BABE #303: IESHAI BAILEY - Founder, Bailey House of Wellness, LLC
Ieshai spends her days studying and talking a lot about sex. Working with individuals and communities to break the stigmas surrounding it, she brings sexual and mental health awareness to the forefront of her career as a sex therapist. Ieshai’s the owner of Bailey House of Wellness, LLC, filmmaker and director behind Foxfire 54 Productions and investor in a sexual enhancement line, Climaxx. As a PHD candidate, board certified sex therapist, licensed mental health counselor and alternative sexuality therapist, it’s clear that Ieshai is both extremely knowledgeable and undeniably passionate about this important line of work.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Current city: Fort Lauderdale + Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: Jacksonville University
Degree: PhD, Clinical Sexology; Master’s in Mental Health; Sex Therapy Certification
Very first job: Camp counselor
Hustle: Private Practice Clinician, Bailey House of Wellness, LLC
Babe you admire and why?
Definitely the matriarchs in my family. I would watch my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and aunts work hard back in the early 80s. I admire them for being able to work, run the household and look fabulous all at the same time!
How do you spend your free time?
I spend most of my free time traveling, quality time with my children and lots of family time.
Favorite fictional female character? Why?
Superwoman, because she embodies strength, grace, resiliency and power.
Current power anthem?
“Closer,” by Goapele.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Pancakes with lots of syrup.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
My mother. She hates coffee, but loves the smell. To be able to sit and chat with her about life is my favorite. She has such a story to tell.
Tell us about your hustle.
Currently, I have so many hustles. My primary role is working in private practice, Bailey House of Wellness, LLC as a sex therapist and mental health counselor. I see clients both in-person and online. I own a production company called Foxfire 54 Productions and I’m currently filming my first documentary as well as working on my sexual enhancement line, Climaxx. My production company focuses on the stories of love, relationships, sex and healing within communities of color and other marginalized communities. I’m also a mentor to up-and-coming sex therapists and [general-focus] therapists, and I homeschool my two little girls.
What does your typical workday look like?
Hectic, but organized! I usually start my day seeing clients, then I go home to cook, homeschool and work on my other projects for my other businesses.
Why sex therapy and gender studies?
That’s a really complicated story. In a nutshell, I wanted to work within those areas which needed the most focus. Sex is still such a taboo subject in our Western culture, and most individuals do not know the difference between gender and sexual orientation. It was important for me, given the platform I have, to destigmatize these areas. My journey began wanting to know “why”: Why certain things happened within my family, why people responded to certain situations the way they did, why some excel and others don't.
How can there be a more inclusive, understanding narrative for the LGBT community?
I think it's getting there, but there is still more work to do. I believe it starts within our own hearts and minds. Having compassion for human beings. Seeing them more than just a “label.” Being authentic both in and out of the office. Basically, practicing what you preach. We can continuously educate ourselves, remove assumptions and remember to have compassion for all human beings.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to try therapy but doesn’t know where to start, feels insecure about reaching out or doesn’t have the financial resources to do so?
First […] take a deep breath. Know you are not alone and there is help for you. Start with online forums where you can ask others and remain anonymous if needed. Research reliable sources such as Psychology Today where you can access therapist bios. Contact your local LGBT resource centers (college campuses, nonprofit organizations) for free or sliding-scale therapy if finances are a concern for you. Or, simply reach out to me! I can help guide you.
How do you feel about the way sexual health is portrayed in media?
The way sex is portrayed is very unrealistic—and, at times, minimal. Take commercials about Viagra or Cialis, for example. Two happy, loving adults traveling, smiling, laughing, as the male puts a pack of Viagra in his suitcase. Or even tampon or pad commercials—again, very unrealistic.
Tell us about Foxfire 54 Productions and Climaxx.
Foxfire 54 Productions was something I created as a teen. My dad’s DJ name is Foxfire. 54 is the year of his birth as well as my mothers’. They love music, movies and anything with the arts. I remember my father taking me to Broadway shows, the movies and making me (with me kicking and screaming) watch old Westerns and black and whites on the television. I remember being more interested in how the movies were made than the movies itself. I came up with the concept of Foxfire 54 Productions because I am a lover of the arts (photography and film, to be exact). The idea is to use my experiences and my platform as a tool to help others share their truth through film. Climaxx was birthed at the age of 17 when I first joined the Marine Corps. I remember getting on the bus leaving home and having the biggest grin ever on my face. I remember saying to myself, “Wow this is almost better than climaxing.”(Although, I was still a newbie to that as well during that time). It was a long bus ride from New York to Paris Island, S.C. I never forgot that feeling. Once I began my training to become a sex therapist, I thought, Wouldn't it be great if I could create a sexual enhancement line to help individuals enhance their sex lives? The name was inevitable. Climaxx (with an extra x): the moment of intense pleasure.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Obtaining my master’s in mental health, I learned the basic strategies and tools to work with individuals. However, it's only the foundation. It was my professional experiences, working face-to-face with clients, where I learned how to apply what I learned in school. As far as practicing sex therapy, obtaining my master’s we were only required to take one class in sexuality. During my sex therapy program and as with transgender care certification, I learned a lot. The major thing that prepared me was me doing my own work: knowing my own stereotypes, biases, understanding my views about my own sexuality and sexual health, learning how to show compassion, how to express empathy, and my favorite: being me; genuine, authentic and person-centered. It prepares you for your worst days and your best days.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
Definitely embarking on obtaining my PhD in clinical sexology. I’m a brown girl from the inner city of Brooklyn, New York. The first to go to college, first Marine and now first (soon to be) doctor. Where I am from, this wasn't supposed to happen (statistically speaking).
How has being a woman of color affected your professional experience?
As a black woman deeply rooted in her community, we are taught you either go to pastor or your grandmother (the matriarchs). We’re told, “What do you have to be depressed about when you have a roof over your head, food in your stomach and clothes on your back?” And my least favorite: “What happens in this house, stays in this house!” Many clients who seek my help want someone who looks like them, someone who—without explaining—can understand what they are going through. I have found as a therapist I can model the importance of removing those generational biases passed down to us, including the biases and narratives that therapy (whether mental health or sex therapy) is a “white people thing.” We suffer loss, we have issues within our marriages, we experience depression, anxiety, PTSD and suffer from infertility problems. It's not a black thing, Hispanic thing, Asian thing or a white thing. It's a human thing. How do we create [change]? We talk about it, over and over again. We—those of use with a platform—educate on the importance of mental and sexual health. We educate in terms which women of color can understand. We normalize the need for it.
Are there any female-specific challenges you face in your work?
Oh gosh, yes. As a sex therapist—and, as I say, someone in the sex industry—this idea that I must be promiscuous, nasty, slutty, dirty, having sex with clients, etc. etc.—that’s always a challenge for me. I get to shut down those ideas with my work.
What does your approach to work-life balance look like?
My approach is work hard, play harder; it’s knowing when to say “I need a break” and knowing when I have to push myself harder. I unplug and unwind. I love travel, learning new languages and about new cultures, spending time with my family and laughter. My number-one outlet.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Don't forget why you started. If you want something, pursue it. Think outside the box and surround yourself with positive, like-minded people. Not “yes” people, but people who are going to hold you accountable.
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