This story has been brought to you by WorldRemit, in partnership with Rootencial. Rootencial, founded by Josefina Bonsundy, is a social initiative celebrating the roots and potential of African and Africa diaspora communities, while also aiming to create opportunities for them.
Meet Isa-Welly Locoh-Donou, a Togolese former professional dancer. The list of names she’s worked with includes some of the biggest celebrities in the world. She’s also appeared in popular TV shows such as X-Factor, The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. One of the greatest honours of her career was dancing for the Queen of England.
But one experience during a tour with Kylie Minogue turned her life upside down. In our interview with Isa-Welly, we learned more about this, her career on the stage and why she moved from professional dancing to wellness coaching.
Hi Isa-Welly! Please tell us more about yourself and your work.
I’m 34 years old and Togolese, born and raised! I moved to Paris when I was 12 years old and then came to London. And I’m now a Pilates and wellness coach.
For almost 15 years I toured the world as a professional dancer with artists like Take That, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Chaka Khan. I performed in music videos, movies and TV shows. It was a fast, exciting and thrilling lifestyle, but sadly I wasn’t aware of the state of my health. I worked hard and played even harder!
One day in 2008, while performing with Kylie Minogue, I had to be taken off stage because I was in so much pain. Eventually, I found out that I had big digestive issues. My body had desperately been sending me signals for a while - but I ignored them. That was my wake-up call.
“I’m a wellness coach that understands the incredible power of exercising, eating well and resting.”
Tell us about your journey to becoming a wellness coach.
I was practising Pilates, and I liked how it made my body feel. At first, I didn’t consider teaching. I just trained for myself. But then I loved it so much that I decided to start teaching it. I had to qualify as a coach to be able to help people officially.
It came naturally to me – helping people is in my nature. And now I’ve been a fitness and wellness coach for three years!
Who inspires you, and how?
The source of my inspiration is my clients - the people on my mat who come and train with me. I go with the flow with everybody, and I go with their energy.
Even when they’re tired, or when they can’t deal with some of their problems, they inspire me. If they’re making an effort, I’ll work twice as hard. It’s an exchange. It’s not just me teaching them; they also teach me a lot about life.
What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
One of the hardest things is to put yourself out there every day, whether you do it for your business or yourself. It’s especially hard as a business because it’s a part of you that you promote that people can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to. You have to be brave.
That’s been the biggest challenge from the start. It’s still is a challenge today, and it always will be. I choose to ignore the fear and push it aside.
There are also days when I’m down – after all, I’m not a machine. And on those days, I let myself rest and gather my strength again. But ultimately, if I don’t feel great, what lifts me is myself. I tell myself “Get up. Just do this.”
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were growing up?
Everything I know today, I’ve learned along the way. I couldn’t have learned it without this journey. It was all a blessing, both the good and the bad.
My advice is for you to clear your mind, whichever way you want to do it. Meditation, yoga, boxing – do whatever you need to do.
"Mental health is so important. Eat well, drink loads of water, and love deep. Love from within. Love with your whole heart."