Ten years ago, Candy Calderon wasn’t thinking about wellness. She wasn’t thinking about nutrition, or healthy bodies, or advocating for women. She was closing business deals for multinational software development companies. Then, her mother got cancer.
“The reason why I got into wellness is because my family’s cancer history,” Calderon says. “My grandfather died of cancer. Two of my aunts died of cancer. And when [my mom] was diagnosed, you can only imagine… Hopefully, you have not gone through the experience of having a loved one go through cancer. But if you have, you would understand it’s such a devastating thing to go through, because it’s not only the person who has cancer, but… it takes such a huge toll on everybody.”
It was her experience navigating her mother’s fight and recovery that led her to try and learn everything she could, not only about the cancer itself, but about the ways in which chemo and the healing process affects the body. But she only had access to this information thanks to her knowledge of English. Her Dominican family would have been largely out of the loop, as many of the materials and resources were in available in English only. (“Had I not been bilingual, I would not have had the opportunity to help my mom the way I helped her,” she says.)
Along with regular medicine and the treatment of doctors, Calderon put her mother on a holistic program including a new diet—and she began to thrive. Soon, people were interested in how she was helping her mom survive her very aggressive cancer diagnosis. That’s when Calderon knew she had to change careers, even after attaining a BS and MBA in Business Administration and Business, respectively. And she wasn’t going to do it half-heartedly.
“I knew I wanted to get proper certification,” Calderon says. “Because when you’re helping people with their health, it’s important to have certain certifications. It’s not, ‘Oh, I read some books. Let me, now, help you with your health.’” Calderon studied at the Institution of Integrative Nutrition, where she was certified in 2014 as a holistic health coach. And her mom? She’s still here, in remission for almost 9 years, and still thriving.
The switch to wellness and start of ‘Glow Wellness Tour’
Working in wellness and attending events and trainings, Calderon began to feel like something was missing. “Wellness events were catered to a white demographic. And even from the message they were delivering and the faces that were presented in the stages and the voices that were being amplified, I didn’t see anybody that looked like myself,” Calderon says. When she did see people of color represented, they were often the only BIPOC on a panel of many people—tokenization at its finest. “It was not enough. It was not enough because you could really tell when it was like, “Okay. So, let me seal this gap and let me bring in a woman of color in here just to fill this void.’ And for me, it was very frustrating and, for the longest time, I was complaining, complaining, complaining.”
“Wellness events were catered to a white demographic. And even from the message they were delivering and the faces that were presented in the stages and the voices that were being amplified, I didn’t see anybody that looked like myself.”
Soon, Calderon stopped complaining and realized she could create and amplify voices herself. “If you sit here waiting for somebody to create a wellness event that is inclusive and diverse and speaks to the health challenges that women of color face, it might be a minute before somebody comes up with that idea,” says Calderon. So in 2017, she launched her first event as the Glow Wellness Tour, a community for Latinas and women of color.
“It’s been so crazy amazing to see how women were craving for this message and were craving for a safe space where they were told, ‘Yes! You are not alone,’” says Calderon. “It’s part of so many of us. The way we grew up, our culture. So, when we’re talking about health and wellness, it’s very important that we address the specific things from different cultures, regardless if you’re African American, if you’re Latina, if you’re Asian, because that’s the only way we can create change.”
Calderon sees this inclusive change happening quickly in wellness right now, but hopes that brands continue to deliver—not only with coverage, but with dollar signs. “It’s trendy to support communities of color [right now],” she says. “But let’s see, six months down the line, how do you show up for us and for our communities?”
Calderon points to the messaging that needs to happen to be impactful. “When you try to approach a community in a certain way and you don’t think about those things before creating anything or trying to reach out to them, of course it’s going to [fall flat]. Because you’re not talking to me. You’re not addressing me. You’re not taking in consideration my realities,” she says. “We, as women of color, we face so many challenges when it comes to our health or wellness. Racism is so, so big in the health-care industry as well. Women of color die more of childbirth. We are neglected when it comes to whatever symptoms we have when we talk to our doctors. So, it’s different. Even the access to healthy foods; the access to knowledge. The challenges we have—they’re different.”
Her hope for the Glow Wellness Tour is to address these challenges head on, and continue to expand—adding in panels with topics that are culturally relevant for many women with particular experiences. (In COVID times, current plans are to keep things virtual.) Calderon hopes the understanding of inclusivity expands to understand audiences not as niche, but as targeted. The specific becomes universal, or as Calderon says, “when you try to speak to everybody, you speak to nobody.” The question for the wellness industry then becomes: Who are you speaking to?
For more information on Candy and the Glow Wellness Tour, head to GlowWellnessTour.com.