Global superstar reggaetonero J Balvin is turning his personal struggles into a professional pursuit and it’s all in an effort to help people. The 37-year-old Colombian, born José Álvaro Osorio Balvín, recently announced his upcoming app, a bilingual mental health resource named Oye. It originated from his own struggles in an effort to destigmatize mental illness in the Latinx community. Balvin is the chief dream officer for the app which he co-founded with happiness activist and ed-tech executive, Mario Chamorro, global creative and social impact executive, Patrick Dowd, and journalist and media executive, Isaac Lee.
Mexican wellness leader Mari Sierra is Oye’s Head of Wellness and she brings with her years of experience dedicated to healing and immersive wellness experiences. She’s a yoga and dance instructor with more than 15 years of experience and the founder of Sierra y Mar, a creative laboratory that develops retreats and workshops for body/mind healing. She’s hosted these meditative experiences in San Francisco, Berlin, Basel, Brazil, Bali, Zurich, Hawaii and Mexico. It’s that global that was evidently part of what made her the perfect fit for an app that’s meant to reach English and Spanish speakers worldwide.
“I am passionate about the mind-body connection, for the notorious effects it has on people from all backgrounds and all ages. If you move with intention, you can affect self-esteem, clarity, presence and overall wellbeing,” she tells HipLatina. “So having the chance to now share these practical embodiment tools using design and technology is like a dream to me.”
The founding team comes from different backgrounds but, according to Sierra, they are all committed to the same goal: reframing the conversation surrounding wellness in the Latinx community and removing the cultural stigmas. Providing resources within the app in both languages is a crucial aspect of that mission as well as a unique one within the mental health app space. A quick search found only two mental health apps that offered Spanish translations: Sanvello and Stop Breathe Think, the latter, however, ceased operations in April. Oye is not just providing Spanish resources, it’s bringing cultural awareness and knowledge to that content and making it accessible to English and Spanish-speaking Latinxs.
“There are very few options currently in the market that are culturally sensitive to the Latinx realities. And it’s an untapped well of wisdom from the diversity of healing traditions that original from our Latinx backgrounds,” Sierra says. “We are aiming to elevate the voices of Latinx Guias and provide a wider range of relatable inspirational figures to Latinx youth, and the world at large.”
OYE’s wellness guides (known as guias), pull from their own cultural practices and expertise to provide content that can be used as a resource to aid emotional wellness across a variety of categories including stress, grief, and anxiety. So what can subscribers expect from Oye? Mind-body practices, journaling prompts, sound journeys and guided meditation. They recorded experiential classes in Mexico City with mind-body experts who shared their practices on video and audio in both languages.
“With OYE, we have created a community-focused platform that will provide engaging and accessible emotional wellness practices for all,” Balvin said in a press release. “Everyone’s health journey is different and deeply personal. We wanted to not only encourage and allow people to prioritize emotional and mental health, but also provide diverse opportunities to the global community to build their own worlds of wellness in creative ways.”
This endeavor is his grandest yet in this space but it’s not his first foray into the wellness space. He partnered with New Age medicine guru Deepak Chopra for a 21-day meditation series in Spanish and English. This year he hosted the Peacock docuseries, “Gente Sana,” in which different celebrities will share their own mental health challenges and coping strategies.
“Oye is designed for anyone who wants to feel better emotionally, physically, and socially with a special emphasis on bilingual young adults. Feeling better starts with exploring how you feel, so we want to provide members with a safe space to open up and connect with their full range of feelings,” Chamorro said in a statement. “With this app, people can begin to normalize checking in with themselves every day through emotional wellness check-ins and guided wellness practices that help people work through emotions in the safety of their own home.”
As for Sierra, her hope is that Oye transforms lives through the tools it’ll provide to help people regulate emotions, and manage stress and anxiety. This feels especially timely as people continue to feel the effects of the pandemic but a 2017 study from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that stress and anxiety disproportionately affected the Latinx community. It found that 1 in 5 Latinos report never having engaged in any stress-relieving activities yet they reported the highest stress from four major sources including money, employment, family responsibilities and health concerns.
“We hope that the classes that we provide on our app will be the starting point for everyone who wants to feel better and begin a journey of transformation. We also hope that it becomes a companion that they constantly come back to do an emotional check in and share their progress with their friends and families,” Sierra says.
Oye launches in September but you can sign up before it launches to receive one year of free membership.