"(From) the moment of me deciding to do yoga teacher training -- which, by the way, I signed up the day that it began -- to the moment where there was this very supportive you know, black woman who was like you can use my resources ... both of those moments I think are very key."
BGIO Art Director Deun Ivory was in Houston when the lifestyle brand started following her on Instagram. She says she had a girl crush on Ash -- "I mean she thought I was poppin', I thought she was poppin' " -- but was shy about initiating a conversation. A mutual friend encouraged them to connect, and Ivory would eventually move to Chicago and join the BGIO team.
"From day one, I was passionate about Black Girl In Om," Ivory said. "Before I even joined the team, I had visions of my own -- they can be doing this, they can be doing that. So I feel like it was my own baby in a sense."
Visit the BGIO website or Instagram page, and it's immediately clear this is a brand created by women of color, for women of color. It's a real-life representation of Solange's song "F.U.B.U."
"This shit is for us."
Ivory and Ash are refreshingly, boldly, dedicated to this mission.
"I'm a really big advocate of us telling our own stories. There's a difference between, like, creating something about black people for white people. So I'm really intentional and always rooted in that philosophy," Ash said. "I know that that's what Deun's work is grounded in, too -- representing black women through photography and illustration. And doing it with black women in mind. Not doing it like, are these white people gonna like it? If they like it, cool, but if not, that's cool too."
"One thing that we preach a lot is just being unapologetic about your blackness," Ivory added. "I create for a purpose. I'm serving my black community. If I'm gon' serve y'all, I'm gon' serve y'all in whatever space. I never want to feel threatened at all to just abandon my people for the sake of being you know, featured here or hired there or whatever. We intentionally have black women in mind at all times, regardless of what the cost is."
Ash and Ivory strive to make wellness affordable and accessible for women of color. Self-Care Sunday classes cost $20, and BGIO has collaborated with other Chicago groups and spaces -- like skincare shop Scratch Goods -- to offer free or inexpensive programming. The BGIO podcast features conversations on topics including nutrition, mindfulness and meditation. Both say their viewpoints on holistic wellness have changed since Black Girl In Om.
"For one, I didn't think that ... it was something I could access. I thought you had to have a lot of money," Ivory said. "It's not language you hear, especially where I'm from. All of that has changed for me. That's what we want other black women to be exposed to as well. Girl, you ain't gotta have all the coin."