in light of the events that have taken place these past few months, we have been identifying ways to engage with our community in a way that feels authentic and speaks to what is in our hearts. we are so blessed to have amazing relationships with brand influencer partners who have made meaningful contributions to our community time and time again through beautiful content creation and collaborations. naadine koi of wellboxed is one of those very special, incredibly talented individuals for whom we are so grateful. she has become part of our kai inner family and has participated in a number of conversations + collaborations with kai recently and over the years. we thought it could be of great benefit to ourselves and our community to have naadine share her thoughts on how to keep the conversation going in an open and inclusive manner. we hope you enjoy this discussion with naadine shared below.
the Black Lives Matter Movement is bigger now than ever, finally. it's important to make sure we're all doing our part to keep the conversation going - myself included. i'd like to share my experience as a Black woman in the candle industry, highlight the importance of Black representation, and share some of my favorite Black-owned businesses and content creators. you'll also find some helpful tips on how to keep the momentum of BLM going, as well as how to de-stress during these crazy times - we all need it!
why do we need to keep the conversation going?
Black people have been experiencing racism and injustice for centuries. although the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013, these issues have been going on for so long and been brought to so many people's attention yet we keep experiencing the same problems. now is the time to embrace this attention and keep the conversation going so that a year from now things don't go back to "normal." we need to change.
my experience in the candle industry (i.e., why Black representation matters)
i started well boxed, a visual platform that showcases my work as a candle specialist, five years ago. initially, my goal was simply to share my passion and inspirations for luxury candles. however, in time (and with a lot of hard work) it grew and i was able to turn it into a business.
it's been a long time and it definitely wasn't easy. my business grew very slowly, and at times it felt like i was doing it alone, without the support of many others in the industry. i couldn't help but wonder, "if i was a different color, would i be working with different brands?" over the years, i've reached out to SO MANY brands about different projects and ideas. either i'm completely ignored or the response is for unpaid work. at best, they'd send me some free candles. i love luxury candles, but i definitely can't pay my bills with them.
the reason why i often wonder whether my skin color has been a barrier is that i have painstakingly built an audience that is specifically interested in what candle brands are doing, and i have the knowledge and expertise to back it up. my platform is incredibly unique - and the fact that there are very few people in the luxury candle niche makes you think that achieving Black representation shouldn't be difficult. but still, i would see other faces that didn't look like mine representing these brands.
after being in this industry for so long, you see which influencers work with these brands and you start to see a pattern in the people they choose to work with. influencers with no direct connection to candles, influencers who are not people of color.
it's very difficult to watch brands paying other influencers, knowing that YOU are a specialist. sure, i realize that not every candle brand would be a great fit, but when the answer is nearly always crickets, you start asking yourself, "what can i do?" i feel like i'm reaching up to break through that glass ceiling, but i can't get high enough.
a 2019 study by the Center for American Progress shows that Black women not only earn less (61.9 cents) than white women (78.6 cents) or Black men (70.2 cents) for every dollar earned by white men, but they have a much harder time finding employment, especially stable jobs with employee benefits. this isn't for a lack of trying, it's for a lack of opportunity.
being Black, you always have to work twice as hard to get half as far - in any industry. it shouldn't be that way.
this is why Black representation is important. people of color - the younger generations in particular - need to see themselves represented in all careers and positions to show them that they can do it too.
practicing gratitude and keeping it moving
on a positive note, i do appreciate all the support that i have received over the years. there have been AMAZING brands that i have worked with. i remember being a fan on the side lines, so finally getting the opportunity to work with some of these brands is a full-circle moment. it's easy to focus on the negative, but there is sooo much good out there. the fact that i'm able to do what i love, share it with the world, grow, and make a living from it is amazing.
i'm committed to keep going. i set my goals, work hard, and i get there - one way or another. even though it may take me twice as long based on all the barriers i've had to break through as a Black woman, i still keep going. at the end of the day, i will always keep moving forward and i am grateful for the ability to do that. i love what i do and all the awesome people around me.
how to keep #BlackLivesMatter and Black representation going
as part of my own efforts to keep the #blm movement going, i plan to highlight Black-owned businesses, content creators, and other vendors and influencers regularly. i'm exploring some exciting collaborations too, so stay tuned for more on that!
if you want to stay involved and be an ally, i encourage you to join me in creating a calendar. this can be on a monthly, weekly, quarterly basis (whatever works best for you). on this calendar, add the actions that you are going to take to support Black representation and keep #blm going.
for example, if you want to donate monthly to a cause that supports Black communities, mark it on your calendar on the same day of every month (or better yet, schedule a recurring donation). this serves as a regular reminder for YOU that #blm is still there. life is hectic and it's so easy to live in your bubble. it's easy to forget. this is a fight we're going to be fighting for a long time. we are so far behind and there's a lot of work to do. talking about #blm and Black representation should be something that we do on a regular basis; otherwise it will fall by the wayside. now is the time. if we're all doing something, then eventually we will thrive.
you know me, everything begins and ends with candles! personally speaking, the last few months have been very stressful. during this time i was in the process of buying a house - a stressful experience on its own - then COVID-19, then the murder of George Floyd, and the current social climate all happened. doing your part in the world is important but you also have to take care of yourself and put your mental health first. here are some of the things i do to de-stress.
1. stay home and burn candles
going out during this pandemic is stressful enough, am i right? so stay home and burn candles. considering the season, i've been enjoying a lot of florals such as iris and rose; as well as fruity fragrances like pear and citrus. i also recommend using a diffuser and essential oils - having a light scent in the air can do so much to set a calm ambience.
2. be a couch potato
listen, life isn't always about hustling. sometimes, you really need to just do nothing. i love to cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie or one of my favorite shows.
3. zen music
i'm really into relaxing piano music right now, but listen to whatever makes you feel calm and relaxed.
4. pick up a hobby
with my recent move, i've really been into interior design. i love learning more about colors, patterns, textures, and other things i wasn't familiar with before. it takes me out of my world for a little bit and gets my creative juices flowing. discover what inspires you and try to incorporate more of it into your life.
5. eat healthier
i know, i know, staying healthy is harder these days (hands up if you've gained a few pounds during quarantine). but making healthier food choices does so much for your physical and mental health.
6. pamper yourself
a trip to the spa may not be an option but you can certainly have a DIY spa day at home. do your nails, moisturize, hair treatment; all while burning your favorite candles. sign me up!
7. create your zen-zone
if you have space, this could be your own private room or area in your garden to create a private sanctuary. if not, a corner in your living room or a mood board on the wall is all you need.
as promised, here are some Black-owned businesses and content creators to explore and support. let's bring Black representation to the forefront. Black Lives Matter.
Black owned candle brands
places to donate
this is just the beginning of the conversation. do you have any Black content creators or businesses to add to the list? please share and help us all continue to support Black representation and Black Lives Matter.