Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Megan Weaver, Isha Gaines, and Chris Spruiell.
Representation matters. I recently shed light the importance of seeing ourselves reflected in wellness spaces with my friend Siraad Dirshe at ESSENCE. When I began yoga teacher training in the summer of 2014, I did so with the awareness that, to my knowledge, not that many black women were yoga teachers. A few years later and I'm proud and grateful to increasingly discover more black women deciding to not only take up a more intentional wellness practice because of Black Girl In Om, but also venture into roles empowering other—some becoming yoga teachers, others becoming personal trainers and nutritionists.
When I came across Shamira West's platform a few months ago, I was so happy. We're out here, ya'll: black women are a part of every facet of the wellness industry and Shamira is both a sincere practitioner and a knowledgable leader. She's a nutrition coach and personal trainer, and she also embodies compassionate living by choosing a vegan lifestyle and advocating for more women to live lifestyles that authentically resonate with them! (She left corporate America and switched gears toward holistic living for herself and to inspire others.) From our conversation, I hope you feel inspired to commit more to the journey of self-love and self-worth: one of Shamira's missions for her platform! Follow Shamira on Instagram @shamirawest and Twitter @shamirawest for daily inspiration.
Lauren Ash: First things first, Shamira! Who are you?
Shamira West: I am 27 years old, a daughter, sister, and friend. I graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing back in 2011. I was a Digital Marketing Manager for a major cosmetics company in Dallas for two years before leaving corporate America to pursue a career in Health & Fitness. I am currently a certified personal trainer through NASM, Precision Nutrition coach, health & wellness writer, and blogger for shamirawest.com who lives to inspire, teach, love, create and share. I am a big dreamer, devoted to a life of wellness and believe life should be lived to the fullest. I feel like my identity is mostly tied to my work and I am constantly seeking balance in my life.
Lauren Ash: I meet so many black women who ask me how I found my purpose and my passion. I tell them to start exploring their curiosities. It's sometimes these activities in our lives that we relegate to simply being "hobbies" that might offer the key or foundation to our path. Hearing that you completely left corporate America to switch gears because you knew that health and fitness were your true passions is so inspiring. Clearly it was for the best and you've been able to influence so many other people's lives for the better. I'm so happy you're now a part of our tribe, too. What does Black Girl In Om mean to you?
Shamira West: Black Girl In Om to me is a space for Black women to express themselves freely about topics that are important to them and our community. It’s beautiful to see so many women of color share their stories, practice self-care and self-love.
Lauren Ash: It is beautiful! We're always so blown away by the vulnerability and true sisterhood in our community of contributors for our online publication, Om, in particular. We're always striving to debunk the myth that women of color don't take care of themselves and don't care about one another.
How do you identify with Black Girl In Om’s mission?
Shamira West: I love bringing a community of women of color together to share their stories and uplift each other. When I was younger, Black girls used to compete. “She’s lighter.” “She’s darker.” “I wish I had looser hair like her.” “I wish I was mixed,” were the comments I was surrounded by as a little girl and it stayed with me all the way through adulthood. Once I learned to love me and the color of my skin, I wanted to help other women of color embrace themselves flaws and all. I want our community to be less about competition and more about support and love for one another.
Lauren Ash: I feel you. When I was younger I grew up in predominantly white settings and didn't see myself reflected back to me at all. I necessarily assimilated and didn't learn to identify with, yet alone celebrate, what made me black and beautiful until I was in my early 20s. So, how do you show yourself love? What are your self-care & self-love practices?
Shamira West: When I need to give my mind and body some TLC, I love to meditate, journal and practice yoga. After performing these tasks, I feel renewed and ready to take on whatever comes next.
Lauren Ash: I love that we have similar practices! I'm also living for your turmeric face mask recipe. Skincare is self-care, which I've learned this past year and a half. For the women who might be reading this and who still face challenges in feeling beautiful: what’s one ritual you recommend more women of color adopt to cultivate inner beauty and wellness?
Shamira West: Eliminate fear and self-doubt. I know that is easier said than done. What has helped me overcome this was surrounding myself and following other women of color that are doing great things and reminding myself not to compare but be inspired.
Lauren Ash: A supportive circle of women of color is so key! This seems to come up in our monthly #BGIOMindful Twitter Chat no matter what topic we're exploring and we had an intentional conversation about this in our podcast early on.
What’s one wellness product you cannot live without?
Shamira West: My journal! The mind is a powerful thing and it’s filled with so many dreams, ideas, random ramblings. I don’t want to forget a thing. Writing them down helps me to remember and be inspired later when I reread my thoughts.
Lauren Ash: What's one thing that you previously wrote down that you've been inspired by when stumbling across it later?
Shamira West: One thing I have wrote down a year ago was “a year ago, you didn’t know what you wanted to do with your life. You took a risk and changed your career. It’s been a couple of disappointments. A lot of tears. A lot of doubts. But you know what has stayed constant? You moving forward. Look at where you are now today. Did you ever think this would be your life a year ago? That’s right. Keep moving forward girl. Whatever you fear now, you will look back a year later and think “what was I worried about?”
Lauren Ash: What words of wisdom for us all. Thank you, Shamira!
More about Shamira West: Shamira is a certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach and soon-to-be Yoga Instructor. She utilizes weight training, nutrition counseling and HIIT training to get amazing results for her clients. Before working in the fitness industry, she was a digital marketing manager for a major cosmetics company in Texas. After realizing sitting behind the desk wasn't something she wanted to do for the rest of her life, she decided to become a personal trainer. Her passion is to help people cultivate a life of self-love and self-worth through exercise, meditation and nutrition. Follow her journey on Instagram @shamirawest, and on her website www.shamirawest.com.