Beyond being a renowned Integrative Wellness & Life Coach, Didi Wong is a writer, yogi, and entrepreneur. In spite of her busy professional schedule, she is known to still make time to eat healthily, exercise, and live life to the fullest. All of this while being a married mother of four. In turn, when conducting Q&A with Didi for Downtown, I could not help but to feel motivated to not just do some planning for 2017, but to start getting those plans in action ASAP.
Didi can be visited online at www.didiwong.com, where she has been known to answer reader questions. She can be followed directly on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Meanwhile, her yoga-inspired lifestyle brand Chakras by didi maintains a home at www.chakrasbydidi.com.
You are known to have roots in New York. Where did you grow up?
Didi Wong: From the age of nine till 18, I grew up in both Hong Kong, a very metropolitan city, and the south of England, the countryside. I was sent to an all-girls boarding school called Sibton Park, and then at 12, I was accepted to a “royal” secondary school called Benenden, where alumnis such as HRH Princess Anne and Hollywood star Rachel Weisz both went. Every Easter, Summer and Christmas, I would fly back to Hong Kong to spend a month or two with my parents and sisters. So if you were to add up the months of the year, it means that I spent four months out of each year in Hong Kong and eight months of the year in Kent, the countryside of the U.K. with the goats, sheep, horses and cows!
Do you still have family based out in New York?
DW: Yes, my husband’s family is based in New York. Some live in the city, some live in Long Island. I am blessed to have a great relationship with all my in-laws.
What led you to leave New York and move out west?
DW: My husband Michael Duvert is an actor and had just finished his gig on Broadway — Tony Award-winning Best Play Of The Year, Take Me Out, in 2003 — and was blessed enough to book a pilot in Los Angeles. At that time, I was also in the acting business and had just booked a co-starring role opposite James Gandolfini in The Sopranos. So when his agent requested for him to move out west, I decided it was a good opportunity for us to take that leap of faith and move here. Fast forward 10+ years, and here we are!
Is there anything you miss about living in New York?
DW: Oh, how I miss New York City. There are so many things I miss about living in New York. First off, New Yorkers are one of a kind, in a good way! The city is full of energy, filled with languages from all over the world. I miss the theater, the live music and the restaurants. I miss the daily walking, the subway — seeing the mixture of different types of people — the hustle, the convenience, the warm Nuts 4 Nuts stands with my favorite honey-roasted almonds, and my favorite part of the city: SoHo. I spent my most memorable years on the streets of Spring, Prince and West Broadway. The smallest apartment I ever lived in was on West Broadway with rats and roaches as my guests, yet it was such a great time of my life.
Do you have a favorite restaurant downtown?
DW: New York City changes by the minute, so I am sure there are many amazing restaurants that have opened since I left in 2006. But I am a classic girl, also a Francophile at heart, so Balthazar is still one of my favorites.
When was the last time you visited Lower Manhattan, and what do you think about the new World Trade and that Lower Manhattan has become the place to live, now being called a dining and shopping destination?
DW: I visited Lower Manhattan this past June and took a whole day to walk around the new World Trade shopping mall area and scanned through all the names engraved by the waterfalls. The mall was only opened for use to walk to the subway station and the shops weren’t even opened yet.
I had visited the 9/11 Museum back in August 2014 and was so fascinated by the artifacts and stories that I learned but didn’t get to finish reading, so I went back with my husband this past June and really spent time re-reading and re-watching all the displays and videos. I was living on West Broadway on 9/11, and I witnessed the terrorist attacks with my own eyes. It means a lot to me to see every item treasured for the museum, and I am so glad to have visited it again. The most intense part of the whole museum to me were the voicemails left by those whose lives were lost on that tragic day. I stood there listening to every message, and it brought tears to my eyes and gave me chills, as I imagine those moments when it was really happening.
It is incredible that they have managed to gather all these for the museum. The area is now so peaceful, and I think it is wonderful that it is now being called a dining and shopping destination.
Your bio notes that you are a mother of four and a business owner, yet still find time to eat healthily, exercise and live life to the fullest. To you, what exactly is living life to the fullest?
DW: Living life to the fullest means you feel completely satisfied with all aspects of your life. It also means finding balance in your life as well as achieving goals that you have had since you were a child.
For me, if I have to break it down, it means fulfilling my duty as a mother — dropping and picking up my children from school most of the time, volunteering at their schools, being present when spending time with them, socializing with the parents of their friends, talking to my children about life or being silly, playing with them and doing the general household responsibilities…
It means continuing to realize my own dreams — keeping my own identity as a woman and an entrepreneur, satisfying my own standards with my beauty and fitness regimen, continuing to be a student of life and letting life take its course…Keeping up with my relationships, making time for my husband and being present during those times, as well as keeping in touch with my friends and family inside and outside of the country.
Did you have an awakening with regards to being productive and fulfilled?
DW: It’s not a myth when people say as you grow older, you gain wisdom. I think towards my mid-30s, I became more and more ambitious and confident in what I have to offer the world. My “awakening” was when I woke up one very early morning in July 2008, after having completed a five-day intensive yoga conference in Hong Kong, I had a calling in my dream and woke up with my first downward facing dog tank top in my mind. From that moment, I was on a journey to change my life. And now, eight years later, I have and continue to do so.
To stay productive, do you rely on any tools or apps? Are you big on scheduling and calendar management?
DW: This question made me smile…I smile because it is the one thing that I MUST do in order to keep my life in order. I am, by no means, one who writes every single little action down to the tee on my phone calendar. That would take too much time. But I do choose to prioritize and put down the important actions that I need to take including work meetings, coaching sessions with my clients, if my children have anything special going on at school, my workout sessions as well as social gatherings. I am traditional in the sense that I still love to put pen to paper though I have evolved and started to use my “Reminders” icon as well as color coordinate on my calendar.
You specialize in helping pregnant women and new moms. What inspired to you to pursue that path? Was there a particular person or event?
DW: I naturally have a soft spot for women who are about to have babies or have just become a new mom. This is because during that time of my life, I felt that I really needed support and that I was about to embark on a brand new chapter of my life and it was scary and exciting at the same time. It requires a lot of efforts in the physical and emotional preparation. This period of time generally brings about a positive outcome and I like to stay in the positive. I always think about how the Maternity Ward is the happiest section in the hospital. No matter what the situation is, bringing a newborn into the world is a miracle. What inspired me was simply my own journey having carried a boy, a girl and twins. With my educational achievements in the Integrative Wellness and Life Coaching, I feel confident and knowledgeable in specializing in this demographic.
As a mother of four, did it get easier for you to become a mother with each child? Or is having four children that much more work?
DW: This is such a great question. The answer is definitely not black and white. I never found being a mother difficult because I did my work in preparing for motherhood, meaning that I was prepared to do whatever it takes to be a mother. Even with the waking up every three hours to feed or dealing with a baby who is sick, I found beauty in all the challenges that I had to face. I was pretty confident in knowing that I can follow my gut and when I feel something wasn’t right, I would act upon it. It was my maternal instincts.
With the three-year gap between my first and my second, having Joliette as a second child was easy. I knew exactly what I needed to do, I knew what it took to be a mother though every baby is different. There were still new things I had to learn like when she would only breastfeed for a few minutes at a time compared to Jean-Pierre, who was a great eater. These were simple aspects to overcome. I remember thinking that I was already ready for a third baby when Joliette was only three months because she was such a good baby. But the true big challenge came when two suddenly became four. Most people who know me, know that I almost never complain but having four children is no joke and not for the weary!
In the past year, life has been tremendously-overwhelming. With my career really taking shape and the need to be the best mother and wife I can possibly be and to spend the quality time that I used to have with my first born with my three other children, I had to rapidly change my expectations of myself. I am constantly-grateful for the fact that I had identical twins and bask in the knowledge that this is so rare and I am so blessed. But it doesn’t take away the fact that my work load almost quadrupled in a matter of months. I still try to balance all aspects of my life and think I have done a good job but there are definitely days when my husband and I just look at each other and laugh and that look communicates everything that we know we have and have to do. We ask ourselves “Did we get punk’d?” often. With all the things I have to do, I concentrate on the positives and on the goodness and really try my best not to be in the victim’s seat. It is not easy but easy would be boring!
What specifically inspired you to get into yoga?
DW: To be honest, I didn’t think about it much when I stepped into my first class. It was a mere curiosity and spontaneous move! My first style that I tried was Bikram Yoga and it suited me because I loved the heat. I had a two-week trial pass and within the first week, I went four times and saw the results in my body, my mind and my intake of water! I liked who I was when I walked out of class and saw the subtleties of patience and kindness I started to develop.
What do you think is the best way for someone who doesn’t practice yoga to start doing it?
DW: Not to think about it too much and just go attend a class without expectations. Understand that you will not see results with taking only one class. Yoga teaches you patience. As with anything that has longevity, it takes time and practice. You are working from the inside out, so it is not something you can see right away. But trust in the process.
What is your favorite benefit of doing yoga?
DW: The Mental. I like the person I am when I do more yoga. I am more patient. I am more tolerant of the daily happenings that could be perceived as negative but I perceive them as positive, I am generally a kinder person and a person who appreciates and am more grateful for life.
Work-wise, what’s coming up for you in the near future? I understand you’ll be back in New York this Spring?
DW: 2017 is going to be a powerful and fruitful work year for me as I started an extremely promising new business with my business partner Stephanie in the world of Special Events. Social Spotlight Events aims to bring social media influencers and brands together to create profitable partnerships while shining light on a cause.
Our first event is in February. We are so pumped. As a life coach, I have also acquired quite a few new clients and working towards helping them to achieve their best life. Yes, I will be flying to New York City in the spring — I am so excited to meet my amazing publicist as well as do some new meet and greets with editors of magazines. Chakras by didi will continue its daily functions and launch some new collections. Jan. 28 begins the year of the Monkey. For the Dragons, like myself, it is supposed to be a big prosperous year! Let’s hope that is true!
When you have a free moment, how do you like to spend your free time?
DW: It is very rare now to have a free moment! So the things that I like to do during those times may sound mundane and boring. But I love to just read my magazines (Psychology Today, Travel and Leisure, US Weekly, Vogue), watch episodes of my favorite TV shows (Homeland, Bloodline, The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills), record my singing on my singing app, browse through Facebook to scan through what my friends are up to, spontaneously call to book a massage, go for a foot massage, go eat whatever I am craving that moment, light a candle, put on some Deva Premal and do some journaling, plan a date night with my husband, go to a kickboxing class, research my next vacation with or without kids, play the piano or do some online shopping. Perhaps this answer is for the question, “What would you do, if you had as much free time as you’d like?”
Finally, Didi, any last words for the kids?
DW: Be kind, be grateful and be yourself.