THE WELL Q&A: Niambi Cacchioli

The founder of Pholk Beauty shares what wellness means to her, her mood boosters and the unique way she chills out. 

Niambi Cacchioli smiling in a garder

Niambi Cacchioli is the founder of Pholk Beauty, a natural, vegan skincare brand created by women of color for women of color. After spending 12 years abroad studying the African Diaspora, Niambi drew upon the inspiration of her travels and learnings to create Pholk Beauty and to celebrate the wisdom of beauty cultivators around the globe. 

What brought you to wellness?

I was born into wellness. We didn’t have a name for it. It was my grandmother’s garden; it was long conversations on the back porch with sweet sun tea poured over ice. It was sitting between my mom’s legs on the floor as she greased my scalp and cornrowed my hair and impromptu dancing to Stevie Wonder in the kitchen with my mom and brothers. Although I didn’t necessarily have an easy childhood, those sorts of memories continually are my compass for joy, connection and feeling free in my own body.

What does wellness mean to you?

When I feel that embodied freedom, I call it wellness.

One lesson you’ll take away from the COVID-19 pandemic?

I have everything I need.

Name three non-negotiables in your life.
  1. My twice-weekly private pilates session (otherwise I’m a mess)
  2. At 47 years old, I don’t code-switch. 
  3. Time outdoors with my family
The book you own that is the most dog-eared?
Favorite quote?

“Okay, you’ve read the text. You know the words. You’ve looked at the history. Now, transcend all that. Put it aside and live it. Encounter it.” — Fatemeh Keshavarz, my undergrad Persian teacher in an interview with Krista Tippet.

Snack you pack when you’re on the go?

Honeycrisp Apple

Instagram accounts that get the most likes from you?
Morning and/or bedtime rituals?

My days begin with a check-in with my husband over coffee. Especially since our boys are at home in virtual school, we have to co-create our days so that each of us feels like we have time for our work and can still be there for our kids. Although a lot of my friends have thrown out bedtimes for their kids, we still have them turn off screens and go to their room by 9:30pm. Doubling as mom and founder throughout the day is intense, so from 9:30pm on I’m unwinding.

Wellness travel essentials?

I like to shop for wellness items while travelling so I leave room in my suitcase for wellness finds. But I have to have a hydrating, alcohol-free face mist, eucalyptus and lavender essential oils to help with sleeping, a multipurpose balm, cozy socks, ear plugs, a travel candle and moringa tea. I usually put my hair in braids when I travel but if I’m wearing my hair in an Afro, I always have castor oil to protect and style my hair.

When you really need to chill out, you…

Maybe it’s because I’m a Southern girl but I have to have a clean house in order to really relax.  So, I put on a poppin playlist and dance until I’m sweaty.  If I’m really run down, I’ll order some hearty soups and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fam knows that if there are loads of soups in the fridge and that I’ve been cleaning and dancing for hours, it means I need to stay lowkey and quiet for a day or two.

Instant mood lifter?

The song "Django Jane" by Janelle Monae

Food philosophy?

80 percent healthy, 20 percent fun

Most used condiments?

Siracha, Tabasco for Southern dishes

How do you take coffee or tea?

I lived in London for 7 years, so I love a milky tea. Frothing my oat milk turns into a treat.

Hydration strategy?

Sparkling water is my fave.  Sometimes I throw in a some berries for flavor or fresh mint or lemon balm from my window garden.

Simple smoothie recipe?

Oat milk, raspberries, a very ripe banana and frozen mango.  With a stripe of hemp seeds for some texture and nuttiness.

Go-to wellness gift?

Teas for sure. My current obsession is the Rimshot blend by Adjourn Teahouse.

Words to live by?

And justice for all.

How do you reboot?

I talk on the phone with my childhood friends for hours. I’m so blessed to have friendships that have lasted for 40 years and when I need to unplug from the world and get back to myself, I curl up in my bed and have a sistah powwow.

Preferred mode of movement?

Dance

When you feel a cold coming on you...

Make a lemon balm and ginger tea and sleep.

Weirdest wellness trend you've ever tried?

When I was younger, I tried a DIY banana mask for my hair. I guess the recipe hadn’t been tried on afros because it hardened my coils and it took hours to pick out of my hair.

What's sacred to you?

The relationship with my children. Not so much being their mother but watching them broaden into themselves. It’s the most mystical thing.

Last time you laughed — and at what?

I laugh my way through the day. I love a body laugh — as in jump out of the seat, dance on my tiptoes and throw my head back kind of laugh. That happened this past Sunday during a parent vs. kids Pictionary session. My ability barely goes beyond stick drawing. There’s nothing as freeing as showing you’re really bad at something in front of your own kids.

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