( ENSPIRE Health & Wellness ) Writers Sha Ravine and D’Shonda Brown Talk About Dreams, Goals, Growth, Self-Love, Community, Advocacy, and Body Positivity
ENSPIRED Contributor: Kyla Yates
The first annual Bridging Beauty and Wellness Digital Conference (#BBWCON) took place on Sunday, May 24. Featuring 14 panelists, 4 panels each featuring a unique topic, a 10 minute guided meditation, and a conversation with the founders, the conference discussed the impact and space that women of color take up in the beauty and wellness industries.
Founders Sha Ravine and D’Shonda Brown, both New York natives, met at Spelman College and became best friends their senior year. Both are passionate storytellers, with Sha most passionate about beauty, fashion, and lifestyle, while D’Shonda focuses on mental health advocacy.
The idea for The Bridging Beauty and Wellness Conference came to Sha while working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Sha shared on her Instagram, she “just wanted to bring 100 women together and would have been satisfied.” 600 people watched and showed up to the conference. The recording of the conference already has over 1,000 views on YouTube.
As Sha explained at the beginning of the conference, “Beauty and wellness coexist.” When planning the conference, Sha immediately knew she wanted to bring D’Shonda in to help her conduct the conference, with Sha representing the beauty aspect, and D’Shonda the wellness aspect. “The conversation of the parallelism between beauty and wellness isn’t discussed enough,” D’Shonda stated during the conference.
We got in touch with Sha and D’Shonda after the conference to hear their thoughts about how it went. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation:
Question: How do you feel the conference went? Did you have a personal favorite part of the conference/what stood out to you the most?
Sha: Post-conference I am just so happy with how everything turned out. I couldn’t believe the outpour of love and support that we received from everyone that was there, even to the point where they asked us to create a Facebook group to keep the conversation going, which we absolutely did. As far as my favorite part, I think the whole thing, but I think what stood out most to me was the meditation session by Kelly Greene because that was an incredible way to just take a pause, literally and physically, within the conference, and let everyone center themselves without overwhelming them with all of the information from the panels that we had.
D’Shonda: I think that the conference definitely exceeded Sha and I’s expectations, like, beyond words, there is no way to describe how we felt before, during, and after. It’s like every single ounce of work and sweat and blood and tears that we poured into the conference: it just went above and beyond what we had expected. Because originally our pipe dream goal was 100 tickets, but we said that if we only got 40 or 50 it would be good. But then after 100 sold out, we had to extend it to 500. And then we thought that would be the craziest thing that could happen humanly possible. And then we saw that we were slowly approaching 500, we had extended it to 800. So everything that we thought would happen, did, that we didn’t think would happen, just went completely right. My highlight of the conference is the fact that it went so perfectly. Especially for two young women, who have always wanted to collaborate and didn’t know how and in what medium, and it was our first time ever putting on anything, especially together. And we were so new to learning how each other worked professionally and how we would still manage our personal relationship. I believe my highlight of the conference was the fact that it just went so well from start to finish.
Question: What are your hopes for the future of the BBW Conference? You mentioned that this is the first annual, are you expecting to have it annually?
Sha: Definitely. We would love to do this 1000 more times. I think post-COVID we would love to do this in a physical location and make this conference so much bigger than it is virtually. We would love to have vendors, and have people come in and sell their products, and be in a physical space to connect with the women — and men, cause there were definitely men in the virtual conference on Sunday — to bring them all together in one space and to really fellowship and connect offline. Because I think there’s something so special about seeing someone face-to-face and really feeling that energy. I think it’s just something totally different to be in the same space as someone and to feel their energy and connect with them on a face-to-face level.
D’Shonda: I definitely believe that the face-to-face concept is very important, I also believe that BBWCon is going to be more than just a hashtag, gonna be more than just a Facebook page, I honestly believe that it’s gonna be a movement because the sheer fact that everybody immediately begged us for a Facebook group is insane to me. So, far more than just a physical conference; I definitely feel that our social presence for this is going to keep growing stronger and stronger. Because of course we’re going to keep putting the recaps and whatnot on our Facebook and our socials, but really growing that online community is going to be very integral for holding our community together until we bring the second annual BBWCon, and the third, and the tenth.
Question: Did you guys learn anything new at the conference, personally? What stood out the most to you about new things that you were learning at the conference?
Sha: I think, personally, because I was the beauty aspect of it all, I learned a lot from the wellness portion of our conference. I know I say it all the time, that the BBWCon is the space where beauty and wellness collide, but just to see it and hear it from all these different women who collectively touch on so many different parts of wellness — not even just mental health, but physical health and nutrition, and just taking care of yourself, and vaginal health — and how things like that play into your entire being. I learned so much from our wellness portion on how to better take care of myself and how to better check in with myself, especially during this time.
D’Shonda: As the person who is the wellness portion of the BBWCon, I learned so much about beauty. I am not a beauty girl at all; I’m not in that world any shape or form. I learned so much about how self-care and how self-love is implemented into skincare; especially during COVID-19. I’ve noticed that in high times of stress, or because of lack of Vitamin D, or because I’m going stir-crazy in the house, that really does affect how my skin looks. So hearing from dermatologists, hearing from somebody such as Lauren Napier who has her own brand, seeing women of color talk to other women of color about how to take care of our skin is just something that has never been a thing for me. I’ve always heard from online forums, I’ve always gone to WebMD or HealthLine or YouTubers, but I’ve never actually had an intimate conversation with somebody who looks like me about skin that looks just like mine. So I definitely learned a lot about skincare and self-love in that aspect.
Question: What would be your biggest piece of advice for attendees on how they can implement what they were learning at the conference in their own lives?
Sha: If you have a dream or an idea, don’t let it die in your notebook. Like I said before, we have a thousand ideas, and that doesn’t mean that all of them are gonna work, but it’s something so incredible when you put a lot of action behind something you’re really passionate about. Because if I had let BBWCon die in a notebook, this whole movement wouldn’t have been a thing. These amazing women wouldn’t have been able to connect with our attendees; I wouldn’t have been able to completely understand that your wildest dreams can come true, and they can become wilder. As we said before, we really didn’t know that this was going to literally sky-rocket into everything that it became. I wasn’t thinking about creating a Facebook group; we were just so happy to have this conference happening and to have everyone networking among themselves in the comments section. When they were like “We don’t want this to end, we want a group chat, how do we get that?” We were like “Oh my god, we didn’t think of this!” It’s so amazing that within four hours, or how much time people were in the comments section, that that connection was so genuine and so real. I would say 1) don’t let your dreams die in a notebook. 2) understand that you don’t have to do these things alone. Because I couldn’t have, at all, done this without Shonda and without our panelists. And that there’s a community of women who are waiting to support you, and to uplift you; you just have to go out there and seek it.
D’Shonda: My biggest piece of advice would be that growth is very scary, but it’s something that has to happen. During the conference, one thing that I said is that growth makes you feel uncomfortable sometimes. Like when you’re wearing jeans and you know that you’re getting taller, or when your hair is growing and you know that you have split ends; you have that awkward moment where you know you have to grow out of what you’re used to. So along the way when you grow as a businesswoman, if you grow as a wife or a husband, as you grow as a parent, if you grow as a child, you’re going to feel yourself growing out of certain things and growing into certain things. Don’t be so afraid of adaptability that you miss your window of opportunity. And that includes friendships, that includes relationships. Make sure to try to be fluid and try to be accepting of what your next blessing is, because if you try to block your blessing with your inability to change, you’re going to miss so many opportunities that way. Especially as young women, we’re so used to societal norms saying we should do this, or we shouldn’t do this, or we can do this, and we can’t do that. When in fact, we’re in a day and age where women can do anything. I feel like this is a time for women to bust through the door and say look at what I can do and I’m gonna do it.
Question: How do you maintain a healthy mindset between beauty and wellness; as in, how do you consistently love yourself and view yourself as beautiful while also taking care of and maintaining a healthy body?
D’Shonda: What you did with posing us that question is addressing that you can’t have one without the other. Because that was the entire point of the BBWCon; you have to have beauty to have wellness and you have to have wellness to feel beautiful. With taking care of yourself and implementing self-care, first things first you have to know what works best for your self-care regimen. And with that, I mean that if somebody is comfortable with wearing makeup all day every day, that’s what works for them. You have to really assess what works for you and your body, and what makes you feel beautiful, even down to the clothes that you wear. You have to do what works best for you, while also keeping in mind the things that you should definitely stay away from. Really be mindful of what you can and can’t put in your body, but don’t go overboard; take baby steps. Because getting to where I am today as far as my health and my mental wellness, it took years. It took me time to learn myself and to unlearn things that I learned in childhood trauma, or unlearn things that I learned from my parents that weren’t exactly right for me, or unlearn certain things in my religion that I don’t agree with. So beauty and wellness all starts with you and self-assessment.
Sha: The only couple things I would add is that you have to continually give yourself grace, and understand that it’s okay to not be okay. You don’t always have to perform; it’s okay to have an off-day, it’s okay to just not feel pretty. You don’t always have to be put together, but you also have to understand that the work of self-love and finding yourself and understanding who you truly are is continuous work. You’re not gonna figure it all out in one day, you’re not gonna figure it out in a week, you’re not gonna figure it out in a year. You’re always evolving, and you have to give yourself that space and that grace to keep learning who you are and allow other parts of yourself to show up and show out. It’s very important to give yourself grace and space to be. Do what works for you. Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean that it’s going to work to you. Understand that your journey to self-love and to accepting every part of your being is very personal work; you’re not going to find that in someone else. It’s deeply personal and something that you have to be committed to doing because it’s going to take a lot of time.
Question: What advice would you give young girls who are struggling with their body image and are not comfortable with themselves?
D’Shonda: I used to be that girl. I was definitely that girl. I feel like every girl was that girl, at one point. It’s really important to take everything off the table and look at you. What do you like about you, not what your parents like about you, not what your boyfriend or your girlfriend likes about you, not what your employer likes about you. What do you like about you, aside from all of the noise that you hear. Because as women we hear at least, I’m pretty sure, 30-50 critiques a day, even if we don’t know that they’re critiques. If somebody throws shade, it’s always something that’s nit-picky. But we have to realize that if we like the way that we look, you have to say to yourself “I like the way my hair looks today!” or “I like the outfit that I chose,” or “Ya know what, I might be breaking out here or here, but I love my skin,” and “I love my smile,” “I love my hair the way that it grows out of my head.” You have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and affirm that you’re beautiful. Body positivity and self-love, it takes time. You’re not gonna wake up one day magically and say “Oh I feel beautiful.” But you can start by saying it until you actually believe it. There are some days where I feel like I’m not the prettiest girl. But that’s okay, I’m not trying to be the prettiest girl. Because I think I’m pretty to me. I think I’m beautiful to me. So it’s self-assessment. You really have to know what you bring to your own table, what you are to the world, and how you feel about you, and all of that negative noise will just go away.
Sha: First, it’s totally a mental game. And a lot of that stems from comparison syndrome, and the way that social media affects a lot of young women because we are constantly bombarded with these images of other women who are perfect and their skin is flawless, and all of these unrealistic images of what it means to be beautiful. And there’s this prototype of what the perfect woman is, and a lot of us, we don’t look like that; we have stretch marks, we have acne scars, we have all of these things that make us unique. And I will just first say: do the work of realizing that the way you were made and the way that your work is perfect. It’s perfect for you, it’s perfect for whatever you feel like your purpose is in this world. And really just understanding that there is space for you. And I think this conference more than anything has solidified that for me personally. That whatever your purpose is here, there is space for you, and you’re the only one that can do that. And it doesn’t matter what you look like, what you sound like, there are people out there who are going to accept you, you just have to find your tribe. And you have to also understand that not everyone is going to be accepting of who you are, and that’s not your problem. We as people just want to be accepted, but you have to understand that there are people out there who are going to love you for who you are. And there is never a need to change or manipulate anything about yourself to fit into any type of crowd. Because those are not your people. The people who love you and support you are gonna love you and support you for who you are. All your kinks and quirks, everything about you; even the things that you feel like “Oh this makes me really weird!” But guess what, there’s a community of weirdos who are waiting for you. And I think it’s just important to realize that everything that’s special about you is personal to you. And you should never want to diminish that or hide that or change that to fit into the world because I just feel like we were all uniquely made, and we were all uniquely put on this earth to do something, to have a purpose. And when you try to fit in and make yourself look like the “prototype,” you lose that uniqueness and you lose that value.
Question: What can women do to become advocates for beauty and wellness? How can women become more involved in these kinds of conversations?
Sha: Show up as yourself because you never know who you can touch, and they don’t have to look like you, they don’t have to be the same age as you, they don’t have to have the same life experiences as you. You are unique, the ideas you have are unique, and someone needs that uniqueness. We all have our own ideas and your ideas are important and the information that you have to share is important, so just show up as yourself. Show up in the ways that only you know how to. And be sure of yourself. Everyone knows something that someone else can benefit from. Don’t shy away from your crazy, extreme ideas; there are so many different buckets to pull from in beauty and wellness that I think a lot of people don’t think of. Show up as yourself, share your ideas, and you never know what you can accomplish just by being you.
D’Shonda: Tell your story. Advocacy is all about allowing people to get to know you and your story. And it’s scary to put yourself out there, but with your story and with your vulnerability will come your tribe. There are certain stories that Sha tells about her experience in beauty and sometimes being the only black girl in the room, and sometimes being the only black girl that’s the best person for a story but she’s not assigned, that a lot of other people that are in her position can attest to. I know that for me, there’s a lot of people that I had no idea were going through suicidal ideation and low self-esteem and depression and anxiety and cutting. And I thought in my head it was just me. But by telling my story, whether it was in a blog or on a podcast, or even telling a friend who told a friend; that’s when my advocacy begins. Everybody believes that there’s this notion that to be an advocate there’s some type of three-step process or you have to go through somebody, but it all starts with just sharing your interests and sharing your story. As a wellness advocate, I can say that as simple as having the number on speed-dial for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a step of advocacy. Having pamphlets in your book for people who are young adults and are going through depression as they transition in and out of college is a way of doing advocacy. Community service is advocacy. Every little thing that you do is advocacy, as long as you’re passing it from one person to the next, and you’re doing it to better the community, and not just doing it for self-reward. That’s advocacy all the way around.
Question: Do you have any final comments or anything else you wanted to share?
Sha: We are just so completely grateful for everyone who showed up for us and felt our genuine love and desire to put on this conference. This was so much bigger than us, even when it was just an idea that was written down. And to see that catapult into a whole community of women who want to continue this relationship with us, because it’s so easy to get lost in the heap of information that flows on the internet every day. So to actually be able to penetrate into that world and leave something of value for people to turn back to. This is just the beginning. We’re so excited for what the future holds and how we can further impact the lives of not just women, but the men as well.
D’Shonda: Pass along anything that anybody learned in those four hours, is information that’s not just meant to stay in that YouTube replay. We specifically put on that conference so that we can spread all this information that’s needed for anybody. All of this information is applicable. Pass on this information to not just keep BBWCon alive, because Sha and I are going to do it regardless, but to keep the information alive. All of this information is meant to be given out.
You can watch the conference recording on YouTube here, and join the BBWCon Facebook Group here. You can also find Sha Ravine on Instagram at @Sha.Ravine and Facebook, and D’Shonda Brown on Instagram at @SignedShonda and Facebook.
You can view more details about the conference and the list of panelists at bbwcon.eventbrite.com.