Welcome to Superwomen in Wellness, where we sit down with inspiring female leaders paving the way in the wellness space.
We chatted with Michelle Antoinette Nelson, founder of Brown and Healthy. Michelle shares what self-care means to her (it’s the necessities in life!) while diving deep into what inspires and drives her to build Brown and Healthy. Her passion for community, events, and creating safe spaces in health and wellness for people of color shines through her mission and action.
Where do you live and what’s your favorite mode of expression?
I live by the beach just outside of Oakland, CA in a town called Alameda. My favorite form of expression is poetry. I have been writing for 29 years, since I was 11 years old.
Do you have any wellness rituals? What are they?
Yes, I do. Weightlifting, meditation, napping, and drinking a gallon of water a day.
How does your day typically begin?
Monday- Friday I wake up around 5:30-6:00am, I make a protein smoothie for both my wife and I, and then I go to the gym.
What are your current self-care routines and how do you nourish yourself?
A wise person once told me that the true act of self-care is doing things for yourself that no one else can do for you. So my self-care routine consists of paying my bills on time, cooking meals for my family and making sure that I stay as mentally and physically fit as possible.
What’s your most sacred time of day?
My sacred time of day is the morning when I workout. I enjoy that time because I get to focus solely on myself, no phone calls, no emails, no tasks, just focused on the next repetition and growing stronger.
What’s your superpower?
My superpower is my ability to distill information so that it can be easily understood and consumed by people. I am also very good at feeling and understanding the heartbeat of humanity, I can tap into someone’s “rhythm” in a one-on-one conversation and I can do it with a room full of strangers.
You are a host, moderator, writer, Narrative Ninja, and also the founder of Brown & Healthy. What’s the common thread here in your life’s mission and between all of your projects?
The common thread is community engagement and event curation. When I first began hosting, I often hosted my own shows and events. Brown and Healthy is a focused initiative that allows me to continue to curate events and engage community while focusing on the underlying theme of every event I have ever planned and promoted, and that theme is the mental, physical, and emotional well being of people of African descent, specifically.
Can you tell us about your work creating safe spaces for folks to talk through trauma and focus on improving emotional wellbeing?
I have moderated numerous panels and led conversations, over the years, that allow people to share their stories and experiences in order to deal with trauma. I also created The Brown and Healthy Speaker Series, a series of interactive discussions that focus on all aspects of health, including mental health, community safety and violence, financial literacy, health disparities and equity, nutrition, fitness, and more. It is designed to amplify the voices of people of color in the health + wellness world. The speaker series has provided safe spaces for people to begin to learn, feel a sense of belonging, and heal.
How have you seen physical and emotional wellbeing intersect? How do you think supporting mind-body connection can help create more balance?
I have first hand experience with the intersection of physical and emotional wellbeing. The reason I work out the way that I do is because I learned at an early age that being an athlete and working out helped me deeply with my mental health and wellness. As I aged, I developed anxiety issues that subside with a consistent workout regime and healthy eating. I find that physical fitness, pushing your body to be active, helps with getting a good night’s rest and that inturn helps cultivate a sharp mind and a sense of emotional wellbeing. All of those things combined, along with honing one’s emotional intelligence can create more balance and help you handle all of the things that growing older brings.
What inspired you to launch Brown and Healthy?
Brown and Healthy began as a simple hashtag in 2015, to highlight health and wellness and uplift my community during a dark time riddled with police killings of unarmed black people.
In 2016 I founded Brown and Healthy and we launched our first initiative ‘The Brown and Healthy K.I.D.S. program’ where participants did not just learn about health, but they also learned how to apply digital strategies and media principles to create positive stories that are strength based. Empowering them to share those stories, and promote wellness among their peers, families, and communities. That year we also launched 20+ fitness classes a month, our own app for our members, and we held numerous Brown and Healthy Speaker Series events. Our digital and analog strategies to engage communities of color through social media, wellness events, and internationally published articles have positively impacted thousands of people across the globe.
In April of 2020 we launched a health and wellness centered social network that now has over 1,000 members. We also provide virtual fitness sessions with our regional partners Kaiser Permanente.
This year we’ve developed The Brown and Healthy Trainer Residency Program “1000 Black CPT Initiative” that focuses on our commitment to the health, wellness, and workforce development for Black fitness professionals.
Is there something special happening in your life right now that you’d be excited to share with our community?
For seven months I studied nonstop to conquer one of the most prestigious and challenging NCCA accredited personal training certifications in the world of fitness.
This spring I sat for the National Association of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer exam and I passed on the first try. I am a NASM- Certified Personal Trainer armed with comprehensive knowledge of human movement science, functional anatomy, physiology and kinesiology, as well as functional assessment and program design!
There is a larger picture for this accomplishment and it is married to some strategic initiatives and goals I have for Brown and Healthy. This is a major milestone for me because I have been starting, stopping, and letting things derail me from this part of my fitness journey, for 17 yrs, since I was 23. However, it is never too late to finish what you’ve started and bring new life to old dreams.