In this world, where life is fast and furious and sometimes tough, there’s nothing more important than intimate and authentic connections with a loving community of sisters. This monthly Q&A series is all about sharing some of my favorite women in wellness and how they shape, shift and uplift others to live life more fully. This month’s feature is the lovely Alexa Gray of Super Food Super Life. Alexa is a connector in the wellness world, she brings amazing businesses together and co-creates incredible interviews, events and programs. A trained fine art photographer based in L.A., she loves behind the scenes interviews with natural product pioneers, which inspire her readers with informative stories from the front lines of the healthy lifestyle movement. This beauty also joins us in Malibu at the IWR Retreat each year to photograph the magic that happens at our oceanside retreat. Thrilled to welcome Alexa…!
1) Every great journey has a story, tell us about you and your journey towards holistic living?
It started with my mom. She was a yoga-going, gym-loving, nature & health food store mama. I always ate real foods growing up, but once I hit puberty, my entire body changed. I went from having a stick thin figure to having an ultra curvy body. I felt very uncomfortable with these changes and had trouble loving it. My mother shared her healthy habits, but as a teen I resisted and wanted to figure out my own way. I was stubborn and self-righteous, and looking back could very well see that many of my elders had wisdom to share, but I just wouldn’t listen.
I wanted to do anything to get my body back, and at first, I tried very unhealthy dieting habits like consuming Adderall to relinquish my hunger or only drinking lemon-maple syrup water with cayenne pepper. That failed obviously, and I ended up feeling worse. Yet, I remember this moment where I made a promise to myself that I would try anything to bring my body back to homeostasis and would only do it in a healthy way. I worked with trainers, tried raw, vegan, vegetarian diets, joined food addiction groups, and went to several doctors. I found that what really made an impact was when I went away to college and started taking my yoga and mediation practice more seriously. I was living in a remote and rural part of upstate New York, studying photography & finally felt like I had the time to go within. I had found that peaceful center and went inside and began to heal. I started cooking, going to more farmers markets, and even visited the farms themselves. Finally, all the dots started connecting, and I just became in tune with a wellness routine that brought me so much health and so much joy. I knew holistic living would then become a big aspect my life.
2) At what point in your journey did you decide you wanted to make a career out of your experience?
When I graduated from photography school I was assisting other photographers and working on sets for a commercials. I was always the girl who brought tupperware of health food for lunch and never ate catering. This probably seemed really snobby at the time, but I just really like to know exactly where my food is coming from. I wasn’t enjoying my work, but always felt inspired when we went to beautiful places or I could talk about my food. Then one day I was on set for a McDonald’s commercial, and I was just like “NO MORE”. I didn’t want to support a company that I do not believe in and make money off of that. It felt so wrong. I then enrolled into David Wolfe’s online Raw Food Nutrition program (after attending one of his retreats) and then followed that with getting a health coaching license from IIN, the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I started a health coaching business as well as a branding business, so I could photograph and creatively help people in the industry I believe in. Now I do both and am so happy and so in love with it all.
3) How would you describe your approach to wellness? What modalities do you work with?
My approach to wellness is to ask myself what bring balance to me in this moment. I use my own combination of all the different modalities I have learned along the way. I guess it’s as if Chinese tonic herbalism, American herbalism, Ayurvedic medicine, macrobiotics, David Wolfe, Marianne Williamson and Abraham-Esther Hicks had a baby, that would be what I am using to approach wellness. It would be a combo of mind, body & soul wisdom. After studying these teaching for so long it has become second nature, and I can feel my body just knowing what to do. I definitely let my body be my guide and welcome in intuition and allow my body to be the guide of what will bring it wellness. Then all I have to do it obey.
2.) Cook fresh and seasonal foods with love
3.) Give back to the community in some way and be of service
4.) Go to kundalini yoga or the gym (I love to dance, life weights or kickbox), and break a sweat.
7.) Make some form of art
8.) Be outside and say thank you to mother earth
9.) Be kind
10.) Do something I am afraid of
5) How do you balance your work/personal life?
Keeping my scheduling organized is huge, because I can put in days where I can balance work with taking time off, going to the farmers markets, and prepping healthy food for the week. I have this big calendar on my wall, my ical and then my to do list. I check in regularly with my work goals and personal goals, so that I can see where I am at with everything. Sometimes when I am feeling out of balance, I just realize that it’s a great opportunity to find balance. So I accept what is, set new goals, take action and move on. It’s not about being perfect, but doing one’s best.
6) If you could name 3 women who shaped your life and work, who would they be?
Robin Gray – My mom has definitely influenced my life in a miraculous way. She did bring me into this work, but she is one bad ass babe when it comes to work. She has owned many of her own successful business. She has taught me how to be an entrepreneur and how to be resilient in this world. She has always showed up for me and supported me through and through. She always believed in being alternative and beating to my own drum. For a while I wasn’t taking this advice, but now I see how right she is. She worked her tail off to send me to the best schools, enroll in the best programs, and provided so much for me. I am truly living my dreams, and I think it is because she taught me never to give up on them. It may sound cliché, but when you have someone consistently rooting for you and cheering you on, once you feel that same way about yourself, that energy can help you move to a whole other level. She has inspired me to be there for my community and give that same amount of love to other people.
Deb Maisel – When I was in college I got a job working at a gourmet vegetarian restaurant called Luna. I absolutely loved it, and the owner, Deb, became my second mom and mentor. She was so hard working, passionate about food, and was there for me when I need her. She taught me about cooking, how important it is to connect to animals and the planet, and how special a business could be. I really came into my own as an adult while working with her. I remember when I first applied for the job she didn’t want to give it to me because I had no restaurant experience. I begged her to hire me because the food, the atmosphere and the whole vibe of the restaurant was so me. I told her I would do anything. So she ended up hiring me, and I think it taught me to fight for what I want and never take no as an answer if you heart is truly yearning for something.
Carolyn Roumeguere – I also worked for Carolyn while I was in college. I made money by photographing her amazing jewelry and by being her mother’s helper. She was single with two kids, who I absolutely adored. Carolyn’s mother was a French anthropologist who moved to Africa to study the Masaii when she was a little girl. Her mother then fell in love and married the king of the tribe. Carolyn was brought up with her brother, sister and mother as the only white people of this Masaii tribe among her new family. They are one of remaining tribes left in Africa, so to say she had a unique experience growing up is an understatement. Carolyn flew prop planes, had a home overlooking a great waterfall, and truly lived “safari as a way of life”. Carolyn lives life in the moment – full of passion, life, and zest. Her energy is so palpable; you can feel it when she is in the room. We would adventure together in her jeep around the Hudson Valley, would play dress up with her unbelievable wardrobe, throw beautiful picnic gatherings and make amazing meals together. It felt like every girls dream, where you get to play the African princess, but it was real life. We pulled angel cards and watched the snow fall. It was all so magical and dreamy. She is strong, wild & free. All of those attributes rubbed off of me, and I will never forget that time with her. She made me feel like anyone can face their fears and live their dreams.
7) How do you handle negativity or competition in your work/personal life? In what ways do you support women to rise above this pattern and uplift each other?
I definitely have seen it and felt the subtle energies of it around me. I realize that we are here for each other. Period. I think competition can become healthy and inspiring, but once it becomes dark, that energy needs to be cleared because it isn’t serving anybody. We need to create a healthy and thriving community, or at least try our best. Especially in the wellness community, there is going to be overlap and cross-over, but I think the best way to deal with this is to talk about it. I think too many words are left unspoken. I believe in speaking ones truth, so if you are wanting to share something that feels true in your heart, I think expressing that is very healthy and necessary in any community. We all need to be okay with honesty. No one wants to step on anyone’s toes, but I believe there is enough room for everyone. That being said, we need to have open communication and have the strength to work through anything that may come up. I support women to rise above this pattern and do what I said above, and speak their truths. I also think to send love, blessings and good vibes to competition is a very powerful act.
8) Tell us about a dream project or collaboration you’re manifesting? What do you desire to (co-)create? What’s on the horizon for you!
So many different business are blooming…I am currently expanding my content creation ad business management company, Gray Media Labs. I work with startups, holistic health practitioners, beauty/health products and help them take their businesses to the next level, both creatively and financially. I really enjoy teamwork, I know how to get a business organized and have an undying passion to create. So it is a joy to work and support my community that I believe in. It doesn’t feel salesly, just super passionate and positive.
I am also happy about my Vision Quest series that I have been leading once a month. It’s a combination of meditation, journaling and sharing our dreams with the group. It’s been powerful and came from this place of wanting to bring people together in person, to get of instagram and actually hang out face to face.
Also, I’m very excited to be releasing more videos and more content on my site Super Food Super Life. It’s a site where I share people/places/things that lead one to a more ‘super life’. It’s been a passion project and has connected me to some of my greatest friends. I love it all. Feeling loads of gratitude for these projects.
9) Your parting wisdom:
Once you know who you are and what you want, go for it! Don’t let others stop you or bring you down. Know that you deserve to lead the life of your dreams. Hang around people who also feel the same, which will fuel your inner flame. Work your butt off and do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality. It is so worth it and so possible, and quite possibly our destiny.