Paradise + Vibe Founders Talk The Power Of Black Women Tapping Into Enjoyment And Play

Paradise + Vibe Founders Talk The Power Of Black Women Tapping Into Enjoyment And Play

It's so interesting how many essential aspects of our self-care, wellness, and personal development as adults are linked to our childhood. And as much as I sometimes hate the whole cliche of tapping into an inner child (a concept of which I've struggled with because, after a few years of therapy, I've wished that metaphoric version of me would actually grow up and stop constantly instigating battles with old triggers), there are so many positives to embracing the positive aspects of child-like wonder, creativity, and fun as a very grown-ass woman.

That's where play comes in, especially in reference to the importance of enjoying life. Research has shown that adults who explore their favorite activities or hobbies from childhood and deliberately seek activities of joy can increase feelings of happiness, support, comfort, and creativity. And it's no secret that those feelings are the key to success behind many of the successful, fly Black women in business we all admire or want to emulate.

Two enterprising acquaintances-turned-friendpreneurs know just how empowering the pursuit of enjoyment can be, and they've seen the benefits —in their careers, friendships, and within the community of Black women they've built via their platform Paradise + Vibe.

Founders Iana Edwards, CEO, and Kasondra McConnell, CFO, launched the platform in 2020, offering retreats, pop-up events, and other ways for women to connect, relax, release, and, of course, have fun. Friends since 2014, they'd been on the pulse of the intersection between wellness and play in their own respective lives before teaming up for Paradise + Vibe.

"In 2019, Iana became a yoga instructor, and her career just took off in the yoga space to the point where hotels were asking her to teach," Kasondra said. "Later, we went to Jamaica for her birthday, and the last day we were there, we were just in the ocean, talking, and I said, ‘I really think you could do something where you bring people together—because you’re the attraction for the yoga—so why not use your own platform to better yourself?' From there, we came up with a name and launched with the intention to provide a space for wellness for people of color to feel safe and connected and in tune with all of the things that make you feel well and whole."

"With our retreats, we are bringing people together where they can connect in a place where they can play, be present, and get back to what they need at their core—just to feel good."

Even outside of the retreats and other events they host, Iana and Kasondra make sure they infuse play into their everyday lives, and reiterate that the activities don't have to be super-strenuous or structured. Many of the things they love to do for enjoyment in adulthood tie directly into fond memories of their childhood. Kasondra loved watching Legends of the Hidden Temple, a '90s action-adventure game show and used to create backyard obstacle courses in the backyard with her family. Today, she still loves being out in nature, enjoying the mental clarity of walking or hiking. "I oftentimes have to use my brain a lot, but with hiking, you don't. You're just putting one foot in front of the other. I live near a trail, and so I'll go walk there. And anytime I'm engulfed in water, I love it," she said.

One of Iana's favorite childhood memories of fun is going with her schoolmates to a dinosaur exhibit at Fernbank Museum in Atlanta. "We had peanut butter sandwiches, and I was just enamored with the surroundings, getting out of the classroom setting and being with my classmates. It was then that I realized joy is simple, and it's sometimes just a choice."

Iana and Kasondra pride themselves on embodying a different take on wellness, especially for Black women. "We bonded over that before I went to yoga training, and we just saw, inadvertently, a need for something that wasn't there," Iana said. "We have always been very rogue when it comes to wellness. We've given pushback on the whole [idea that] you have to eat a certain way, you have to be a vegan, you have to eat raw foods, [or] you can't eat this, you can't eat that— this trope of, to be a yogi, you have to look and identify as a certain type."

"We love to dance. We love to go out. We love to listen to ratchet music. We do yoga. We do move our bodies. But we're also people, human, and women, and we are a little bit of everything. We approached it like, 'You know what? We're going to take a true holistic approach to wellness and encompass it all and not leave out the turn-up aspect.'"

Iana, who has been practicing yoga for almost a decade (and has been trained by the best to teach it), and Kasondra, a serial entrepreneur who has worked in real estate, retail, and events, merged their talents, skills, and experiences in order to provide something to the market they felt was missing.

Courtesy of Paradise + Vibe

Both agree that wellness is all about intention and energy, not just what you put into your body. And when Black women are able to truly enjoy the things that lead to laughter, comradery, amusement, and pleasure, innovative, life-changing, and culture-shifting things happen. "One day, Kasondra said, 'Friend, wellness is about connection. It's not about whether we're eating a salad. It's so much deeper than that,'" Iana recalled.

"When you think about [when we were] children, in our most pure form as humans, we were a little more connected then," Kasondra added. "When you were playing, you were outside, taking in Vitamin D from the sun, energy from the Earth. You were connecting with other people. Play takes you out of being so heady and into the present moment. You're not so worried and anxious about what you have going on and more so connected to being present."

With Paradise + Vibe retreats, women are supported in participating in group activities and yoga, with the backdrop of paradise in global locales—including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia—that truly facilitate freedom, leisure, and bliss. "There's proof that, if you look at what depression is, it's essentially being stuck in the past, and anxiety is being occupied with the future and what's to come," Kasondra said.

"So if you can do things like Bikram yoga, which Iana teaches, it's so hot and so intense but so rewarding. It gets you into the present moment. [With] play [it's] the exact same thing, so we took these ideas, and we injected it into our retreats. We select activities that allow people to do things that will take them out of their comfort zones, especially for our audience, which is predominantly Black women. We're talking about in Costa Rica, where we're white-water rafting. In Jamaica, we hiked Mayfield Falls. There's parts of the water where you have to swim, and [that took] people out of their head and got them into the present moment."

Changing the narrative on wellness, enjoyment, and self-care for Black women is vital, especially when choosing a holistic approach that's both considerate of one's personal experience and passions and pushes them to break boundaries. That's what connected Kasondra and Iana in the first place. "We love a hot spring, a body of water. Let’s get on an ATV. Let’s go to an elephant sanctuary—any kind of activity that breaks our adult avatar," Kasondra said. "When you are engaged in some sort of play, you’re the closest you’ve ever been to your childhood version of yourself."

For more on Kasondra, Iana, and Paradise + Vibe events, visit them on Instagram or their website.

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Featured image courtesy of Paradise + Vibe

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