“Sleep Is a Beautiful Thing”—AAPI Founders Share What Self-Care and Beauty Means to Them

Inspired is an understatement.

By Isabelle Eyman

So often, meaningful work is the product of wanting to share ourselves with others. We work to solve a problem we’re passionate about, address a need whose solution isn’t found in the market, or seek to represent an element of our culture crucial to how we see and understand the world. Our favorite founders practice this mindset, and as a result, each has a unique story to tell. With May marking Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we thought what better way to honor these cultures than by highlighting the women and Asian American-led brands that inspire us to innovate, pursue our curiosity, and create community each day.

In the worlds of beauty and wellness, it’s easy to think these pursuits exist only in the external. That a moisturizer is just a moisturizer or that our jewelry is only meant to accessorize an outfit. But those who create within these industries know that our products go beyond what can be seen. Beauty doesn’t exist in a vacuum and wellness isn’t something we achieve. In many ways, we can experience each through the rituals and routines that empower us and help us come back to ourselves.

Featured image from our interview with Jennie Yoon by Hadley Rosenbaum.

AAPI Founders Share How They Practice Self-Care

Knowing this, we spoke to some of our favorite women in beauty, fashion, and wellness, asking how they experience beauty and practice self-care. Their words are uplifting and inspiring, calling us to follow what feels good and exist as we are without apology.

As May comes to a close and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month nears an end, let this be a reminder to continue to celebrate the many contributions that help us move forward as a community in transformative ways.

Nadya Okamoto, Author, Social Entrepreneur, and Founder of August

Nadya Okamoto, Author, Social Entrepreneur, and Founder of August

At 25 years old, Nadya Okamoto is responsible for paving the way for culture-shifting initiatives—and she’s just getting started. Early on in 2020, the Harvard graduate co-founded August, a wellness brand working to shift the narrative around periods. (It just so happens to be one of our favorites in the wide world of menstrual products.) Her work with August is re-instilling a sense of empowerment for everyone who gets their period. Nadya is also the founder of PERIOD which aims to end period poverty and stigma. And because her passion knows no bounds, Nadya published her first book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement in 2018.

Her resume is pages longer, extending to everything from running for public office to earning a spot on Forbes coveted 30 under 30 list. But amidst it all, she finds peace and stillness in the rituals that ground her every day.

But it is an incredible form of resistance to take care of yourself beyond the bare minimum and do so because you know that you deserve it and you love yourself.

How do you experience beauty in your everyday life? 

Especially when my career is so unpredictable, I love finding stability and ritual in my life. To me, self-care is my daily yoga practice, regularly challenging myself in new physical and fun ways (right now with Pilates), making sure that I’m taking the right medication and keeping up with my therapy and coaching appointments, eating well and on a good schedule, a strict skincare routine, sleeping as much as possible, and talking to my sister on the phone every single day. These are things that bring me joy, that I do for myself, and not for any professional benefit or external validation.

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care means taking care of my body and mind, intentionally. It goes beyond just the basics of maintaining hygiene and feeding myself. To me, self-care is intentional time that I set aside, where I am purely focused on showing myself some extra love. Sometimes that can look like yoga every single day and sometimes that can be an impromptu vacation just because I felt like it.

Especially in a capitalist society, we are not incentivized to take care of ourselves. We are programmed to strive to show ourselves the bare minimum so that we can survive, get by, and be as productive as society needs us to be. But it is an incredible form of resistance to take care of yourself beyond the bare minimum and do so because you know that you deserve it and you love yourself. I don’t think that I’ve gotten there yet in my own healing journey of deconstructing a lot of the beliefs that I was conditioned to have around taking care of myself, but I’m really working on it.

Any self-care tips you’d like to share?

Sleep is one of the most beautiful and powerful things. I used to think that sleep, taking naps, and rest in general was a waste of time. Now I sleep about 8 to 10 hours a night, and it is one of the biggest things that has brought me joy in the last few years.

Jennie Yoon, Founder of Kinn

Jennie Yoon, Founder of Kinn

Jennie Yoon’s experience of beauty is deeply rooted in gratitude. As the founder of one of our favorite jewelry brands, Kinn, Jennie’s days are filled meetings, reviewing designs, and the unpredictability of an entrepreneur’s schedule. But throughout the busyness, Jennie finds a sense of calm and peace in the rituals that keep her grounded. She’s adamant about journaling, connects with friends through a shared gratitude practice, and reflects on the day every night with her daughter. There’s a through line of intention in everything Jennie does, and it’s this perspective that’s created a beautiful brand and has helped shape a meaningful life.

To me, beauty is less about achieving, but rather what we experience day to day. 

What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care means doing all the necessary things that boost my physical, emotional, and/or psychological well-being. Sometimes, that means setting boundaries or being vulnerable enough to ask for help. It truly starts with being honest with yourself and being self-aware of your needs. 

How do you experience beauty in your everyday life?

Beauty is experienced with all our senses, and comes in all shapes, forms, colors and feelings. Sometimes this is something that is obvious, others, it arrives unannounced as a pleasant surprise. I love my Five-Minute Journal—it gives me prompts to help me reflect on the day and think about what it is I’m grateful for. It also allows me to think through what I learned that day, which helps me to stay super grounded.

I also have a shared iCloud note with two of my girlfriends. We jot down notes whenever we’re thankful for something, we’ve been doing this since Covid. As part of my bedtime routine with my 3-year-old, we talk about five things we did today and one thing we’re thankful for. To me, beauty is less about achieving, but rather what we experience day to day. 

Any self-care tips you’d like to share?

Time block. Time block yourself to focus on one task at a time. It’s so difficult to focus when you have a team asking questions, multiple apps, social platforms, and communication channels. I time block so I can stay productive with one task at a time. I also do this with my family time at night and on the weekends. I rarely work on weekends unless I’m intentionally carving out an hour or two on an early Sunday morning before my family is up.

Dharni Patel, Founder of KINDIA

Dharni Patel, Founder of KINDIA

Dharni’s founder story is one of transformation, though not in the physical sense. Since she was younger, Dharni shared that she often felt uncomfortable in her own skin and would hide her true self away to make others happy. But through inner self-work, her healing journey helped her grow into an inspiring leader in the beauty space.

With KINDIA, Dharni aims to help others experience this same sense of growth and learn to embrace all of themselves, recognizing the true beauty all of us possess. However, the brand’s skincare masks are not only deeply interwoven with Dharni’s personal experience, but are rooted in the traditions of her culture and past. Growing up, her mother would make homemade masks, blending Ayurvedic ingredients such as haldi, rosewater, neem, and aloe-vera. Today, KINDIA’s products use these same clean ingredients, helping everyone experience beauty from the inside, out.

I find that incorporating rituals into my daily life allows me to access a profound sense of beauty and reconnect with my inner self.

How do you experience beauty in your everyday life?

For me, beauty is a deeply personal experience that goes beyond external appearances. I find that incorporating rituals into my daily life allows me to access a profound sense of beauty and reconnect with my inner self. One of the rituals that holds great significance for me is the use of incense. The fragrant scents wafting through the air create an ambiance of tranquility and serenity, inviting a sense of beauty into my surroundings. It brings a nostalgic calm that reminds me of my childhood home, back in Kenya.

Vibration is another element that adds to my experience of beauty. Through the resonance of music and the soothing hum of chanting, they have the power to uplift my spirit and evoke a sense of harmony within.

Hydration is also an essential aspect of my beauty rituals. Taking the time to nourish my body with water, sipping from a warm cup of water first thing in the morning, revitalizes my physical being but also awakens a sense of beauty from within. The act of hydrating becomes a gentle reminder to care for myself and appreciate the vitality and resilience of my body, which is undeniably beautiful in its own unique way.

As I reflect on the concept of beauty and rituals, I cannot help but tie it back to the rich traditions of my Indian culture. The rituals passed down through generations, steeped in symbolism and reverence, hold a special place in my heart. Through these practices, I find beauty in the preservation of traditions and the way they enrich my everyday life.

What does self-care mean to you?

To me, self-care means prioritizing activities that cultivate a calm mind, embracing authenticity, and doing what feels genuinely good for my overall well-being. It’s about finding inner peace, lightness, and honoring myself on a deeper level.

Any self-care tips you’d like to share?

  • Cultivate a Calm Mind. Prioritize activities that promote your relaxation and mental well-being. Take the time to quiet your mind. It can help reduce stress and promote a sense of inner calm. 
  • Embrace Authenticity. Be true to yourself and embrace your individuality. Allow yourself to let go of external expectations and societal pressures. Embracing your authentic self brings a sense of lightness and freedom, allowing you to focus on what truly matters to you and aligning your actions with your true values.
  • Do What Feels Good to You. Self-care is a personal journey, and it’s essential to prioritize activities that genuinely bring you joy and nourish your soul. Listen to your intuition and choose activities that resonate with you on a deep level.
Giselle Go, Co-Founder of DAMDAM

Giselle Go, Co-Founder of DAMDAM

For Giselle Go, beauty is experienced in the small, but essential activities and objects that mark her daily life. Everything she brings into her day—from a yoga flow to that morning’s particular coffee mug—is steeped in purpose. As co-founder of the cult-favorite skincare brand, DAMDAM, Giselle practices what she preaches in cultivating simple rituals done with care and intention.

Below, Giselle shares the quiet, reverent sense of beauty she’s learned to capture in every moment. Her words are a reminder that beauty isn’t a given. Rather, it’s the subjectivity, meaning, and connection we bring to all that we love.

Beauty is also a gesture. A vase of wildflowers picked from the garden, a salad plated on a dish by an artist I know and love.

How do you experience beauty in your everyday life?

I experience beauty in the objects and tools I use in daily life. Whether it’s a cup, an article of clothing, or a piece of furniture, I enjoy using objects that have been touched by a human hand or picked up from travels to keep as a tangible memory. These objects can elevate a mundane task, like washing my face or drinking coffee, and turn it into something beautiful. Beauty is also a gesture. A vase of wildflowers picked from the garden, a salad plated on a dish by an artist I know and love.

What does self-care mean to you?

I view self-care as rituals that help me stay balanced in mind and body. It is about carving out time on a regular basis for the dual, complementary tasks of decompressing and replenishing. For example, meditating, reading a book, or listening to a podcast for the mind; deep-cleansing skincare or doing yoga for the body.

Any self-care tips you’d like to share?

Creating a boundary between work and rest is important to me. I do this by ending a full day at work with a deep soak in the bath. I light an incense and do a face mask as a bonus treat. Sometimes, I’ll add to the ritual with a pre-bath body brush in the summer and Japanese bath salts in the winter. Doing this ritual sends a signal to my mind to relax. With the water softening my skin and muscles, the day feels like it’s being washed away. Weekends are spent in the garden, surrounded by nature. It’s a good way to disconnect and decompress before a new week begins.

Veena Krishnan, Co-Founder of Daybird 

Veena Krishnan, Co-Founder and COOof Daybird 

Veena Krishnan is on a mission to redefine beauty, shifting what makes each of us feel more radiant and connected to our inner truths. The brand has mastered the multitasking skincare/makeup trend, hybridizing multiple treatments into one effective hero product (that, at one point, had a 4,000+ waitlist). With that level of hype, it’s clear that it can’t simply be the application that’s caught on. And trust: there’s more to their tinted skincare stick than meets the eye.

Because Veena had struggled when she was younger to find makeup that matched her skin tone, she’s dedicated her work to offering that true experience of connection and feeling seen to other women. The best founders, like Veena, pick up on the universality of their experience and introduce a solution that’s worthy of a community around it.

Self-care should be something that enhances your life, not something that makes you feel stressed or like you have to keep up with others. 

How do you experience beauty in your everyday life?

I love the idea of rethinking what beauty means—so that it’s not just dependent on physical characteristics or appearance—and instead something we define for ourselves. As a South Asian woman, I honestly could not find products on the shelf that matched my skin tone when I was growing up, and I rarely saw someone on TV or in the movies who looked like me. This ultimately made it challenging to relate to traditional beauty standards and instead prompted me to redefine what beauty feels like in my life.

These days, I experience beauty through life’s little moments, such as my dog’s wagging tail and his “smile” when he’s ready to play, or the endorphins and feeling of accomplishment I feel after a long run (bonus points if it’s during sunset), and through the comfort of spending quality time with loved ones at home. Even crossing off items on my to-do list counts. It’s the simple pleasures that feel *chef’s kiss* to me.

What does self-care mean to you?

To me, self-care means filling up my cup and giving back to myself (mind and body) to help me show up every day. Self-care can take many forms depending on what I need at that moment. On some days, it’s a long run, and on other days, it could be an afternoon nap, playing the piano, or doing chores around the house. I also consider watching my fave TV show or movie a form of self-care. I love The Office and turning on an episode honestly feels like comfort food, especially on a busy day.

Any self-care tips you’d like to share?

  • Check-in with yourself and your needs, keeping in mind that self-care can look and feel different depending on how you’re feeling that day or in that moment. 
  • Don’t compare your self-care practices or rituals to those around you! At the end of the day, self-care should be something that enhances your life, not something that makes you feel stressed or like you have to keep up with others. 
  • Try to be present in your self-care ritual or practice. If it’s possible, putting your phone on Do Not Disturb or leaving it in another room can help to quiet distractions, even if just for a few minutes.