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Promoting diversity and inclusion in wellness with Ellie Jade

Promoting diversity and inclusion in wellness with Ellie Jade

Amy Lanza

Giving a voice and space to those who don’t always have a voice or the space to shine is something that Ellie Jade, a Psychology graduate, and mental health advocate is passionate about doing. As a talented photographer and a life and wellbeing coach, Ellie put her talents to good use by her recent “This Is Wellbeing” campaign which won her the Creative Impact Award for best Campaign 2020.

“I am so pleased the campaign has been recognised in this way and hopefully highlighted some of the problems in the health and wellbeing industry.”

The campaign is something that Ellie put together throughout 2019 and launched in January 2020, and is a ‘photography campaign series’ called ‘This is Wellbeing’.

“The campaign combines photographs I took of underrepresented professionals and enthusiasts in the health, fitness and wellbeing sector (doctors, yoga teachers, coaches, athletes, therapists, activists) with their some of their thoughts, experiences, and hopes for the industry – both in general and specifically with regards to the major lack of diversity and accessibility.”

Ultimately, the aim was to highlight how much of an issue [underrepresentation] is in our industry (specifically to make those of us who are not marginalised more aware and accountable) and to begin changing the visual messaging around health, fitness, and wellbeing to one that is not exclusively one demographic.

It also wanted to show that it shouldn’t only be those who feel underrepresented themselves that discuss these issues and take action to change them (even if that means making mistakes along the way).

The name ‘This is Wellbeing’ is intended to have an emphasis on the ‘this’, in an attempt to dismantle what we have been conditioned to believe the image of health and wellbeing to be.

Overcoming obstacles

It goes without saying that every campaign, virtual or in real life, is not without its own road bumps or obstacles and Ellie took a lot out of the process, learning, growing, and honing her skills.

“One of the main challenges was ensuring the people I worked with on the campaign could trust me and feel comfortable being photographed by me. I appreciate this could have felt quite vulnerable and it was really important to me to make sure the overall experience was a positive one for those involved.”

Fortunately, Ellie Jade admits that the process of putting the campaign together was actually a lot smoother than originally expected. People were really open-minded about the idea and it all came together pretty quickly.

Bringing together so many different people from different parts of the world also saw a few logistical problems of organising times and locations to photograph each person. The campaign had people from different parts of the UK and two people from America (Dianne Bondy and Wesley Hamilton) in the campaign, so working around everyone’s schedules was tricky.

Working on our own internalised biases is something that we can all work towards: “in the health and wellbeing industry there is a very specific stereotype of what it looks like to be ‘healthy and fit’ (white, slim, young, able-bodied, cisgender…), despite none of these necessarily being a marker for health or fitness! I knew from the start I wanted to use my photography in the campaign to change this visual message. That’s actually where the idea stemmed from.”

The power of the lens

The power of imagery is something that Ellie has mastered throughout her budding career and she credits being “open to photographing people for free in the beginning if they can offer you something valuable in return.”

“When I first started photographing health and wellbeing professionals I reached out to several influential people in the industry and offered to photograph them for free in return for photo crediting and referrals. Despite not paying me financially, they helped me grow my network and show my work to a wider audience of people which is what quickly led to paid work.”

“My number one tip is to be compassionate and interested in people. Being photographed can feel quite vulnerable, especially if you’re not a model, so being someone that people feel comfortable around and can relate to is crucial!”

However, images alone can only do so much. They can lack meaning and depth in certain circumstances and after speaking with all those who collaborated with Ellie Jade, they decided it would be great to share some of their thoughts and experiences and showcase their work alongside the imagery to give a more personal side to it.

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This combination of powerful imagery and personal story-telling is partly what makes the This Is Wellbeing campaign such a success. Ellie continues to have great aspirations for the campaign to hopes it “will make anyone that is in the health, fitness and wellbeing world (whether a business owner, influencer or consumer) think about the part they play in the diversity and accessibility of the industry and what action they can take to have a positive impact on that.”

She hopes to “open a dialogue about the issues in the industry at the moment and how we might begin to tackle them and to enable a “range of people to see themselves represented in an industry they have perhaps always felt excluded from.”

Keeping ourselves accountable

But just how can we keep ourselves accountable in making life more accessible to all and keep the dialogue open? Ellie believes that if you are someone that feels welcome and represented in the industry these things could be beneficial:

  • Check-in with yourself regularly and acknowledge your implicit biases when they arise.
  • Notice the diversity and accessibility in the spaces you are regularly in. Does everyone look like you? If so, what could you do to help change this?
  • Discuss these topics with your friends and family and agree to challenge each other if you notice something which could be problematic.

She also recommends the following accounts on social media to understand more about diversity and accessibility in the wellness industry (along with everyone that was featured in the campaign!):

@kallie_rebel_yogatribe
@iamweshamilton
@diannabondyyogaofficial
@thehannahwallace
@jonelleyoga
@wellspokenmark

To find out more about the This Is Wellbeing Campaign and to see all of the contributors, use this link to the campaign.

 

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