Here at Peak and Valley, we have been interested in topics surrounding self-care/wellness. The term ‘self-care’ specifically is starting to become an overused buzzword in marketing and news outlets. Separating out what self-care means for you personally means ignoring a lot of marketing jargon and messaging. We all have to remember that self- care doesn't have to be expensive or exclusive. Given that, we have an interview series, Wellness Spotlight, where we ask people what self care and wellness means to them.
Provide a short introduction explaining who you are.
My name is Kyra - I’m a half-Filipinx poet, model, social media and brand manager based out of Portland, Oregon. I use my platform to explore race, beauty, poetry, intimacy, and movement. I love a good color palette, a sad playlist, and hands. I’m a Scorpio.
How do you define self-care?
I firmly believe that self-care is an ever-changing relationship. For me, self-care can be taking the time to do my skincare routine every morning and night (remembering to put on SPF) or carving out extra space in the day to sit with myself and journal. Sometimes, it’s calling my mom and talking about what K-dramas she’s watching, or learning more about Filipinx culture. Sometimes it’s rewatching Avatar or Princess Mononoke. It fluctuates and evolves based on my relationship to my body and my mental health. As I check-in with what I need to grow and be healthy, my definition of self-care adapts to meet those needs.
Self-care also means prioritizing community care and knowledge, unpacking and decolonizing my mind to learn how I can be more caring towards myself, as well as better to others. Over the past few years, much of my self-care exists in affirming my identity as a mixed-race woman of color and working to undo the racial trauma I’ve experienced navigating the spaces around me.
The more I learn about myself and my culture, as well as decolonize my mind, the better I can be for my community in a meaningful way. Self-care is community care. If I’m doing the important internal work, I can then use my voice to help advocate for myself and for communities of color.
Often, I think self-care gets co-opted into a space that can feel very centered on whiteness and inaccessible to people of color. I think there needs to be a shift in the way we think about and define self-care. Rather than just beginning and ending with me, I like to think of self-care as an ongoing process that should be accessible to everyone. Self-care must be multi-faceted and nuanced.
Photography by: Alexandra Gomez
What does a typical morning look like for you?
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t always had the best morning routine. I am not a morning person and can be pretty grumpy. But - I’ve been really working towards being better about creating a good morning routine and setting up my day to feel good.
I’ve really been enjoying making myself a matcha in the morning and putting on a nice playlist or a podcast to listen to while I set up my work day. I open up the windows in my house, burn some jasmine incense, set a mood, and then start going through my emails, making lists, and getting focused.
When you’re feeling off balanced/stressed out, what do you do?
Balance is another thing that I think is an ever evolving space for me. Overall, I really cherish quality time. When I feel off or stressed, I try to do something sweet for myself (which is often Thai or Hawaiian take-out) or spend time with someone that I value. I find a lot of solace in creating small, meaningful and achievable goals for myself like writing one page in my journal to document and process how I’m feeling, making a drawing, or tidying up my space.
I’ve been trying to practice being more comfortable with discomfort and vulnerability. It’s a challenge to myself to be more open and honest when I’m feeling off-balanced or stressed, and to seek help when I need it. I’m really grateful to have an amazing support system that I can go to and feel validated, but who also aren’t afraid to push me when I feel stagnant or unmotivated.
Writing always brings me back to center. I’ve loved reading and writing my whole life - poetry is one way that I’m able to express myself fully. I can explore all of my emotions and use them to create something beautiful and precious to me. Poetry is a way for me to connect and communicate through abstraction. Even if the poem doesn’t feel “good” or even if I never share it, the act of writing and using language in this way helps me come back to myself.
Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I’m a night owl. I have trouble relaxing my mind and falling asleep, so I’ve created a few habits to help set up my space to feel comfortable before I go to bed. I love diffusing lavender and sandalwood in my room - I’m really attracted to herbal, woodsy scents and having a clean room that smells good helps me unwind. I also like leaving my window open a little and listening to the nighttime sounds - I love the peace and stillness after midnight, it feels comforting and enveloping.
How do you define beauty?
My idea of beauty is deeply tied to my identity as a woman of color. It’s been a really complex journey for me to undo and unpack Eurocentric ideals of beauty, or even how to be as a person in this world. As a mixed-race woman of color, I’ve often felt like an outsider and like an object - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase:What are you?
What I can tell you about is the negative impact that it had on my sense of self worth and sense of belonging in my body. I used to be afraid of wearing red lipstick or bright colors. I tried to make myself smaller to fit in. I felt disconnected from my culture and rejected the idea of ever being seen as beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong - I love being a woman of color. It’s the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for. I love my culture and my diaspora. It is incredibly beautiful to me. At the same time, it’s been an ongoing process of leaning into reclaiming myself and feeling confident in myself as an Asian woman, particularly as a brown Asian woman navigating colorism and fetishization in both Filipinx culture and in mainstream White culture. I still struggle! It is a daily journey of seeking to be unbothered and empowered.
So what does that mean? I’m still figuring it out - but to me, beauty is feeling empowered and unashamed to be exactly who you are. It isn’t about perfection or some end goal. Beauty isn’t a definable term or a benchmark that you can check off a list. It’s more about how you exist in the world and what makes you feel good. Beauty is malleable. Beauty is expansive and inclusive. It’s creative. It’s my culture. It’s owning the liminal space of being a mixed person and feeling confident in my voice.
What is your philosophy around wellness?
I think true wellness is investing in the wellbeing of our communities, particularly our communities of color. Wellness can seem disconnected, and is often very whitewashed and inaccessible. I believe that the concept of wellness needs to be reclaimed and redirected towards creating space, empowerment, and safety for marginalized people.
Much of the wellness community requires a certain aesthetic or privilege, like having enough financial freedom to buy organic or drink green juice. I think we need to go beyond this. It’s time to unpack the inherent classism within the wellness community and work to undo embedded racism and inaccessibility within this! Like with self-care, I believe wellness needs to function within our communities to offer reparations, education, and investment in growth.
How can I ethically support luxury weed when so many black and brown men are incarcerated for marijuana possession? How can I sip on an immunity smoothie and remove myself from gentrification? How can I burn white sage knowing that it’s an endangered species and that thousands of Indigenous women go missing, are murdered, and assaulted without ever finding justice?
To me - wellness is calling out racism and inequality. It’s constantly interrogating the status quo to see how we can be better, be healthier, and create changes that make the world a more equitable space. Sure! I love drinking green juice and doing a face mask - but I also recognize that my space to indulge is a privilege and that my pursuit of wellness can’t just stop at the latest health trend. It has to do more. My wellness has to seek justice. Wellness doesn’t mean anything to me without activism.
Wellness means community care. It means anti-racism. It means investing in black and brown owned business. It means inclusive and diverse representation. It means reparations for black communities. We can’t be truly “well” without seeking the wellbeing of our community.
To end this on a positive note - I believe there is endless potential within this movement. Seeking wellness, seeking beauty, seeking self-care - these are tender, loving, considerate concepts which have amazing opportunities for growth and renewal.
Wellness also means seeking what you deserve and affirming healthy habits that reinforce your self-worth, mental health, and balance. We all deserve to feel well, happy, and secure. We deserve what makes us feel most alive and creative. It’s as simple as this - we deserve to feel good.
Follow Kyra @commelesetoiles