At AllSwell we believe in the day-changing power of music. We specifically tailor playlists to accompany our mindful writing workshop experiences (digital and in real life) to help inspire participants. In honor of both Mental Health Awareness Month, as well as AAPI Awareness Month, AllSwell founder Laura Rubin asked renowned DJ and surfer Mei Kwok a bunch of questions about how she supports her mental well-being via music. Listen in to the conversation, and check out the custom “feel good” ALLSWELL X MEI KWOK playlist while you’re at it.
First of all, Miss Kwok, do you prefer Mei or May? We’ve seen you referred to as both in print and want to be sure to get it right.
Mei, please! It’s my real name. I went by May all my life because I wasn't living my truth as a true Asian American. I suppressed myself for years to feel accepted. I went back to Mei this year at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mei it is! Thank you for creating a feel-good playlist for the AllSwell community. I’ve road-tested it already and can vouch for it’s mood-boosting abilities. As a DJ, music is clearly a big part of your life. What role does music play in supporting your well-being and, more specifically, your mental state?
Music plays a huge part in my overall wellness. It has an energizing effect, so your mood naturally improves. Listening to music also releases dopamine and serotonin into the brain, helping you relax and stay focused.
I use music to set the mood for my AllSwell writing workshops. How is music a part of your routine for self-care? And how do you recommend our readers/followers replicate these routines in their own lives?
I’m a new driver (I’m from New York City!) and I’ve been really enjoying going for long drives on the PCH blasting my favorite playlists and singing (or screaming) along. It makes me happy, especially driving on such a beautiful, scenic road.
Road trip! Okay, since it’s AAPI awareness month - as well as mental health awareness month - what are some of the organizations and individuals you feel are helping to shift the cultural conversation around these critically important issues? What steps do you want to see the public at-large taking?
My friends Philip Lim, Prabal Gurung and Gia Kuan have really stepped up and used their voice to support the AAPI community. I’m proud to call them acquaintances. There are also so many organizations helping our community, too. For more information check out:
We’re all so digitally connected in the wake of the pandemic. As a public figure, how and when do you take time to unplug?
I have to admit I am totally addicted to my phone and social media because it’s been integrated into my life. When I am forced to be without my phone (i.e. when I surf) it really cleanses me, helps me stay present, enjoy the ocean and the waves.
As a fellow New Yorker turned LA-resident, what does each location represent to you?
New York City will forever be my home, I am so connected to the city, energy and culture, plus my family is there. I crave NYC when I'm away for an extended period of time. LA also feels like home now - like a perma-vacation. The atmosphere and coastline is just breathtaking. Being back in my Venice neighborhood automatically makes me feel zen.
I love being bi-coastal. I recognize not everyone can have this option and I'm grateful for it
I can certainly relate to that! Each place provides something different and special. Speaking of special places, how did you find your way to the ocean? And what role does surfing play in your life?
I grew up in New York City so being by the ocean was never really an option for me. I would read surf magazines/blogs and I idolized surfers and wanted to be one. I decided seven years ago that I’d take a lesson in Rockaway. I ended up loving the experience and kept at it, eventually living in Rockaway seasonally, opening a business there and traveling the world to chase waves.
As someone whose job revolves around collaborating and socializing, how do you create space for solitude? What are some daily or weekly rituals you use to support your mental health / mood?
I always take time for myself whether it's going for a long run (I’m currently training for a half marathon in Malibu this November!), surfing or strength training. Or sometimes I just lay in bed and read or watch Netflix and literally not answer ANYONE.
You are involved in many creative pursuits from your DJ-ing career to your pop-up shop, “The Notion” and other collaborations. What are some practices or tools that you utilize to remain creative while being involved in multiple projects?
Yes, I opened a women's surf & swim pop-up shop in the summer of 2015 in Rockaway Beach. It was such an energizing experience to create something I was passionate about. And women are not as recognized in surf culture so it was great to create a space for female surfers. I received amazing feedback as well as press coverage -- It was featured in Vogue, W Magazine, The New York Times, etc.
I’m a natural manifestor and I love to work on creative projects that I have a personal connection to. When something feels good in my gut, I just go with my instincts. Always trust your intuition.
What / who / where is inspiring you right now?
I am currently in Playa La Saladita in Mexico on a solo surf trip so this ocean and surf break is what's inspiring me!
Listen to the ALLSWELL X MEI KWOK Playlist here.