Thalia Randolph | all images shot by John Marquez | story penned by Brad Weté

“A star is born.”

That’s what Thalia Randolph’s parents declared in local newspaper The Toronto Star when their daughter arrived in Canada. Expectations clearly were high for their first child, which makes sense. Her father George C. Randolph’s family assisted in founding the oldest Baptist church in Virginia, played tennis at Hampton University, then transitioned into dance, becoming the principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. Thalia’s mother Lauren Brett was a world Rhythmic Gymnastics athlete who eventually coached Canada’s national team. And together they founded a school, The Randolph College for the Performing Arts. Quite literally, the Randolphs never stood still. 

So when Thalia came along, of course, they put her on the path to not only match their achievements but surpass them. By age four she was in dance class. Then came swimming, figure skating, Tae Kwon Do lesson, and more. “Every hour was planned,” Randolph says as we sit at INDI’s Beverly Hills office, referring to her regimented teenage years. “My parents didn’t want us [she has a younger brother] just hanging out.”

By her junior and senior years in high school at the North Toronto Collegiate Institute, though, all the extracurricular activities and responsibilities proved to be more harmful than good. “I got ulcers. The doctor was like, ‘It’s stress.’ There was a lot of pressure. I was up super late trying to do school work after all of my commitments. I was really pushed to the edge at a really young age.” She recalls one day that cemented the need for balance in her life.

“I was supposed to perform in a musical, Fame. But I was so sick that I couldn’t move or get out of bed. That’s what got me into looking for ways to manage stress.” She scaled things back, which helped immediately. But bigger decisions were on the horizon as she neared graduation. Would Thalia become the triple-threat entertainer she was “groomed” to be or a woman with the life of her choosing? “My parents’ intentions were good,” she says. “But once I hit senior year, I wanted to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do. The only thing I knew was performing arts. I never explored anything outside of it.”

She took a trip to New York City to check out a few fashion school programs but almost begrudgingly still landed at her parents’ college. After graduating from Randolph College, she worked at the school, managing the children’s program while modeling on the side. She also did yoga, a practice her mother and grandmother both enjoyed. Thalia always had an interest in the healing arts and great respect for those who worked in the spiritual space but was only aware of those types of jobs at their most extreme–nuns, pastors, monks. “I didn’t know you could pursue this as a full lifestyle.”

A bit frustrated with stagnation in Toronto, she felt an itch to leave. Thalia had already studied abroad in Spain, New Zealand, and Australia, and seen many other countries because her family loved to travel. Though she’d never been to Africa. “I wanted to go to a place that had the ocean and the desert,” she says. “Those are the two places I’m most drawn to. She Googled “Cape Town” and on a mission to find her purpose, she moved to South Africa in 2012. “It checked off the boxes for me so I rented a guest house there.” On arrival, signs that she’d made a great decision appeared almost immediately.

At the airport, just before stamping her passport, a South African airport agent asked her how long she intended to stay there. Thalia shrugged her shoulders, unsure. She had purchased a one-way ticket there with no concrete return date in mind. Maybe when her money ran out of money, she thought. “It felt like one of those magical moments in the movies,” she remembers. “He just said, ‘You’re going to like it here.’ And he stamped my passport for six months.”

Once she settled in, Thalia’s self-guided retreat began. Her daily routine consisted of reading self-help books, practicing yoga, swimming, and cooking. Eventually, she made friends with locals and found her footing. “I feel like I had my awakening there,” she says of her time in Cape Town. Every evening she’d watch the sunset and meditate. It was on one such night that what she describes as “getting a download of information. I could feel it.” A unique type of abundance, a reasonless joy consumed her, along with the freedom of knowing that she was always… enough. Listen to her describe what hit her here:

“I used to think that something would have to happen for me to be happy,” she tells me. “I attached happiness to things outside of myself. I started to reclaim my own power by realizing that these qualities that anyone might seek outside of themselves, they’re already in you. You don’t need anything. Once I realized that with every cell in my body–that I’m enough and I don’t have to do anything to prove my worthiness… I don’t have to accomplish something… I thought I had to become famous. Or become a top athlete, something extraordinary in order to prove my life mattered. But none of that matters. Happiness is an internal thing.”

At that moment, her purpose crystallized: “I wanted to help people realize this.”

She returned to Toronto briefly, sharing her new goals with her family and friends, some jazzed that she found herself during her time away. Others, like her concerned parents, wanted to know how she’d support herself financially. She leaned into yoga, moving to Arizona to start teacher training at Urban Yoga in Phoenix. From there, one certification led to another. She entered the Spiritual Studies program at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, then studied to become a Meditation teacher at A Mindfulness Life Center in Scottsdale. That’s where she became a Reverend and picked up Reiki, a Japanese energy healing practice. “Every time I was done,” she says through a grin, “I’d go to the next.”

With a varied skillset in her bag, she moved to Los Angeles to put her knowledge to use. Up until Spring 2020, she was a thriving multidisciplinary healer, holding classes at popular studios all over the city and being featured on channels like CNN, in addition to bringing serenity to arguably the most famous TV family ever on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Still, like many of us, her life as she knew it came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and forced us inside, alone.

“I’m enough and I don’t have to do anything to prove my worthiness.”

The studio she was based at the time, of course, shut down, pivoting to online classes. Thalia was tasked with managing that administrative transition, managing her peers with seemingly no appreciation from her bosses. “There was no time to take a breather or a beat,” she says. “I got very stressed. It wasn’t sustainable for me.” Unhappy and overwhelmed, she quit.

Randolph and her boyfriend skipped town for a bit, heading to Sedona, Arizona to recharge. A few days in, the George Floyd tragedy spurred a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests. As she watched the country hurt on TV, listened to friends, and looked within, clarity came and provided a new perspective.

“A lot of companies made performative gestures as if they support equality,” Randolph says. “But they truly aren’t about what they say they are. That was frustrating to see. All those protests encouraged me to only do business with people and companies that align with my values and ethos. I can’t work with owners and companies that are problematic.”

Back then, just about everyone needed a bit of soothing, a lift. Earlier in our chat, Thalia mentioned the Buddhist term “Interbeing.” It’s basically the idea that we’re all connected. Plants, water, bugs, animals, and humans alike. We’re all one. She believes that deeply. So it’s easy to imagine her powering up during the summer of 2020, one of the most unnerving series of months in the lives of many (the pandemic, social unrest, and a divisive presidential election to come), and wanting to help guide as many people as possible to the other side of the muck, to peace and light.

And she did just that, this time independently. She launched her website. “I had to create the offerings I wanted to see out there,” she says. She began hosting her own online classes from her home in West Adams. On Instagram’s IG Live feature, she held sound bath sessions. By August she was hosting outdoor sessions where masked and appropriately distanced participants did yoga and meditated.

Thalia’s now a proper business owner who laughs at the resistance she once had about going alone. The wellness sect is a booming, billion-dollar industry, but some of its most vital players don’t see much of the action.“Teachers are always the least paid,” Randolph says. “The ones who are the faces of these practices are at the bottom. The products are at the top. So most teachers feel like they have to be aligned with a brand in order to make money and be seen as ‘legit.’ You have to have a good answer when you’re asked, ‘Who do you teach for?’ That was the thought. But all of the teachers who dared to go out on their own during that window are thriving.” Count her among them.

In times of stress, Thalia suggests that everyone meditate. The news, deadlines, traffic… They can knock even the “strongest” person off balance. Meditation, she says “will transform your life. If you do it at least once a day, there’s no way around it. It will help. We all need to take time to listen to ourselves. You can do it silently. You can do guided ones. Be still for any length of time you have and do it twice a day, anytime, anyplace, You don’t need anything. Sit and find your breath.” It’s through quiet moments with herself that she realized why she didn’t pursue the entrepreneurial route sooner.

“A part of it was not believing in myself enough,” she reveals. “[I didn’t think] that people would come to me directly. If anything, people want to support the individual. They don’t really care about supporting the business.”

Sometimes she hears from old friends who knew her when the success she’s having now was just a far-fetched idea. In hindsight, they appreciate how Thalia figured out what she wanted to do and only did the things that aligned with that path instead of the things society thought should be doing.

Back in high school, she recalls feeling like an “outcast, the lone wolf.” It’s that spirit that propelled her to be a leader in the wellness space, one who recently signed as a model with Natural Model Management and won’t ever sell herself short again–not personally or professionally. As we wrap, I ask her if she plans to ever work as a proper staffer for another studio again.

“I might do a partnership,” she answers, “or a one-off event. But there’s no reason currently to do that anymore. Once I made the decision to move on my terms, things became beautiful.“

Story penned by Brad Weté

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