Each month we feature special guests who you can relate to and are Just Like You. Ideas, inspirations, challenges and views on life should be shared and everyone has their unique story. We hope to bring a little more wisdom, inspiration or tip from our community to you - together we can normalize the topic of intimate wellness for women.
Just Like You: Amber Akilla
DJ, Creative Director, Founder of NvShu, Fujianese, raised in Australia and based in Shanghai - but currently in Australia because, you know it, #COVID-19.
The Oh Collective: Some starter questions first to get to know you. Give us a little peek of where you grew up and what brought you to Shanghai
Amber: I grew up in Perth, Western Australia and my family is from Fujian province. I graduated university with an arts degree and a law degree. After graduating a few years ago, I decided to move to Shanghai. I had visited Shanghai during my final year of university while studying in Beijing, at the time I thought I would plan to move to the UK or the US but something about Shanghai made me want to come straight back! I’ve loved living in Shanghai so much and am so grateful for the friends I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve had. I’m currently back in Australia while borders are closed and missing my life there a lot!
The Oh Collective: We see that you’re a DJ, a creative director, run a community called NvShu, have a Podcast and is a Yoga practitioner as well, how do you balance all of that and maintain a healthy body & mind?
Amber: It’s so hard for me to imagine balance since this year has been one uncertainty after the next!
I constantly need to remind myself that I don’t have to do everything at once in order to be those things. I think my yoga practice definitely helps with this! I find yoga very grounding and a good balance of challenging and relaxing as well. I also remind myself of the distinction between thoughts being in the head, and emotions being felt in the body. I’m constantly trying to build awareness around my thoughts and emotions so I can act more consciously and keep connected to mind and body. Even though I can be social I need to spend time by myself to re-centre and reflect on how I can improve or learn from the experiences that I’ve had. I find that when I’m not looking for ideas, they come to me, so having breaks and space between jobs and activities helps a lot.
The Oh Collective: Tell us more about NvShu! What was your vision in starting it and where do you see it going?
Amber: NVSHU女术 is inspired by 女书, the script originating from Hunan province created by women to communicate with each other when they had limited access to education and being able to work. Connecting with others and learning are really important to me when it comes to self-empowerment and the empowerment of others. When I started DJing in Australia I didn’t feel like there were many communities for women in the music industry at any level. I had a lot of people show interest in DJing and saying they wish they could learn but didn’t know where to start. We started NVSHU女术 because we wanted to create a women and LGBTQ centered DJ workshop for people to be able to meet casually and learn the basics of DJing. It’s since become an evolving creative project for my partner Lhaga and I to connect with other creatives in various disciplines and projects. We’ve worked with Red Bull, Nike, NOWNESS and L’Officiel as well as other independent creatives such as Jenny Yoo with different mediums and concepts. We hope to further develop the project when we’re back in Shanghai and to find new ways to facilitate conversation around connection and empowerment.
The Oh Collective: Also, we saw that you have been pole dancing! Why did you start that and what do you think that’ll contribute to your life? (Mental health? Exploration with sexuality?)
Amber: Starting pole dancing was the best decision ever! I’d wanted to learn for so long just never prioritized it, this year I had the chance and am so glad I did. I’ve always had trouble building strength because I find it hard to be consistent with high intensity exercises such as HIIT and weightlifting. My pole class is once a week and after the second week I could already feel a huge difference in my arm strength! I think starting a new challenge and being able to track your progress is really great for mental health, which is also part of the concept for NVSHU女术 and allowing people to feel empowered and gain confidence when learning new skills. Finding new ways to move and control your body is also very empowering!
The Oh Collective: How do you think sexual wellness plays a role in your current lifestyle?
Amber: I think of my personal wellness in a holistic way so my general wellbeing will always play a part in sexual wellness as well. Continuing to keep an open mind to new ways to cultivate wellness and educating myself is important when it comes to general and sexual wellness.
The Oh Collective: What do you do to cater to your (sexual) wellness?
Amber: I think this year has shown how important health is, given covid and not just illness but also increased amounts of mental stress and pressure. I think communicating with and asking your doctor questions are important. Increasing awareness for my emotions and feelings has been really important to me this year, learning to accept and acknowledge them rather than immediately judging allows me to process them with more intention rather than jumping to conclusions or acting impulsively in ways that don’t generate positive outcomes. When it comes to sexual wellness I think checking in with how I feel when it comes to relationships and partners and making sure I am approaching them from a healthy and empowered place is really important to me. I want to be able to support and share with others, not develop unhealthy dependence or have unrealistic expectations.
The Oh Collective: Have you gained any unique insights living between China and the West and do you have any advice for your sisters in these parts of the world?
Amber: I’m really grateful to be influenced by different cultures growing up and in thought my experiences. I find that Western thinking can sometimes be a bit myopic, to only focus on one symptom or detail without considering the bigger picture. I think Eastern philosophy has taught me a lot about compassion and understanding as well as having a holistic view of life. I think self acceptance and acceptance of others is really important but I also find it hard to accept things if I don’t have a good understanding of a certain issue, so I try and find a balance that gives me peace of mind. It’s important to keep an open mind and be ready to have your ideas challenged, be ready to learn and be wrong. The only thing I know is that I know nothing!
Growing up with a Chinese mother, she always emphasized having a healthy lifestyle and diet in order to prevent reliance on prescription medications which is very common in the west. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have started to play a bigger role in my life as I’ve gotten older. Understanding the root cause is just as, if not more important than just being aware of symptoms whether this is in regards to health, relationships or wellness.
The Oh Collective: We hear you talk about personal growth and being more self-aware on your Podcast. What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
Amber: I would tell my 16 year old self to be confident in the things she’s interested in. The things you’ll get made fun of for will be the things that build your career! Keep learning and developing your understanding of the world and continue to be kind to yourself and the people you encounter on your journey, keep having a sense of humor towards life and maintain standards and self-respect if you feel you are being taken advantage of. Keep your expectations low, and your standards high!
The Oh Collective: What type of change do you think can make a lasting impact on girls?
Amber: I think emphasizing the process and journey of self-work in order to live an authentic and joyful life has been really important to me. I felt very at odds with my surroundings when I was growing up and like I had to make more of an effort to fit in in order to be accepted, a part of me always resisted this and I’m glad that I continued pursuing things that interested me instead of compromising who I am to make other people comfortable. Although I like and enjoy nice things, I know that happiness comes from within and through connection with others, it never lasts if it's only placed in material things. Learning to accept who you are while continuing to be open to change and growth is what makes life challenging and exciting. There is also so much empowerment that comes with connecting with other women, I’m so grateful for my girlfriends and the inspiring women I’ve been able to work with. Sometimes I think we’re conditioned as women to compete with each other but when we work together we can create such powerful bonds and accomplish amazing things.
The Oh Collective: What are you most proud of right now?
Amber: Although I’ve been really lucky this year to be stuck in Australia where its very safe and healthy, mentally this has been a very hard year being away from my friends and life in Shanghai. I’m proud of working through the challenges with being away and finding a way to make the most of my time. Being back also reminds me of what I left behind and how much I’ve grown and changed since graduating so I’m proud of what I was able to achieve in the last few years after moving to a new city. I hope I come back to Shanghai a more evolved version of the person I was before I left.
The Oh Collective: What are you most excited about in your life right now?
Amber: I’m excited to continue learning and developing new skills, whether professionally or as hobbies. I’m excited for Australian summer, something I haven’t been able to fully experience the last few years. I love dry summers and the beach! I’m excited to hopefully go back to China sooner rather than later!
The Oh Collective: What are you most grateful for right now?
Amber: Grateful for my physical and mental health, grateful for my family and my friends in all parts of the world. Grateful for music and art and creativity that keeps me sane and inspired.
The Oh Collective: What is something you are certain about in life where others would disagree with you?
Amber: Not everything worth having is going to come easy. There is always opportunity in struggle and discomfort.
The Oh Collective: Can you share a bit with us on what turns you on and what gets you in the mood? How would you suggest for your sisters out there?
Amber: I think feeling confident and getting in the mood go hand in hand. I feel confident when I know I’ve been looking after myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. I desire pleasure rather than feeling like I need it for validation or some other motive. I’m attracted to people who don’t take themselves too seriously so being able to flirt and joke around with someone is a turn on. I think its important for women to get in touch with their bodies and to learn and explore what turns them on as well as to know that there is no shame in pursuing pleasure but to ensure that there is a healthy relationship and not a feeling of pressure from an external source whether that’s societal, from friends or their partners to do things they aren’t 100% comfortable with. Getting confident in not just saying “yes” but also in saying “no”. I think its easy to get discouraged and feel that confidence comes naturally to people but I think confidence can be learned with time and effort and I encourage women and everyone to take the time and effort to develop their confidence and to get to know themselves better. It’s a never ending journey that goes on throughout life but I think it improves the quality and range of experiences you’re able to have!
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