Is wellness too exclusive? Wellness in the western world has been facing a backlash lately for what people are calling a lack of diversity and accessibility. So we’re asking (again) is wellness as inclusive as it could be? And, if not, how are we addressing what many see as a problem?
The world of wellness as too exclusive and “filled with overpriced products and services that unfortunately tend to exclude most people, whether racially or socioeconomically,” as Skift put it in April, 2019, has been getting some media attention lately.
In 2018, Self Magazine called wellness an industry with a “race problem” that “caters almost exclusively to white, wealthy people,” and an author on Essence.com lamented that, “We [women of color] remain underrepresented in the wellness space with few brands highlighting diversity, and even fewer speaking to us about our specific challenges.” Meanwhile, an author on Fashionista wrote about the “dark reality” of a wellness movement that relies on “narrow-minded, exclusionary practices,” adding that, “the marketing and branding many wellness companies rely on have become so eerily homogenous that it can, at times, be difficult to distinguish one brand from another. The same can often be said of their clientele.”
Of course, when we talk about spa and wellness, we’re also often talking about beauty and skincare. So, it’s probably no surprise that the Guardian recently asked “Why is the skin care industry still ignoring people of colour?” and stated that “Imagery still plays a huge role in equating whiteness with wellness, with spa websites dominated by young, thin, white women.” (This may not reflect the entire industry, depending on local majority populations.)
And in our final example (though this is by no means all that’s out there), in a 2016 article for The Establishment, titled “How The Wellness Movement Ostracizes Women Of Color,” British Lebanese author Salma Haidrani wrote simply, “Women of color like me aren’t just invisible in health and wellness. We’re not welcome. Women’s health, it appears, is assumed to be the sole preserve of white women.”
Is this the image that the spa and wellness industry wants to embody? Particularly in a global society where many are turning away from elitism and exclusivity and towards inclusivity and unpretentiousness (a quashing of the ego being one of the central tenets of true wellbeing)?
It’s something that Spa Executive touched on when we interviewed Patrick Huey of Montage for our April, 2019, cover spotlight.
Huey said in that interview:
“The impact of a lack of diversity is felt on the bottom line. The more inclusive we become as an industry, the more consumers will make what we do a necessary part of their lives. This creates longevity and expansive financial relevance for our industry. I also think beyond just dollars and profits, if we truly believe in the work that we do, why should we not want as many people as possible to reap the benefits of taking care of themselves?”
Continuing on this theme, we spoke with three industry insiders for some perspective. We asked, “Is wellness to exclusive?” and for their insight on why and how spa and wellness industry insiders are addressing the issues of diversity and accessibility in spa and wellness.