes them feel good. Through hyper-local programming at OV stores (think ice skating, softball games, and fun runs) paired with content on The Recreationalist and clothes that thread recreation throughout your day rather than saving it for just a segment, Haney’s endorphin-fueled voice is becoming one of the loudest in the crowd.
19. Colin Bedell
Astrologer and founder of QueerCosmos
Western astrology hasn’t changed much in the thousands of years since it originated, which is why many zodiac sign descriptions and compatibility reports are still written in a heteronormative style. But astrologer Colin Bedell is out to change that with QueerCosmos, a platform that transmits astro-intel through an LGBTQ+ inclusive lens.
Not only do Bedell’s horoscopes speak to the queer experience with laser-like precision and sass—for example, his description of Aries on the QueerCosmos site says this sign is the most likely to “march right up to the Westboro Baptist Church and American Family Association, spill the honest-tea, and speak their Mars ruled mind”—but his work is also infused with personal-growth teachings around concepts such as shame and resilience, plus spiritual wisdom culled from texts like A Course in Miracles. In 2020, this prolific Gemini will continue to translate astrology for the LGBTQ+ community with his new book, Queer Cosmos: The Astrology of Queer Identities and Relationships.
20. Poppy Jamie
Founder, Happy Not Perfect
Poppy Jamie is on a mission to make people more mindful. The English entrepreneur launched the Happy Not Perfect app in 2018, after three years of aggregating behavioral studies and developing the app with neuroscientists and researchers. It's designed to ease anxiety and give users the chance to carve out time for themselves through “happiness workouts” and “daily doses” of inspiration that go beyond just meditation and breathing exercises—some features include prompts for gratitude journaling, goal-setting, positivity-boosting games, and the ability to message friends “good vibes.” (You could argue this type of work is in Jamie's blood—her mother is a neurotherapist.) Since then, Happy Not Perfect has garnered awards and found partners in Saks Fifth Avenue and digital education platform Edmodo, among others. Its newly launched podcast tackles issues from heartbreak to money to self-esteem. There's much more on the horizon for Happy Not Perfect, and that makes us very happy indeed.
21. Esi Eggleston Bracey
EVP and COO of Beauty and Personal Care, Unilever North America
In a 2019 survey of 2,000 women, Dove found that black women were 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work, and were 30 percent more likely to receive a formal grooming policy from their employer. To Esi Eggleston Bracey, an executive vice president and COO at Unilever (Dove’s parent company), this is unacceptable. Under her leadership, the brand has worked to further a mission of hair inclusivity and diversity, and partnered with a number of activist groups to form the CROWN Coalition (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) to end race-based hair discrimination.
In July of this year, the group had its first big win: California passed the CROWN Act, which “protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms.” Weeks later, New York was the first to follow suit. And if Eggleston Bracey has anything to say about it, they won’t be the last.
22. Brian Rudolph
Co-founder and CEO, Banza
Chickpeas are the “it ingredient” of 2020, and Brian Rudolph’s brand Banza, which creates pastas and rice made from chickpeas, is one of the driving forces behind the trend. In 2014 at the age of 23, Rudolph and his brother launched Banza with the core mission of making healthy food more accessible. Considering that six years after its launch, the brand is sold in more than 12,000 stores, the brothers are well on their way to fulfilling that mission. And with $20 million raised in funding in 2019 and aspirations of landing on restaurant menus, 2020 is shaping up to be Banza’s biggest year yet.
23. Emma Grede
Founder and CEO, Good American
Before starting Good American, Emma Grede was sick of seeing retailers dictating what plus-sized women “should” and “shouldn’t” wear. And so, when the brand’s denim line launched in 2016, it offered the exact same silhouettes in sizes 00 to 24, giving women of many sizes the autonomy to make fashion choices for themselves—and, in the process, disrupting an industry that had limited their options for far too long.
On launch day, the brand raked in $1 million in sales, making it the largest denim launch in history while highlighting the need for a fashion-forward brand that put inclusivity at the forefront. Still, Grede’s mission didn’t stop with jeans. In the years since, she and business partner Khloé Kardashian have put forth a full clothing line with everything from activewear to party dresses, and every piece comes in a full range of sizing. In 2020, the brand has a new launch up its ultra-stylish sleeve, and it plans to continue its mission to empower women to feel chic and sexy at every size.
24. Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman
Co-founders, Dame Products
Alexandra Fine and Janet Lieberman launched Dame Products in 2014 with the Eva, a hands-free vibrator that’s reportedly the most crowdfunded sex toy in history—and they haven’t stopped setting records in their mission to close the pleasure gap. Dame has since made a name for itself as a top innovator in the sex-toy market, using high-quality materials and creatively engineered designs to serve the sexual needs of as many people as possible.
While the company will remain committed to that space in 2020 and beyond with new product releases that are poised to… please, you can expect the brand, with Fine and Lieberman at the helm, to be affiliated with broader discussions about gender equality. In 2019, Dame filed a lawsuit for discrimination in advertising against the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This came after the MTA rejected Dame’s advertisements from running in subways for being sexually oriented, despite having approved ads catering to sexual health for men. The proceedings are ongoing, but rest assured, Fine and Lieberman are committed to the pursuit of pleasure and sexual wellness for all people.
25. Will Ahmed
Founder and CEO, WHOOP
When Will Ahmed and John Capodilupo launched WHOOP, a wearable fitness and sleep tracker, in 2012, their primary users were elite athletes looking to optimize their training for better performance. But it didn’t take long for Ahmed to see that his product had the potential for a much greater reach: A culture where burnout is pervasive and people are getting smarter about their workouts means it’s not just athletes who are seeking to “balance strain and recovery” (as Ahmed puts WHOOP’s goal), but everyone with a pulse. In 2019, WHOOP secured $55 million in funding, and in the coming year, the brand is poised to roll out new features that help users find balance within their bodies, yes, but also within their daily lives.
26. Tiffany Masterson
Founder, Drunk Elephant
Name a skin condition—acne, dryness, redness, pigmentation—and one of the first solutions you’ll hear from dermatologists, beauty editors, and Redditors is Drunk Elephant. Over the past seven years, founder Tiffany Masterson’s indie skin-care company has grown into a candy-capped empire that, at its sale to the Japanese beauty behemoth Shiseido in October 2019, was worth $845 million dollars.
Early on, Masterson mastered a formula that others in the industry came to see as a guiding light: Skin care that taps efficacious, science-backed ingredients like glycolic acid and vitamin C while leaving out nasties that could sensitize or cause inflammation within the skin. Nowadays, Drunk Elephant is a medicine cabinet staple and it’s even plucked the title of “the fastest-growing skin-care brand in Sephora’s history.” In 2020 and beyond, watch for Masterson to expand into new categories and for pop-up shops to make cities around the globe drunk in love with the cult-fave line.
27. Christy Harrison, MPH, RD
Intuitive Eating Dietitian
There’s no denying that traditional diet culture emphasizing weight loss and food restriction has come under attack in the last year. And Christy Harrison, RD, MPH, has been at the forefront of that revolution as the “anti-diet” dietitian. Through media interviews and her own robust social channels (nearly 80K followers and counting on Instagram), Harrison champions intuitive eating and breaks down harmful diet myths that promote a distorted relationship with food in clear-cut, approachable terms. Her weekly podcast, Food Psych, is now one of iTunes’ Top 100 Health podcasts. As the conversation around our relationship with food and nutrition continues to evolve, Harrison’s philosophy and strong following will certainly help shape the healthy eating space in the next decade.
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