The Hispanic Heritage Month celebration continues and one of our featured tastemakers is Eliana Restrepo, known as Ell, is the host behind The Wellness Pod, a podcast delving into topics surrounding self-care, wellness, mental health, and more while creating a safe space for listeners to explore becoming their best authentic selves one habit at a time. Restrepo is Colombian and a Mental Health Advocate as well as a Licensed Social Worker who is based out of West New York, New Jersey, a municipality based out of the Garden State’s Hudson County which is nestled right across the Manhattan skyline.
Restrepo and I took the time to sit down and speak on her journey in the United States, The Wellness Pod, her Colombian culture, the importance of mental health in Hispanic communities, and so much more.
Tell me about yourself, Ell:
I’m Eliana Restrepo- but I like to be called Ell by whoever meets me. I’m from Jericó, Antioquia. It’s a small town outside Medellin, Colombia. I was born but not raised there, as I migrated to the States at only 3 months old with my mom alone. My grandma lived here with my two uncles. Creating the wellness pod for me was actually something that came out of nowhere but at the most perfect time. I graduated with a Master’s in Social Work and got my license in March of 2020 when the world basically shut down a week after because of the pandemic. I didn’t receive my license until a year later due to this global pandemic. With that said, it was really hard to find a job because a lot of places weren’t hiring or weren’t looking for individuals who had more experience, and the list could go on. I finally got my first big girl job and I was there for about a year and it wasn’t a good fit, as I was feeling really down on myself and not understanding why things weren’t piecing together.
Since I don’t listen to music much unless I am in a social environment, I started to listen to a podcast, which I really enjoyed. After listening to this inspiring podcast, it all just clicked for me, and figured I could do the same for people by hosting my own podcast and providing a mental health aspect to it where I could hold the space for people who want to listen to podcasts catered to that. The name was really difficult to put together because I wanted it to be timeless and perfect. As a result, that is how The Wellness Pod came about and I really love it.
What inspired you and your family to move to the United States and what made you end up in the Hudson County area? Also, how did the states treat you when you first arrived?
My grandma really just wanted a better life for herself and her kids and knew that she would be able to provide that here. We ended up in Hudson County because my grandma had friends who lived in New York, which is where she originally stayed and then got situated in Hudson County. I was extremely young when I got to the States but this is a predominantly Hispanic town so it felt as normal as you could feel. I came when I was 3 months old so this is all I know.
How do you feel you’ve broken barriers in the wellness industry through your podcast, especially in the Hudson county community?
I’m pretty new to the wellness industry. It was very important for me to create a close-knit community, especially with those around me. Mental health is a much more relevant topic nowadays than it was before and I think a lot of people that are in their late 20s and 30s in this era are working through their trauma, trying to understand their unhealthy habits and making changes. With this in mind, sometimes you need reinforcement, which is what I think I can provide for my community through my podcast. With God always in mind first, my goal is to reach a larger audience.
Why is it important addressing mental health in general, especially in Hispanic Communities?
Mental health ties into every part of who we are as well as our physical and spiritual health. Mental health is an extremely important topic, especially in Hispanic communities in order to have those uncomfortable conversations and to get people’s minds to think about why certain situations resonate with them and more. The way we’re raised is a reflection of how our caretakers were raised and if they have a negative experience then that generational curse can continue, unless we become aware of it and put a stop to it. Just because it’s a habit doesn’t mean it’s a healthy one and I strongly believe that taking baby steps and working through your feelings while finding a safe space is key to bettering yourself as a whole.
What are some obstacles you’ve experienced throughout your career as a podcaster and just overall life and how did you overcome these hurdles?
I think I struggled a lot when I was younger not knowing who I was. A lot of situations made me become lost and I wasn’t grounded for a long time. I’m a spiritual person and I believe in God and the work that he’s done for me for the last 5 years. God has really shaped me into the woman I am today…full of grace, love, abundance, and joy.
I still struggle with feelings of imposter syndrome in rooms where I feel I’m not deserving to be in or even when I speak on my podcast I sometimes feel it, however, I work through them rather than ignoring or diving into them.
In your opinion, what are some similarities and differences between Colombian culture here in Hudson county and Colombia?
Hudson County is predominantly Hispanic so the culture shock of going back to Colombia to visit and live there isn’t too vast. However, something I will say about not only Colombia but other Hispanic places I’ve visited, is that life in Hudson County is fast-paced and based a lot on how much we can get done in one day- money plays a huge factor here, which is understandable but in Colombia, people really do enjoy their life and don’t center it all around work, as spending time with family is important along with prioritizing yourself.
Who is one of your Latina inspirations and why and how have they shaped you to be the person you are today?
I guess the cool thing to say would be an artist, but I can’t relate or be inspired by someone I don’t actually know or have spoken to. My inspiration for myself would be my grandma- she came here all by herself illegally putting her life at risk because she wanted more for herself and for us. I can’t imagine being as young as she was, leaving an abusive relationship, and really making a life here. I don’t think she gets the recognition she deserves for being the rock of our family. She’s smart, quick, sassy, extremely loving and giving. I’m so blessed God picked her as my grandma. I was shaped by her in almost every way that I am today, as she’s taught me to love animals the way that I do and to always remain classy like her. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve met inside and out.
What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters, entrepreneurs, especially Latinx and newcomers to the states who strictly immigrate to pursue their dreams to pay the rent as well as to make a difference?
My advice for anyone trying to pursue any type of dream is to have a plan but also to not be so rigid and set on your plan. I’ve learned the hard way to let go and allow God to do his work and sometimes you want to manipulate a situation or you desire a specific outcome and that’s not how it goes. Sometimes you just have to flow and it will all find its way. Another thing would be to prioritize your peace because your goals and to-do lists will always be there and it’s easy to get lost and be so hyper-focused that you forget to take care of yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically.