Over the past few years, J Balvin (José Álvaro Osorio Balvin) has openly shared his struggles with mental health. It began with a series of videos he first shared on his Instagram Stories in 2020 and in his Amazon Prime documentary, "The Boy From Medellín," where he gets candid about his chemical imbalance and how he manages his anxiety and depression. Balvin has not only been transparent about his own personal journey, but he's also become an advocate for destigmatizing and normalizing conversations around mental health and therapy within Latinx communities. In 2020, he teamed up with Deepak Chopra to launch Renew Yourself: Body, Mind and Spirit, a 21-day, free meditation in both English and Spanish. Earlier this year, he announced that he would be collaborating with NBC News Studios to host a new six-part docuseries titled "Gente Sana" with Exile Content Studio to release on Peacock. So it makes sense that he's now using his platform to help people find the help they need to get better. Last month, the Grammy Award-winning artist launched Oye, the very first bilingual wellness app for Latinx communities with a mission to "enable Latinx and Gen Z youth to learn how to feel better, unlock their creativity, and transform emotions through creative actions."
Balvin, who serves as the app's chief dream officer, was very much inspired by his own experience with overcoming mental health challenges by leaning into creativity. The app, built by Latinx creators in both Spanish and English, provides a wide range of offerings, from emotional check-ins to helpful creative exercises. Also on board and heavily involved in the project is Balvin's manager, Fabio Acosta.
"José learned that it was possible to feel better and become creative again through key wellness practices such as meditation, movement, and connection, alleviating his previously experienced anxiety, depression, and burnout," Acosta tells POPSUGAR. "Further, when he began sharing the story of his mental health struggles and proactive meditation with the world, many of his fans resonated with him. This struck a chord with José, causing him to more fully realize the importance of creating a safe space where people can not only leverage community to feel better but, additionally, use those collective, shared feelings to fuel positive, creative actions — the same way José used his own experiences to inspire the creation of Oye. As his manager, I believe that by incorporating creative wellness practices into his daily life and incorporating these practices in a community sense, as a larger team, we have discovered that they bring emotional and mental balance — so we may act harmoniously with ourselves and with others."
During fall 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, Acosta connected with Isaac Lee of Exile Content to present Balvin with the concept of creating a mental health app. "We then partnered with Mario Chamorro, Oye CEO and cofounder, and Patrick Dowd, Oye COO and cofounder, to build the team and bring brand product vision for Oye to life," Acosta says. "From the onset, it has been amazing to see how all of the partnerships that José has built as a musical and cultural icon come together to support him in his endeavor as well, following him into the world of technology and supporting his vision for wellness impact. Both on an individual and organizational level, people understand the importance of what José is doing — exponentiating the purpose of Oye and multiplying the impact. We are very grateful."
"Unlike other wellness apps that exist on the market today, Oye aims to connect a diverse and global audience, spanning not only generations but cultures as well, available in both English and Spanish."
Balvin wants to bring to the community a deeper understanding of the healing benefits of incorporating creativity into wellness practices, making sure it's available to both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences. "Unlike other wellness apps that exist on the market today, Oye aims to connect a diverse and global audience, spanning not only generations but cultures as well, available in both English and Spanish." Acosta goes on to explain how one of the biggest challenges in emotional and mental wellness is being able to understand one's feelings, process them, and then name them. "While most wellness offerings label these feelings as 'good' or 'bad,' Oye instead gets to the bottom of what they really mean — a sophisticated app tool that helps you identify your deepest core emotions, transforming them into creative actions with tangible and sustainable mind-body practices."
In order to create an app that authentically speaks to Latinxs, it was important to have a good number of folks from the community involved. Oye's team is made up of 90 percent Latinxs, with 80 percent being women. Recent studies from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Latinx communities living in the states have the highest rates of mental illness, with youth reporting suicide attempts at alarming rates, along with the disparities they face in both access and quality of treatment. Oye, which means "listen" in Spanish, aims to increase the amount of positive, healing, and meaningful listening people have in their lives. With Balvin sticking to Spanish in his musical career and not compromising who he is to hit stardom, it was really important to the team that Spanish be championed as a global language. As a result, all of the content is available in both English and Spanish.
"We are aiming to reach Gen Z and millennials that want to feel better and activate their creative potential. We also need creative wellness content that is engaging for Latinx communities; that's why we build it both in Spanish and English," he says. "We want to bring into people's daily lives the energetic boldness of the creative wellness Latin movement. Our Latin cultures are full of vitality, and through Oye, we want people to embody their creative beings with wellness practices full of that power."
Oye also addresses the stigma that still exists in our communities surrounding mental health and therapy. In fact, Acosta explains that one of the app's main goals is to acknowledge that it's normal to have emotional and mental ups and downs. Therefore, it provides mind-body content that also includes ancestral medicine, healing practices, and modalities. Oye also provides education surrounding the anatomy of emotions, such as anger, fear, shame, or sadness, while providing tools on how to utilize them for growth.
"Without mental and emotional wellness, there's no fuel for performance and creativity."
"Without mental and emotional wellness, there's no fuel for performance and creativity. In the music industry, you need to be fully present in order to be able to creatively address unexpected things that arise across your day-to-day," Acosta adds. "That's the core of creative wellness — being fully present, feeling better, and filling the present with new possibilities. I believe that by enhancing the Latinx community to tap into their emotional and mental superpower, we can change the course of our lives, our communities, and our world."
Oye is currently available via the Apple App Store and Google Play, with subscription options starting at $4.99/month. Download by Oct. 31 for a one-month free membership.