Denise Vasi approaches self care as if it's preventative medicine. For the actress turned wellness guru, the mental, physical, and emotional upkeep of existing is paramount — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. When the Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn native was pregnant with her first child, she spent hours perusing wellness blogs for information, only to find that she could never really identify with the people behind them. Vasi didn’t feel seen, and she knew she wasn’t alone in this. Over the course of a year and a half, she did her research understanding what it’s like to work in a digital space and with that, the wellness website MAED was born.
“My entire life I’ve been creating content for other people. I’ve been modeling since I was 12, and acting. All I did was create for others,” said Vasi, speaking to The FADER from her Venice, California home, fresh off of launching MAED at the end of June. Finally, she's calling the shots, and the first thing on her list is letting the world know that wellness and good health are for everyone.
Who is MAED for?
The site isn’t just for moms — the audience can range from after college, all the way past motherhood. The idea of the site is that it grows with you, through all the points that would make you feel “made.” Our intention is to cover things like what getting your first job out of school will look like, or dating. The beauty and food aspects are ageless. Living healthy is all about self-care. Self-care is healthcare, especially in the country that we live in.
How did you get into holistic health before MAED came to be?
As an actress, one of your tools is your physical [presence]. Not only how you use it in moving across a set or stage, but let’s be real, you’ve got to keep yourself looking good. That’s just in the nature of the beast. My entire initial journey stems from pure vanity. I was in VH1’s Single Ladies, I was in sex scenes every two days, my character’s whole attitude was about shopping and hair and keeping herself looking fly. So it started from there — how do I keep my skin looking good? How do I keep my nails looking good? But it really stemmed from vanity, having to take care of myself to make sure I was looking good. When I moved out [to Los Angeles], I started learning more about holistic doctors and naturopaths, and the in-depth blood work they can do. Basically, you can take these elaborate blood work tests that can tell you what really makes you you and optimize your health.
What about lower income people who can’t afford that blood work or even eating clean?
There’s this misconception that health has something to do with wealth or being white. I see it as, if you come from a lower-income or middle class family — which is the type of family I came — you might have to go an extra step. It might be a little more work to make something at home, but at least you can determine what’s in it. I think education is important, and that’s where MAED comes in. Giving people information on how to live healthier in little small tidbits.
What are the goals for MAED?
Giving information, supplying inspiration, and having fun. Giving women a place to go where they feel included, inspired to try something new, and giving information, whether it’s about a new product I’m loving — like something beauty-related, something that creates an easier work-flow situation, or something I love for my daughter. Everything is fun. I don’t want things to be so serious — there’s this misconception of wellness being so super serious. For me, I want women to take time for themselves and understand that time makes them a better woman, makes them a better friend, better daughter, mother, wife.
I feel like as women we get stuck in this mindset where we have to do everything ourselves to prove ourselves. That can burn you out if you don’t understand that you need to turn to the people around you and say, “Hey, I really need you to help me with this.” Opening up communication instead of hiding [feelings] and trying to do everything on your own. That’s not going to get you anywhere. Self-care is a really important aspect for MAED. Nurturing your relationships with people and knowing who you want to spend time with is really important.
What was the moment you realized you needed to make MAED?
I was in my DMs one night reading questions people would send me and I thought, “Wow, this is information that’s readily available.” I remember going online and trying to figure out what kind of crib I should get and stuff like that and I wasn’t necessarily resonating with the sites I was reading. I believed the information — it was really thorough to me. But I didn’t trust their beauty advice. It wasn’t fresh and modern. The people behind the sites didn’t look like me, they didn’t sound like me. If I sat down to have a conversation with the faces behind these other brands, would they know what I was talking about if I dropped a verse from a Biggie track? They just didn’t get me.
The women I was talking to were just like me. So if I have a moment where me and my daughter are dancing to “In My Feelings” my audience is going to get that. They weren’t getting this idea of self-care, this idea of wellness, this idea of cooking at home [from elsewhere]. They weren’t resonating with anybody else talking about it, and it was sad. Like, my community doesn’t know how to do [self-care], or doesn’t necessarily believe other people who are pitching it.
How does it feel to call the shots with MAED?
It’s overwhelming for sure. It’s totally scary. You can’t look around and even attempt to blame anyone else. You can’t be like, “Well, team…” or, the network did not support this show with these marketing dollars. That’s the world I came from. There are so many other places to attach guilt to. Real talk, of course there’s anxiety. I’m doing something completely new. It’s all me f if things don’t work out the way I want them to. I think the most exciting is that I know it will, I know my community really well. I know what they’re looking for and they ask for it. That’s where it's starting. They asked for it.