Grace Ekall, who delights & inspires us with her dance and wellbeing workshop at the Catalyst Bootcamp tells us about her amazing life and career journey so far.
Name: Grace Ekall
Job title: Food entrepreneur & wellness coach
I was born in Cameroon in Central Africa. My dad was a teacher, then businessman – owned his own Timber company. My mum was a nurse but stayed at home, at some point, to look after my 10 siblings and I. French is my first language. I first arrived in the UK in 2000 and could not speak English.
I always loved art in general growing up but dance has always been my first love as far as I can remember and created my very first choreography in year 7 – the piece was performed in front of the whole school with boys and girls across all year groups. In my early and late teen, I danced semi-professionally, was a model for well-known fashion designers from African descendent, entered Cameroon’s beauty pageant..sorry!..:)), was a Cameroonian pop singer on the chart (I couldn’t really sing..:)), and founded my own dance company age 18. I believe in God, I love life, I love people, I love studying, I love cooking, I’m fascinated by nature and all arts. I speak 2 languages fluently and can manage 4 of the 200+ languages from Cameroon my native country.
You have had a varied career – can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I came to the UK invited by the Art Council of England to a dance conference in London to share the Afro-contemporary dance style that I pioneered in Douala Cameroon. London was as “fast” as Paris which I didn’t particularly like. A friend told me about Bristol being artistic and cosmopolitan like London but more like a big village – I liked that. A friend who had connections in Bristol put me in contact with an organisation in Bristol called “Multi A”. Although my English was non-existent then, I was able to start teaching in schools and at a local dance centre which quickly progressed into colleges and a few Universities.
However, in 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. So unfortunately, had to stop dancing because it was a very long road to recovery and I realised very early on that would be the case. Instead I enrolled on a 2-year fashion course at the City of Bristol College, so that I could keep my passion for the arts going, but most of all to show my daughter that I was putting in my very best effort to live. As a single mum, this was very important to me. I was determined to not let go of life. If I was going to go, it wouldn’t have been without my permission. Losing my mum suddenly 2 years before, literally terrified me to imagine my daughter going through the pain I was experiencing.
So, I got very busy helping other women in my position at a hospital setting, I organised fashion shows to raise money for breast cancer charities, I climbed Montkilimajaro and reach the summit (while on treatments) to help raise money to a cancer charity that holds an important place in my heart, I started researching food in relation to health to find out what I could perhaps do to support my body. Career-wise – I did well on my fashion course at college, was offered a place on a Fashion/Textile course at UWE, graduated in 2012 and started my own fashion label.
However in 2016, on the 10-year anniversary of my first diagnosis, I received the devastating news that I, unfortunately, had a recurring of breast cancer. The beast came back with revenge!! I knew then, that I needed to start implementing all the natural, holistic solutions and food good for me to fight and possibly reverse this thing. I then decided to stop my chemo – this is not advisable, because every person and cancer case is different and it’s a very personal decision – but it was a risk I was willing to take after being on chemo for over a year.
I then had a massive opportunity, to have my designs in a brand new concept high-end store in Norway alongside some big designers. However the project fell through 6 months into the big plan after the death to cancer of a lovely man who was the brainchild of the project. After that blow, I decided to slow down and concentrate on things that truly make me happy. Dancing and cooking. So, I created a natural solution system of a daily health routine that helped and still does today.
What do you do now and what’s the best part about your work?
I’m a food entrepreneur, making healthy homemade hot sauce range – Makossa Sauces – and coaching women and girls how to take responsibility for their own health. I run an invite-only free Facebook group “Foods 4 Better Health” Mind, (Positive mindset) Gut, (Nutritious specific foods) Body (Dance & Movements).
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome these?
The various challenges have been; my health, raising a child on my own, losing family members who have died, facing these things alone in a foreign country, being lost in my pain, feeling helpless, hopeless at times regarding my struggle with cancer, anxious and depressed and having to start from scratch, being homeless for 6 months having to live in my friend’s house with her family of 5, then feeling very sad and confused finding myself on benefits and in a Council house.
How I overcame these challenges, was, first of all, accepting that they were real, giving myself permission to not be strong sometimes – allowing myself to acknowledge that the situation was pretty bad and that I couldn’t possibly rely on myself, so turned to the highest power, which for me is Jehovah. I believe that for any serious situation, the foundation for answers and solutions rely on 3 things:
Ones spiritual needs (whatever they might be)
Embracing a positive mindset &
Letting go of any negative emotions such as fear, regret, shame, resentment, etc.
These are the key foundations to have in place before contemplating the obvious things such as healthy eating, holistic solutions, physical activities or even conventional treatment. So, I did the above with all my heart and soul, then I sat down and started writing down what was to become a blueprint of what I do daily in my kitchen, to protect and support my body and health.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My daughter is my inspiration and has always been for every single thing that I’ve achieved/done – artistically or otherwise. In addition, being alive inspires and motivates me. When you’ve been close to losing your life, you have a different perspective on things. Not everything is important, and the distinction of non-important things that I don’t need to waste my time with is crystal clear. I choose my friends carefully, my relationships, even for work are handpicked – I’m only around people that make me happy and I don’t apologise for it. I put Grace’s health and well-being first so that I can give my all to the people I love and that love me. That’s what life is about I believe…knowing your purpose and pursuing your dreams.
What are your Top 3 tips for staying healthy and happy?
Like Minded people make me happy and so is laughter, dancing, good food and good company. My Top 3 tips for staying healthy are:
- Learn to breathe consciously, as this will come in handy when you feel anxious, most of all, if done properly and regularly, it massages your vital organs, helps to oxygenate your body and brain, as well as kicking the toxins out of your system. Appreciate that you’ve been granted the ability to breathe. It’s a free gift that sustains you. Be grateful. If you are, you will be happier and a positive mindset will be part of who you are, not something that you put on..:))
- Overdose on nutrients – go for 9 servings of fruits and veg it’s no longer 5, (it hasn’t been for years) and remember that your “fresh” vegetables are not fresh unless you’re buying from your local farmers market or an independent store or go for frozen veg because they have more nutrients still, supplement well, and cook your own meals as much as possible.
- Keep active, move – move – move. You don’t like the gym? me neither! Just Dance.
You can connect with Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.tastemakossa.co.uk/ www.instagram.com/tastemakossa/
To book a ticket for our 2020 Catalyst Bootcamp and Mentoring programme contact email@example.com https://catalysechange.com/portfolio-item/catalyst-programme-events-outreach/