When I think of things that make me feel good, I think of Netflix, naptime and Nutella. While these are undoubtedly delightful, their feel-good benefits are relatively fleeting. I think our current anxiety-laden climate calls for more meaningful ways to feel good. That’s why, to close out Feel Good Month on Man Repeller, I talked to five people who make a living by making others feel good in interesting ways. Below, my conversations with a beauty specialist, an energy healer, a comedian, a professional chiller and three boxing trainers. Read on to learn more about them and maybe pick up some new ideas on how to feel good along the way.
Cyndi is the founder of Chillhouse — the all-in-one wellness café, nail art studio and massage boutique in New York’s Lower East Side.
In a time when so much is labeled “self-care,” how does Chillhouse define it?
I think that self-care starts on the inside. It doesn’t always have to be getting your nails done or getting a massage. I wanted to expand what that term means with Chillhouse, which is why we launched The Chill Times — to talk about a little bit of everything, from mental health and sex ed, to fitness or even how you take care of your home. For me, that was a natural transition.
Chillhouse often collaborates with other women-led businesses and influencers. How important is representation in the beauty and hospitality industries?
It feels so natural to me. I am a woman and a woman of color, so for me, representation is just a natural extension of who I am as a person, which is why the brand is that way as well. When it comes to self-care, I wanted to create an environment physically and digitally that showcases different types of women and different stages of people’s lives, too.
We also have community events where we host “Time To Talk” panels within our The Chill Times space. Our last one was about heartbreak. We had a family and relationship therapist weigh in on heartbreak along with a woman who’d gone through a public divorce. We were able to bring this conversation to light in a very intimate way. For me, representation doesn’t only stand for different ethnicities or sexual orientations, but it’s also about different life experiences.
Has Chillhouse’s mission changed in response to the stressful times we live in?
I don’t want Chillhouse to be a voice in politics, but rather an escape from it. That said, I’m personally vocal in how this administration has been shaping our country. And Chillhouse does partner with charitable organizations and events. As far as being attached to a cause, I’m still working through that. Given the political and mental health climate, I’m so grateful we’re able to have these conversations in a way that doesn’t feel forced. The first thing you have to work on is your mental health. Obviously, Chillhouse can be a mini-escape from your mental struggles, but what’s at the root of them?
What other feel-good initiatives are in the works for Chillhouse?
We’re launching an e-commerce site at the end of the summer. It’ll be a place where we offer “goods that make you feel good.” Similar to The Chill Times, it’ll be anything from skincare and body care to internal wellness goods and home goods. We’ll also have stationary, because I think journaling is a big part of self-care. I’m really excited about continuing to spread the message of what self-care means and not have it be so much about primping and going to spas. I think that’s a fun part of self-care, but not the only part.
What’s your favorite way to feel good?
I am a huge advocate of taking mini vacations. They keep me inspired. Anytime I come back from a trip, I’m ready to go and so much more productive.
Danielle is a celebrity (and non-celebrity!) makeup artist and skin care specialist with over 15 years of experience in making people feel good in the skin they’re in.
What made you want to pursue a career in skin care and makeup artistry?
I’ve always been interested in skin care and makeup. When I was younger, I’d look at the models in magazines and color in their eyes and outline their lips with pens. I got my license in skincare and makeup after I graduated high school because I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Whenever I think of facials, I think of fancy people getting them weekly. But for someone like me, who is interested in professional skin care but on a budget, what’s your recommended cadence?
About twice a year. Think of it like going to the dentist! You go to the dentist to get a good teeth cleaning — and it’s the same with your skin. A lot of people think they’ll break out afterward, but really it’s about removing dead skin cells and tightening your pores. And the best thing about facials is that after you walk out, you do feel good. You feel so refreshed. It’s also a good time for you to just zen-out and relax.
If you can’t get facials, take care of your skin with little home regimens. It’s super helpful if people can do hydrating, healing masks or clarifying masks once or twice a week. It’s so important to cleanse and hydrate.
You also do makeup — why do you think people love having their makeup done and what do you like about doing it?
Some women are stuck in the same routine and need a change after wearing the same coral lipstick for 60 years. Getting your makeup done can create a new everyday look by enhancing your natural beauty without changing yourself. I’ve always thought that people are so beautiful in so many different ways, and I’d hate to change someone’s look. I want my clients to feel 100 percent comfortable and not look in the mirror and go, “Oh my god, who am I?” Everybody is beautiful in their own way; I just want to help enhance their features and their beauty.
There are so many makeup tutorials on the internet these days. How do they compare to getting makeup done in real life?
All the products in the online tutorials, the different foundations that do this and this, it’s like, Oh my gosh! Also, makeup needs to be affordable for people. A lot of times, these online tutorials use dozens of products. How do you expect someone to go and buy all of that? I keep all of these things in mind. I’m always thoughtful of the clients I’m working with and relate as much as I can. For somebody who’s super busy, you want to break it down for them so that they’re not afraid of makeup.
Do you have a standout memory from your work that still makes you smile?
One of my clients got married in Anguilla. She was an older bride who never thought she’d get married. Her husband-to-be had been married before. Even though she never wore a lot of makeup, she felt pressured to make sure her makeup wasn’t over the top. It was super hot in Anguilla, so that just added to the nerves. Once we did her makeup, she felt like a princess. She was so appreciative to feel comfortable and good and not feel judged by people. It was my most memorable experience to make somebody feel really, really good about herself when she was so nervous about everything.
What’s your favorite way to feel good?
Eating! If I weren’t a makeup artist, I’d want to go to cooking school.
Jessica is an energy healer and has been for four years. She specializes in reiki healing, meditation and other energy healing services at Love & Light Reiki in the Greater New York City area.
What is Reiki and how does it fit within the greater “energy healing” context?
Reiki started in the early 1900s in Japan, which is not that long ago in terms of energy healing. Using symbols to connect to a larger energy, reiki is an assisted path to enlightenment. The purpose of reiki is to get rid of all the stuff to make you feel brand new. Therapy is great, and I recommend my clients with mental health issues do go to therapy — therapy works on the level of the mind — but reiki operates on the level of the spiritual body.
What kind of experience do your clients expect when they come to see you?
With reiki, people get to release things in a way that they [otherwise] can’t. They’re able to let things go by surrendering to the universe and co-creating their greatest happiness. And it’s important to remember that sometimes, your desire isn’t what the universe desires. It’s really like a dance. Surrender to the lessons the universe gives you and create the future that you want for yourself.
What type of person tends to practice reiki?
If you have some sort of physical ailment that needs an extra push in treatment, reiki can help. But mostly, people with emotional issues in need of guidance, anger management or help getting unstuck come in for reiki healing. I’ve had women who are 70 years old cry on my table about things their mom did when they were five years old. The more sensitive and empathetic you are, the stronger reiki will be on you.
Being a reiki healer seems like it could be emotionally taxing. What keeps you motivated?
The work is totally fulfilling, but I’ve burned out on multiple occasions. It’s really about finding joy, creativity and rest to keep doing this.
What’s your favorite way to feel good?
I like dancing to anything with a beat, like salsa. I do a lot of things. Playing in the park, sitting on the beach, spending time with my dogs. I practice what I preach.
Nikki Campbell, Kate Hyman and Amber Trejo
Nikki, Kate and Amber are the founding women of Work Train Fight, a boxing gym in New York. They’re as enthusiastic about boxing as they are about creating a boxing community that feels good.
When people think of “feeling good,” they usually think of the beach, sipping a drink with an umbrella in it. How does WTF make people feel good?
Amber: When you work out, you’re releasing toxins and the happy hormones, so you’re going to feel great afterwards. When I see people having fun with fitness, that makes me feel good. We’re all a part of the same team. The sense of community will make you feel really good.
Kate: Something that makes us different from other gyms is we find the amount of time members need to train that’s best for them, not what’s best for the gym. Some members need to train three times a week, some members don’t.
How can a newbie approach boxing at WTF without feeling insecure or inadequate?
Kate: Everybody starts somewhere. We’re so excited to teach beginners. It’s a really really inclusive environment. No matter where you are in your fitness journey, you can still come in here and take a class.
Amber: It’s really great to see someone who was scared when they first walked in feel really good and accomplished after their first class.
Kate: There’s just something about the energy here — I see so many people hanging out after class, watching people spar in the rings or just making new friends. It’s beautiful.
Most of us associate boxing with getting aggression out after a bad day. What is boxing like after you’ve worked past anger management?
Nikki: Look at it like developing a new skill. People love to come back to the classes because they’re learning something new every time. Yes, you can hit the bag really hard. Yes, I have clients who are really upset and just want to let out their frustration. But at its core, boxing is becoming so popular now because you’re learning something new. You’re testing the limits of your skills, the limits of your frustrations. You’re pushing those personal boundaries that people don’t really understand until they do it. Once they experience that ah ha moment, they’re able to see it’s not just about letting go. It’s about learning and growing.
WTF isn’t just about personal fitness; it’s involved in the community, right?
Amber: Yes! We partner with youth groups around New York to teach boxing skills to teens, including LGBT youth groups. For an LGBT teenager, people judging you is scary. We welcome them and help them find strength and a sense of empowerment through boxing and community service.
I’ve also noticed that WTF offers…salsa lessons?
Nikki: We’ve seen so many friendships develop between our members. Boxing itself brings people together, so why not keep facilitating this level of community? Let’s learn salsa together.
Kate: It’s a healthier nightlife! When you salsa dance, it’s doesn’t have to be a very alcohol-centric activity.
It sounds like there are so many benefits here. What’s the cumulative effect?
Nikki: It’s very empowering to know you tried something out of your comfort zone and you didn’t fail. We take this into other parts of our life: I’m going to ask for a raise. I’m going to speak to a significant other about what I really want. Boxing gives you confidence to feel good about the decisions you’re making.
What’s your favorite way to feel good?
All: Working out!
Nore is a burgeoning comedian out of Brooklyn by way of Yonkers, New York. His inclusive brand of comedy will make everyone feel good. Nore Davis: You Guys Are Dope is streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes. Home Game and Away Game are streaming on Spotify.
Your comedy makes me feel good about things that don’t feel so good, like racism and homophobia. Is that by design?
It is by design. I think it’s possible to talk about issues that piss off people and find ways to make everyone laugh. You get a little awareness and you get a little laugh, which gives some relief to the pain. Nobody listens when you’re screaming, but when you make them laugh, a little bit of change happens.
Stand-up comedy itself is traditionally [made up of] men, not a lot of women, who complain or make fun of people’s pain. I find a way to make fun of social issues and make sure nobody’s offended. Jokes have power to bring everybody together.
I remember a joke from your 2 Dope Queens set about a homophobic friend saying “no homo, no homo, no homo” like it was an urban legend.
I love that joke because it’s playing off of the ridiculousness of homophobia and heterosexual men. It’s like, get over yourselves! I love attacking the hard issues. I make people who are oppressed by them and people who do the oppressing both giggle, all while giving them awareness that we’re laughing hard at this because it stops us from crying.
What do you hope people experience seeing you live?
I always want to make my live shows feel like a different experience. It’s like a boxing match of social issues, my life and my daughter. I just love the roller coaster of high energy, then bringing it down to zero. The inconsistency keeps people guessing and enjoying the performance. They’ll get a nice wild night of not knowing what’s going to happen. And you won’t feel offended.
Instagram followers watched as you and your best friend danced to calm your nerves before going on stage for a live performance. I loved that. Can you tell me more about that moment?
It’s really about your support system. The guy in the video is my best friend, and we dance to get the show started. I want to show other stand-ups that you have to bring the people who love you with you. Just have a good time and know that you belong there. I just want to lead by example. I want other young comics and black comics to see what I’m doing and maybe wrap their heads around it…to try their spins of just not being an asshole.
What’s your favorite way to feel good?
Hanging out with my daughter is grounding. Hanging out with my best friends, my girlfriend…anybody who loves me.
Photos by Bridget Badore.