Re-Making the Culture with Kelly Diels
Several years ago, you may have heard me mention here or there - I made the decision to step more fully into the online space.
I came to the realization that if I was going to eke out a living for myself as an herbalist & yoga teacher, I was going to have to connect with a larger community than the one I had access to inside my small, college town.
So I started the work of learning the basics of online presence. Marketing. Messaging.
Learning how to build an audience and a following so that you have some folks to share your work and services with.
But I ran into some issues.
From what I could see - and still see by and large - is there’s a working model out there.
For yogis, in particular, this model appears to be - thin, able-bodied, white-presenting, cis-gendered folks, scantily-clad in gorgeous sunlit studios, or dreamy Costa Rican beaches - doing super-duper advanced bendy things, tossing a few hashtag-blessed, hashtag-YogaEveryDamnDay type things into the mix - and then making mention of their upcoming workshop or teacher training.
The message embedded into the medium was - and continues to be…
“Don’t you wanna be like me?… I’m perpetually smiling and conventionally beautiful and I live a life of opulence and ease…. Oh yeah - and I’m deeply spiritual too - you can tell this by the amazing arm-balances I do and the sanskrit terms I use.
Sign up for my thing and find out how you can be glowy and enlightened too!!!
Link in bio. “
I tried to emulate this approach a for awhile.
Take some well--constructed photographs of me in a handstand. Me doing something nifty and bendy
Me looking happy and smiley while hoisting my leg up past my shoulders.
This is how you share your yoga stuff right?
But the trouble was - this stuff is just So Not Me.
I’m not thin.
I can’t do a vast array of incredible acrobatics with my body.
Furthermore, my own experience of yoga and long-term practice has taught me - that the true work of transformation - be it personal or collective - looks very different than a simple outward pose.
I wanted to tlak about the work of healing that I had experienced and that I wanted others to experience as well.
I wanted to engage a conversastion about spirituality and practice that has absolutely nothing to do with shiny, happy, people on Central American beaches.
I wanted to extend the invitation of this practice I so loved out beyond the confines of the rich & white & bendy.
I wanted to find a way to make the messaging about Spirituality as a way to more deeply engage with the world and it’s problems and it’s inhabitants.
Not simply retreat from it.
But where was there a model I could follow there?
Enter Kelly Diels.
Kelly is a writer & feminist marketing consultant.
Over the course of a years-long, in-depth analysis of what she saw happening in social media, she came to coin the term “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand” & it was through this work that I first came across her.
Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.
Sounds like a good thing right?
Turns out, as Kelly puts it, it is rather... ,
“An archetype women must comply with and embody in order to be deserving of rights and resources
A marketing strategy that leverages social status and white privilege to create authority over other women.”
In other words, the current model operating out there - not just in the yoga and wellness game - but across multiple levels of entrepreneurship - is a predatory model. That replicates and sustains the very systems and practices that we as healers, creatives and feminists - want to take down.
So what’s the solution?
Over the last year, I’ve had the great privilege of learning from Kelly and some of the other wonderful people who are a part of her community and work.
We sat down to talk about what it looks like to move into and inhabit the online space with the same integrity and grit we bring to other areas or our work and life.
On taking the long view - and on the power of being a continual Disruptor - saying and doing the uncomfortable things - even when it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere.
We talked about money and vulnerability and how we create access to our work - that of healing and culture-making and transformation - to those who need it most - while still staying solvent and buoyant ourselves.
Through my own tutelage with Kelly, I have learned that there is indeed something very wrong with the existing model. I now have language around how to unpack it. And furthermore - my own vision and language of a better way forward.
It’s possible to do good, healing, transformative work in the world.
It’s possible to make a living too - and avoid the gross, predatory marketing models that we’ve absorbed.
The culture may be deeply broken - but we can continue to step in - and in so doing, gradually create a counter-culture of our own.
Together - as Ms. Diels tells us – we can thrive.
A note: At the end of our conversation, Kelly mentions some upcoming offerings she has lined up - one of them being her fabulous “Little Birds & Layer Cakes” social media workshop. I want to make mention that the date listed here inside the podcast is wrong.
The new, revised date for this workshop will be this upcoming Saturday, October 20th. And a little shout-out I’ve taken this workshop myself and it’s grand. HIghly recomend.
Take a peek at the show notes to find out more about Kelly and the work that she does and where you can find her and her culture-making work and words.
As always, if you’ve enjoyed this talk, please take hte time to leave a review or rating in iTunes so that others can find us, as well.
I hope you enjoy this talk.
May it uplift and fortify you in the ways you are striving to heal and mend the world around you, too.