WOMANISH panel focuses on female self-care to preview upcoming exhibit

By Sally EhrmannMedill Reports

Women of many backgrounds reflected on how to be more selfish in the new year as part of a panel discussing what happens when women deliberately focus on their well-being through self-care.

WOMANISH, a women’s empowerment group, created SELFISH as part of a series of events in Chicago introducing their upcoming experiential exhibit discussing elements of being female.

The interactive, experiential exhibit WOMANISH opens March 1 and runs through the month at a leased gallery space at 114 S. State St.

“SELFISH came out of the idea of a different ish, or idea. Each one is different. There was famish, stylish, and today we’re talking about what it means to be selfish,” said panel moderator Alexandria Ott,  CEO of public relations firm Chrome City Creative, at the Jan. 22 event.

“I think anyone can have an amazing New Year’s resolution type talk, but I think we’re beyond that. I love self-care, but tonight’s talk is about what happens when you shift and change things inside of you and what happens around you, ” she said.

Four women with different backgrounds in food, mental health, spirituality and movement therapy headed the panel and discussed their journeys to self-love, reflection and what it means to be selfish. Panelists included Britni deLeon from Food by FARE, Camesha L. Jones of Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness, clairvoyant reader and energy healer Carolyn O’Neill and psychotherapist Christina Fontenelle.

Laughs and cheers erupted during the panel as audience members related and reflected on the experiences.

One woman came out as bisexual at the event and another woman talked about juggling the roles of mother and business owner.

Event attendees joined for many reasons. Chare’A Smith came to the event through her own work owning a health and wellness nonprofit for women of color. Her work has taken her across the world creating spaces for health and wellness, and she wanted to be a part of the “uplifting community” at SELFISH.

“You have to take care of yourself holistically in order to achieve any type of success,” Smith said. “Success isn’t just about monetary value or upward level in your work. It’s also about taking care of yourself and learning and maintaining that homeostasis of ‘I’m rested. I can give, but I’m also giving to myself.’ So, finding that balance. More women need to do that.”

Two sisters developed the WOMANISH movement with the goal of bringing together different perspectives of what it means to be female to Chicago. A five-story experiential exhibit will open in March, covering different “ish’s” of being female, such as SELFISH, STYLISH, PAIDISH, FAMISH (as in family) and others. In the lead up to the exhibit, WOMANISH has been hosting monthly panels since October to discuss topics women face today in a “fun and interactive” way.

“We really wanted to add on to the women empowerment movement that’s already existing,” said Dionna Gray, co-founder of WOMANISH. “All of these events have been totally concepted, created and produced by women. It’s where women are celebrated, but all are welcome. I think it’s important to give women a voice.”

Photo at top: Sisters Danyelle Gray and Dionna Gray co-founded WOMANISH to bring different perspectives of the female identity to discussions around women empowerment. Their experiential exhibit opens in March, with the SELFISH panel acting as a preview for what’s to come. (Sally Ehrmann/MEDILL)