Is the ultimate form of self-care allowing yourself the freedom to evolve and discover new passions?
Christina Rice, founder of OMNoire, gave herself permission to do this almost three years ago and today she is one of the leading voices in wellness for women of color. Her wellness journey began with her first step into a yoga studio. She was inexperienced, intimidated, and inundated by her successful PR career and personal battles — but she went any way. And that single act unlocked a new purpose for her. One that allowed her to express her strength by living her most authentic life and create a world for women to embrace what self-care truly means.
In her conversation with Her Agenda at the Live Well Be Well brunch in a partnership with Tropicana Essentials Probiotics, Rice explains how she transitioned from PR to wellness, how OMNoire retreats are making an impact, and what her plans are for the future.
Her Agenda: You had a successful career in PR before you entered the world of wellness. Can you tell us about your company LuxeLife?
Christina Rice: I was in PR for about 13 years. I started in luxury fashion, made the switch to entertainment, then made the switch back to fashion. In 2010, I started my own company and continued in entertainment and fashion, but also I segued into technology as well. In fact, at the time of my transition away from PR, I mostly focused on technology. I was working with minority founders in tech.
My first client was Angela Benton. She started one of the first accelerators for minorities and women. And from that point, she referred me to the founders in her network and that’s how it grew to that point. At the point, I probably had six clients.
Her Agenda: So at the time you were working with tech clients, did you feel like you were hitting a wall?
Christina Rice: Yea, I was going through a number of personal transitions. I was going through a breakup. I was burnt out, what I call entrepreneurial burn out because I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 21. I was just at that point where I hit a wall. I just wasn’t motivated. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t exercising. Just going through that difficult moment in my life. So that’s where this journey in my life began. I just started taking yoga religiously. And noticed an immediate difference in my energy level, emotionally, started focusing on my nutrition. I decided to get my yoga teaching training because I wanted to get deeper into my practices. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach at that moment. But I wanted to learn a little more about the practices of yoga, about the history of yoga, and meditation.
I was going through a number of personal transitions. I was going through a breakup. I was burnt out, what I call entrepreneurial burn out because I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 21. I was just at that point where I hit a wall.
Her Agenda: At what point did you decide you wanted to teach yoga?
Christina Rice: It was probably the third week of training that I realized I could see myself teaching. Just as practice I would host personal trainings with four to five girlfriends to develop my skill set. Once I got my certification, I started teaching at the studio almost immediately.
Her Agenda: Were you still doing PR at the time you started teaching?
Christina Rice: Yes! I would schedule around my work and classes. My studio was two blocks from my office. So, I may teach a 7 a.m. class and then go to my office, or I would do it after office hours, or teach on my lunch break. I was working for myself, so I had that flexibility.
Her Agenda: What I love about that is that you allowed yourself to have more than one dream. What advice would you give someone who has a solid foundation in one field and is thinking about making the jump to something dramatically different?
Christina Rice: I would say try everything and that’s kind of been the basis of how I’ve been able to discover different passions. For example, I scuba dive. I wanted to overcome my fear of open bodies of water, so I started scuba diving, then I got my scuba diving certification. You may test out spinning, fall in love with it, and decide you want to be a spin instructor or open up your own spin studio. [If] you’re so focused on one thing [then] you’re not allowing yourself the ability to explore and find different passions for yourself. I always say try everything and within that you’re going to discover maybe this is a business for you.
[If] you’re so focused on one thing [then] you’re not allowing yourself the ability to explore and find different passions for yourself.
Her Agenda: I agree, we really do have to learn to be more open to whatever is calling us in whatever direction.
Christina Rice: Absolutely, even just me deciding to teach had everything to do with my fear of public speaking. And so, me actually teaching [yoga] got me over my fear of public speaking and now I’m able to make money off of speaking engagements. That’s something I never thought was possible because I just hadn’t challenged myself to really get over that fear.
Her Agenda: Why did you decide you wanted to form this community?
Christina Rice: As a student in my fifty-person training, I noticed there were very few people of color in the classes. Normally, when I went to studios it was the same thing every time. You see the same body type, non-person of color in these classes. There were 54 of us and I was the only woman of color in my training. Once I became a teacher, Black women would intentionally come to my classes. And you know of course they would come with ‘I’m out of shape,’ or ‘I’ve never done yoga so I’m really nervous”, and ‘I’m not flexible.’ And I would tell them yoga is a practice, everyone starts somewhere. So, that was a lightbulb moment for me that Black women want to feel supported. And, more so, even led through their yoga practice by a woman who looks like them, who understands their challenges being the curviest woman in the class.
I decided to start a social media page and played around with a couple of names and OmNoire came to me. Initially, it was just used for highlighting different women of color in wellness—other yoga instructors in different cities or plates or doctors or nutritionists. Then an idea for the retreat came and that’s when it became a business and not just a social media platform.
Her Agenda: You mentioned how building this community for wellness became stressful for you and made it hard for you to live what you preach. I thought that was really honest and authentic of you to share. What is some advice you would give to someone who wants to authentically live the values they’re promoting with their business?
Christina Rice: I know that people struggle with that. People struggle with their challenges or the things they’ve gone through and I always tell people it’s way more painful to hold stuff in than it is to let things go. In any field of work, we don’t come in as experts. It’s an evolution. It’s a practice with anything and with wellness, it is going to be an everyday journey. Being able to be honest about my own challenges inspires people not just to be honest about theirs but to know it’s okay to not be superwoman. It’s okay to make mistakes or have flaws or sometimes fall off your path. It’s okay. It’s the act of getting back to it that really shows your strength. I feel so empowered to see the changes that are happening to me that I want to be honest about that. No matter who you are, every person is going to stumble at some point and for me my pride comes from knowing I can get back to that.
It’s okay to make mistakes or have flaws or sometimes fall off your path. It’s okay. It’s the act of getting back to it that really shows your strength.
Her Agenda: When did you know you wanted to get into wellness full time and create the OMNoire platform?
Christina Rice: I decided I could do this full time about three months after our first retreat, which was October 2017. As we were going into 2018, I started to think ‘what’s next?’ And I started to ideate what the bigger picture for OMNoire was and I was like oh I can definitely at some point transition completely out and so it was probably like a year later, so October 2017 to October 2018 it was about a year before I fully transitioned out. And then my move to Atlanta was also the catalyst for that where I said that I want to move to a different market that I feel like the company can really grow and flourish in.
Her Agenda: What are some of the lessons that you learned from that first retreat?
Christina Rice: So much! The one thing that gave me an advantage is that I have an event production background so I’m able to manage large groups and large events. So, I think from that perspective it has never been an issue producing these large-scale retreats. But for my first retreat until now, it’s nice to have these retreats but also to provide education. We’ve evolved into a 360 degrees of wellness concept. At the first retreat, we did some yoga, we did some adventure, we did a vision board workshop, but there’s so much that we need to do to be well—financial wellness, emotional wellness, physical wellness, relationship wellness, nutrition.
It’s way more painful to hold stuff in than it is to let things go.
How can I really educate women of color? So that’s why the summit today features nine speakers focused on different areas of wellness, because one doesn’t work well without the other. I’ve said this a bunch, if you’re not financially well, you’re not eating healthy, your relationships are suffering, your career is suffering, you’re not emotionally well. If you’re in a toxic relationship, other things suffer in your life.
That’s how I know how our retreats have evolved since then. It’s like let’s get real, down, and dirty on the education portion of this. Yes, we’re going to have our downtime, we’re going to have our relaxation time, we’re going to be at these beautiful properties, but we also need to spend time on this education component as well.
Her Agenda: So, I know you have major plans for your next retreats. Arizona [just happened] and Africa in 2020. How have you grown?
Christina Rice: We were just able to host more people than ever because I think more people booked us because it’s in the states. Not everyone can travel out of the country for an extended period of time. I think Arizona is like a bucket list place for a lot of people. So, I think that’s why were able to get that 75 plus numbers for this one. Ghana will be coed. Eventually, we want to host men only retreats too, so I thought a good segue into that would be a coed retreat. So, it will have cultural exploration and adventure but also opportunities for us to have healthy conversations with the opposite sex. And just having a different type of vacation. Where the foundation of it is wellness but you still have all of the elements that you would have for a vacation or getaway.
Her Agenda: What are your dreams for this community that you’ve created?
Christina Rice: Well we’re only a year old so I think we’re exactly where we need to be. One of my biggest goals is to open a wellness center in Atlanta, and it would be a wellness co-working space. So that’s my next big project hopefully within the next six months.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY.]