Chlöe Pierre on redefining self-care and what it means for black women

Chloe Pierre has written a new self-care guide (Isaac Adegbite/Handout/PA)
Chloe Pierre has written a new self-care guide (Isaac Adegbite/Handout/PA)

Self-care may be a term we use every day, but what does it really mean?

It’s a question Chlöe Pierre – founder of ‘disruptive wellness platform brand’ thy.self and author of new book Take Care: The Black Women’s Guide To Wellness – started asking around five years ago.

“Overworking and under a lot of pressure”, challenges in her personal life and “partying a lot” didn’t help – and a series of “pivotal moments” (like developing terrifying sleep paralysis) made clear it was time to start taking better care of herself.

Except Pierre – newly 30 at the time and working in PR and digital marketing – realised she didn’t know how.

“It was a journey of learning and rediscovering what that is, because I wasn’t taught how to take care of myself in that sense,” she explains over Zoom. “It was always such an outward, external-facing option – make sure you do your hair, and you look good.”

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Having a wellbeing wake-up call is something many will relate to. For Pierre though, what started as personal journey quickly became something much bigger – when she started accessing the wellbeing spaces on offer and “very soon realised that I was often the only black, plus-sized person in the room”.

Not only was the wellness world very white, it had also seemingly packaged self-care into something very exclusive and expensive, catering for an overwhelmingly slim, cis, middle-class clientele.

This was the catalyst for founding thy.self (thyself.space) in 2018, with the aim of ‘diversifying the wellness industry’ and making self-care more inclusive, relatable and more welcoming to black women. Alongside running events, workshops and content creation, thy.self works with brands looking to deliver on their own diversity goals (they’ve collaborated with the likes of Nike, ASOS and Samsung). And it’s evolved and grown over time, Pierre notes.

“When I started off creating thy.self, I really wanted to push for change, and change people’s perceptions. But over the years – you know, we’ve been through Covid, we’ve been through lockdown, I’ve become a mother, I’ve experienced things – it made me realise I can’t change anyone’s thoughts,” she reflects.

“I was on this journey to break down the wellness industry, and I still want to do that, but I know it starts with me. So, I portray the life I want to lead and curate the environments I want to be in – and not only have I created a safe space for myself, I’ve created a safe space for likeminded people who want to be there.”

At the heart of this is a thriving community.

“Community is everything,” says Pierre. “I really believe in the work we do as individuals, but also building out into a wider community. I wouldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for community – that is my biggest driver.

“There’s a bigger purpose in community. No movement was ever created by one person. I never really want the credit for things, I just want to see change, because that means other people will be happy, safe, and feel seen. That’s what joy is to me.”

A lot of it’s about sharing ideas and options for self-care, without having to “commodify everything”. As well as celebrating the cultural heritage and origins of many wellness practices – and as Pierre puts it, “giving credit where credit is due”.

These are all themes she explores in the book, alongside her own journey. Take Care also sees Pierre consult with various experts and dive into some key areas – including imposter syndrome, grief and loss, authenticity, motherhood and black beauty – sharing stories and prompts along the way.

Whilst it is essentially a guide, Pierre is not here to tell anyone how to ‘do’ self-care. It’s more about empowering black women on their own journeys, “being aware” of their own needs and “offering options” designed to welcome and celebrate them.

For Pierre, reaching this point herself when all this started five years ago, meant spending time alone.

“I do think discovering your own self-care essentially comes through a lot of solitude, so you discover what you like, what works for you, and what you need,” she says. “And those things aren’t even linked at times, what you need and want are completely different things.

“That’s what I’ve learned about wellbeing – that it’s actually sometimes quite uncomfortable, just like most truths are quite uncomfortable to take on. I always relate self-care and wellness to becoming your own best friend, but it’s not an overnight job.”

Plus, things change.

“To me, it’s still an ongoing journey to be honest” – and this includes the last two years writing the book, she says.

“I feel like a completely different person to when I got the book offer, my world and self-care at that time was completely different. And now, being a mum – I became a mum a year after accepting the offer – it’s different. I’m still learning.”

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So, what does self-care look like for Pierre right now?

She’s a “massive fan of massage – it really brings you back to yourself”, while mindful breathing and practising gratitude are also key (“I could moan ‘til the cows come home, but there’s so much to be thankful for – that’s what draws me out of depression, if I’m honest”).

And one thing really lighting her up?

“Being in nature… it’s free, it’s beautiful, it can fulfil you in ways you never expected. You don’t know what you’re going to get – you can take the same route every time, but one left turn or right turn and you’re completely on a different path.

“And it brings you back to the simplicity of the human race, and why we’re here – outside of the buildings, the work, the relationships – what our purpose is. It’s just so grounding.

“For me, that is wonderful.”

Take Care by Chlöe Pierre is published by Headline, priced £22. Available now.