Today we’d like to introduce you to June “Jumakae” Kaewsith.
June, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 2015, I was working as a rape crisis hotline counselor and community organizer to open up the conversation about domestic violence prevention in Long Beach, CA. Being someone who had experienced sexual abuse at an early age and knew very well how taboo this topic is amongst Asian Americans, it became natural for others to open up their story to me.
I have always been an artist. From my childhood years of voraciously drawing unicorns to studying visual and theater arts in college, creativity by any means was my way of coping with trauma. Because I didn’t see many faces that looked like me on television, the art of spoken word opened a portal to me of what it was like to write my own stories and inspire others to do the same through workshops, artist residencies, and open mics in twenties. While I was celebrated for speaking my truth on stages, it wasn’t as celebrated in my professional work environment.
At 29 years old (at the peak of my Saturn Return!), I was released from my full-time job for being too outspoken without a chance to say goodbye to anyone. The last words to roll from the tongue of my boss was, “You’re a free-spirit. Go and be free now.” I didn’t know it at the time, but it became the biggest blessing that gave me permission to explore what it could look like to empower other survivors and women of color beyond the nonprofit industrial complex.
While I was keen to get immediately back into action, my body had different plans for me! I became physically ill less than two weeks later and cried tears of pain everytime I went to the bathroom. The doctors ran tests on me in the emergency room – and to all of our surprise, nothing came up. Within a week, my symptoms naturally dissipated.
I later learned from my yoga teacher training that this was the manifestation of my root and sacral chakra being disrupted.
Feeling the need to no longer sulk in my apartment, I found myself at a pole dancing studio to try a new exercise regimen – and was accepted as a work-study intern on my first day of class! Pole dancing empowered me to reclaim my sensuality as I moved my hips unapologetically. Shortly afterward, I received my certification as a transformational life coach, gaining the tools to move clients beyond crisis into clarity and action. And I went back to Thailand to study with an indigenous midwife so that I could learn how it is my ancestors healed one another through plant medicine and physical touch.
If trauma is intergenerational, so is resiliency.
I later learned that birth midwifery was also within my family lineage – but my purpose was to midwife something different. How is it I could support others in the rebirth of their own lives? Whether it be through the arts or coaching, it is my calling to cultivate that seed waiting to sprout that is already within each of us. Since then, my journey has led me to open up my own consulting business where I am called to facilitate wellness workshops for non-profit organizations in need of self-care; integrate the arts and social justice in youth curricula; women’s healing circles; hosting/moderating panel discussions around trauma and healing; speaking engagements for high schools, college campuses, and organizations on culture, identity, inclusion and equity; and coaching programs for groups and individuals in need of a shift in their own narrative so that their story can serve as medicine for others’ healing.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
If anybody tells you that the road to entrepreneurship is smooth, I’d love to know what they did differently! Despite the challenges of learning basic things like how to obtain your DBA (doing business as), opening a business account, creating contracts, finding clients, collecting money, awkwardly chasing after unpaid invoices, marketing, and the other technical aspects that can easily revert someone back into a job (which one of my mentors will lovingly call an “investor”), the biggest struggle by far has been overcoming my sense of self-worth. I was used to getting paid $20 an hour at the most when I was working for others and I never had to look at my checks; they were directly deposited into my bank and guaranteed to arrive! Being your own boss also means being your own accountant (at least in the beginning) and getting confident with how you set your rates beyond an hourly structure; I did not take into consideration how much time and money I’ve spent on myself to be able to gain the skills to run a business.
My boundaries were complete shit in the beginning, and I realized it was because I was never taught them. Additionally, one can only imagine that being a first responder to crisis and having a background in customer service from other jobs meant that I was trained to pick up all phone calls within three rings or would get penalized for it. I would sometimes get phone calls at 2AM from someone who needed intervention, and I had to recognize that I am not a licensed therapist nor am I available 24/7 anymore. Considering I didn’t have a team to process with like before, I knew I needed additional support! So I took a big leap and began investing in coaches of my own to hold me accountable in creating better structures and boundaries. What I also love about having coaches and participating in various masterminds is being in community with other like-minded entrepreneurs as we grow (and f*ck up) together.
This was vastly different from my earlier conditioning, where I felt like martyrdom was a requirement to advance any movement or that money was evil and therefore should be avoided. I now praise my checks and do a little dance everytime I receive a paid client who respects my rates because I recognize it’s an energetic exchange that is a loving commitment between the both of us as we elevate each other toward our elder goals!
My mom still asks me when I’m going to go back to get a regular, stable job with a 401(k). While it used to trigger me, I know now that it comes from a place of love and concern because of her own insecurities of not having stable employment when she first immigrated here. But her friends who have participated in my workshops have convinced her that I’m a badass bodhisattva (not in those words haha!) and to keep going.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I help changemakers and aspiring entrepreneurs get stories out of their body and into the world so that their medicine can reach the masses through transformational life coaching and public speaking mentorship. While I have an extensive background in theater, it brings me joy to see how I can translate these skills to non-actors so that they can tell better stories! As a result of my work, people are comfortable in their body, confident in their speaking, and have the clarity to further their message. My clients include change agents who have gone on to tell their stories on large stages in front of thousands of people, entrepreneurs pitching project proposals and product launches to board rooms for a handful of investors and funders, and individuals or artists seeking confidence in their ability to speak authentically and share their work publicly. Sometimes, I’m hired simply for life purpose coaching for those less interested in speaking.
I currently serve as an assistant speaking coach in Lisa Nichols’ program “Ignite Your Speaking,” and as an assistant business coach in Shereen Sun’s Muse Business Academy educating clients on how to create their signature talks and workshops. Through my additional practice as a wellness consultant, I am a 200 hr registered yoga teacher trained to work with survivors of sexual trauma through Peace Over Violence and a transformational life coach with a professional certification from Leadership That Works. This has opened doors for me to facilitate retreats and storytelling workshops for organizations and individuals to strengthen team relationships and wellness culture from a social justice and trauma-informed lens.
What sets me apart from other coaches in my field is my passion to empower women and people of color to tell their stories by first beginning with the stories we’ve told ourselves as a result of internalized oppression. With my background in energy work, it’s become easier for me to spot how others are still carrying trauma in different points of their body, and how storytelling requires the release of stagnation of these areas to get to a place where we can unapologetically speak our truth and take up space where we’ve been made to feel silenced. For example, most people who have a challenging time opening up their throat chakra is an indicator that their sacral chakra is in need of healing and so we’d focus on that.
I’m most proud of seeing my clients shift their mindset and body from a place of pain and suffering into an expansion of possibilities and pleasure. While many people come to me to learn “confidence”, I’ve come to learn that all success must start with the relationship we have with ourselves, and to center joy is a revolutionary act.
Because of this, I’ve created a free online series called “Your Story Medicine: How to Speak Your Truth, Lead Heart Centered Workshops, and Become the Author of Your Life” where I interview dozens of experts as we discuss the intersections of wellness, social justice, and healing. It runs from August 6 – August 17, 2019! Sign up for access here: www.yourstorymedicine.com
What were you like growing up?
As a kid, I had big coke bottle glasses and looked like Mowgli from the Jungle Book and was a hardcore tomboy! I think a lot of this stems from the my childhood trauma and challenges I had with other girls on the playground, so becoming one of the boys is how I made friends easier. Aside from the arts, I enjoyed climbing trees and was the strange kid who spoke to animals and plants. (My younger self would be surprised at how outspoken I’ve become as an adult, and how I’m a huge advocate for sister circles. Most of my clients today are women of color as we work to heal our relationship with other women.) My summers were spent back in my mother’s village in Southern Thailand, and despite being raised by Buddhist parents they sent me to a local Christian school in my elementary years because of their extended hours of childcare. The bullying got so severe that my parents pulled me out, and when I attended my first public school in the sixth grade I remember feeling extremely fascinated by the diversity of spiritual practices and ethnic backgrounds of my classmates. It has sparked my curiosity and passion to be a bridge-builder across identities ever since.
Overall, I had a wonderful childhood in Cerritos, CA and was mistaken for Filipino all the time; I’m pretty sure this is a common struggle for all Southeast Asians. When I got into rapping in my late teens, I was invited to join a Filipino American hip hop crew and even opened up for KRS-One! The arts has continuously saved me, and is where I’ve always been able to communicate my feelings beyond a conversation. It’s been quite the journey to get to where I am, but I’m proud of who I am becoming! There are other parts of my childhood that I talk more about on my website which I won’t go into detail here; I find that a large part of healing is becoming the elders we wish we had when we were younger.
Today, I proudly call Long Beach, CA (originally Chumash and Tongva territory) my home and wouldn’t change a thing – other than the rent increases.
- Sign up for my free online telesummit – “Your Story Medicine: How to Speak Your Truth, Lead Heart Centered Workshops, and Become the Author of Your Life” taking place for free on August 6 – August 17, 2019! This is an opportunity to dive into the intersections of healing, social justice, and entrepreneurship as we center the narratives of women and people of color. www.yourstorymedicine.
- Free 20 minute discovery call: www.jumakae.as.me/intro
- Website: www.jumakae.com
- Phone: jumakae.as.me/intro
- Email: hello@
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/
Twin Flame Photography: www.twinflamephoto.com, The Well Media: thewell.media