WORDS Emily Steckelbruck
PHOTO Mik Lavage
A self-confessed lioness, Toni Childs is an example of self-love made manifest in today’s world. As we settle in for our interview with fresh cups of tea, there is a profound contrast of powerful energy intertwined with an intrinsic soft, feminine essence that surrounds this Emmy winner and three-time Grammy nominated recording artist.
Toni has secured her place in the limelight of the cut-throat performance industry. For over 30 years, she has not only survived as an artist, but thrived. It’s clear this is a woman who knows who she is, and has a message to share with the world.
In 2016, she spent the year travelling to countries all over the globe, noticing no matter where she went, the same thing was everywhere; a global disconnect from self… something that she experienced 20 years ago herself.
Diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 1997 at the height of her fame, she was told by her doctors that it was her lifestyle that caused it. “This disease dismantled my life, it changed the way my life was going,” said Toni. Graves’ disease changed her life as she knew it; she realised she was still living on the dreams of her 16-year-old self. “I had gotten so busy doing, achieving and striving, that I had lost my practice. My practice of daily mindfulness, self-awareness and self-care… lost.” Moving herself off grid onto an organic farm on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii, where she grew her own fruit and vegetables, meant she could lead a sustainable life. Toni took time out, re-planted herself, and learnt how to care for and love herself again.
Within a week of creating space for herself, Toni gained insight that her disease was in fact an accumulation of environmental stressors and proceeded to get two tests done to confirm this: a hair analysis and an allergen analysis. “The thyroid is the first line of defense for our body, so when my results came back that I had high levels of mercury in my body as well as a sulfate and chlorine allergy (found in toothpastes, shampoo and our water), I understood that I needed to look at the cause of my illness – not just take the medications that would treat the symptoms.”
During the times she wasn’t meditating and committing to her self-care practices, was when she wasn’t ‘plugged in’ to herself. “I wasn’t caring for myself and gave my power away to the doctors. I allowed myself to think that I didn’t know what was best for my own body,” she said.
One morning while walking on the beach of Kauai, the ocean was so still and calm, it looked like a lake and dolphins visibly jumped and played in the blue depths. Toni met a woman called ‘Be Love Joy’ from Texas, “She had a honeycomb voice and reminded me of fresh baked cookies!” Toni laughed. “She was so juicy and after we talked for a while, she wanted to know my story.”
After Toni told her tale, ‘Be Love Joy’ said, “Well don’t you know all disease is a lack of self-love? Get in the shower and love yourself!!!
“And so, I did,” Toni said. “I went back to my land and got into the outdoor bamboo shower where I started at my toes and said, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you toes’ and as I worked my way up my body I stopped. I was aware that I had great resistance to saying ‘I love you’. It was really interesting noticing this. If this was a child’s foot, I would have no problem saying, ‘I love you toes, I love you feet’… So I started to speak to myself like a child, and as I made my way up my body, I started sobbing a sob that was so great it had no sound. As I connected into my child-self, I saw the absolute beauty and love that I was.”
From that moment on, Toni decided to consciously love herself. She created her water meditation; a daily practice of going to the beach every day and following that with a shower… a shower of love. “I thanked every single inch of my body and told it, ‘I love you’. Within six months I was off the medication, as I no longer needed it. Through an innocent accident of meeting ‘Be Love Joy’ while walking on the beach, I healed myself without even trying.”
In 2003, when performing in ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to raise money for an abuse centre, she met Eve Ensler, author of the play. “Eve asked me to write an anthem that would inspire people to end violence against women and girls for all time… she said that I couldn’t say no and she wanted it for her documentary, ‘Until the Violence Stops’.”
How do you write an anthem that will affect all women and the world forever more? Toni said it was from asking herself, “What would be the first thing needed to stop violence against women?” The answer was that women needed to stop the violence they inflict on themselves every day (through negative self-talk) and learn to love and accept themselves, seeing themselves for who they really are, love. The song she wrote, ‘Because you’re Beautiful’ went on to win an Emmy that same year.
“My love for music was reborn, I created an album, ‘Keep the Faith’ and started touring again.”
When she toured, she became conscious of the ‘disconnect’. “I don’t want people to lose their juiciness, their power, I want to sing to them what the truth is – that they’re beautiful. As soon as I invited all of the women in the audience to be with me on stage and I sang to them – they lost their composure, becoming softer, being vulnerable and crying.”
Seeing this powerful reaction from her music, Toni wanted to dive deeper, in a safe, intimate place – somewhere where it was safe to be vulnerable. And so Toni Childs’ ‘Because you’re Beautiful’ 3-hour yoga sessions were born.
“In my own effort to heal myself and accept myself, I found a deep need and want for all of us (human beings) to resonate at a higher frequency… my healing journey allowed me to fall organically into yoga teaching and hosting retreats. This is my work now, alongside my music as an artist.”
Constantly growing, learning and evolving; alongside her music, Toni is also a writer, installation artist, environmental activist, yoga teacher and mindfulness teacher.
“Music is all about emotion and delivering deep. Writing is about feeling your way through and soothing yourself.” For Toni, she never felt that her trauma would go away… it’s a part of her and having music and the ability to write had a mysterious way of grounding her, allowing her to reflect, to cope, to heal and to understand that while it isn’t going away, she could change the way she reacted to it. “My music has been a way for me to connect in with myself, and when I am coming from that space, I have been lucky to be guided where to go to next in my life and my career.”
Staying true to her path of evolution and growth, Toni is one of the many key note speakers, performers, and yoga teachers onboard the most exciting health and wellness event of 2017 – ‘The Whole Connection Cruise’. “I’m so excited to be able to be a part of The Whole Connection alongside the host, Paige and other presenters on the ship; it’s the perfect environment to powerfully connect and make profound changes!”
After moments and stories shared over cups of tea, Toni recited one of her poems, ‘A Mirror of Trees On A Calm Clear Lake.’ It was a thought-provoking depiction of everything being calm on the surface, but as you go deeper and feed yourself with your memories and your cellular trauma, it is like an exploding bomb. You feel it, your body feels it, and only after allowing yourself to truly feel it all, can you go deep underneath all of those distractions… to your stillness… to your truth… to understanding who you really are, and knowing that your power lies within you.
See Toni Childs live in an exclusive concert, settle in and connect with yourself in one of her 3-hour ‘Because You’re Beautiful’ yoga sessions, or delve deeper in her onboard ‘Radical Alignment Retreat’ on The Whole Connection Cruise. Book now using the promocode: HOLISTICBLISS at www.thewholeconnection.com.au