Janelle Brunton-Rennie is well-known in New Zealand—and not just for her PR agency, Media Jam. She is a publicist on a mission to promote businesses with a social and ethical conscience, all the while inspiring those who are keen to live consciously.
Despite her many highs, with accolades for her publicity prowess and celebrations in her “former life” as a triathlete and bodybuilder, there have also been considerable lows: Janelle has navigated her way through hyperthyroidism, adrenal fatigue and bodybuilding breast implant illness. Another devastating blow came shortly after the birth of her first baby, Sage, in 2017—husband Kurt was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, turning their new parenting celebrations into panic. It was now all about survival.
With Kurt’s conventional cancer treatment over, and the road to full recovery looking promising, Janelle is settling into life post-flight or fright. With that, she says, has come a rebirth: a new woman who has a mission even greater than before. Beyond sharing her family’s journey as a way of giving hope to others, she recently launched @theconsciouslifeguide on Instagram and continues to work with businesses and entrepreneurs who give back.
Janelle Brunton-Rennie and I talked about where she has been and where to from here…
How did your natural beauty and wellness journey begin?
I ended up working and training (marathon, triathlon, bodybuilding) far too hard for far too long and as a result I burnt out. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and adrenal fatigue and all of a sudden I had to learn to make friends with my body, rather than beat it up and push it so hard.
I learnt how to meditate and practice mindfulness and I also started reading a huge number of books on wellness and as a result I quickly learnt how important what we put into and onto our body is. I’m embarrassed to say that when I was body building I lived on a low calorie diet of Coke Zero (*shudder*), black coffee, chicken breast, egg whites and low carb vegetables—six times a day! I prioritised being ‘lean’ over being healthy and it really took it’s toll.
Now I’m a passionate whole-foods, plant based vegan and haven’t touched a Coke product in five years or more! I changed out all the chemicals in our household… embraced brands like Eco Store and Earthwise and food wise brands like Ceres Organics and Chantals Organics among others, and I also made the switch to non toxic, natural, organic and of course cruelty free beauty brands.
I learnt that our skin absorbs whatever we put on to it (think about how a nicotine patch works). It’s our largest organ and we have to ensure we’re keeping all those nasty chemicals off it, and thus out of our system. Going down the toxin and chemical-free path is a bit like going down the rabbit hole, you can never come back up the same person once you start to educate yourself and learn about dangers of the constant toxic load we are exposing our selves and our families to every day!
Why is it so important to you?
If we don’t have our health, what do we have? In my own journey back to health I became SUPER passionate about eco-conscious, toxin free living, and this has only been amplified since I became a mum late last year, and since my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer early this year.
What has become clear to me is that modern lifestyles are making people sick, very sick, and we have to change the way we are living, and reduce the toxic load on our systems. This starts with the way we eat, the chemicals we use in our household and on our skin/nails and hair and even our WIFI and our cellphones!
How tough is it to share what you’ve been through and what you’re going through?
It was tough, super tough. When you share something like this with the world, you want to make sure you honour it in the right way. The reality is that I’m not the first new mum to be faced with the challenges we have had this year when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and unfortunately I won’t be the last.
The last five months have been the most challenging of our lives. I genuinely almost lost my seemingly strong, healthy, fit and indestructible husband to cancer—and it was terrifying. He was the strong pillar propping me up whist I was trying to run a business with a newborn baby! I wanted to share our journey in a very real and honest way, but also in a positive way. There are so many ups and downs—some huge lows—and if I wasn’t honest about those, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else who had walked this path before us, or will walk it after us.
I have had to balance running a company, with being a mum to a small baby (Sage was just four months old when Kurt was diagnosed) and with helping Kurt and being there for him as much as possible—and it’s been one almighty juggle. It’s seen my adrenal fatique threaten a small come back too, and I’m just so grateful that I had already learnt how to look after myself and my own health as the last five months would have taken an even greater toll had I not had the tools already.
Beauty is on the inside, it radiates out of somebody and has a certain glow to it that no beauty product can replicate.
We chose to share our journey so that we might be able to help anyone else who has to go through the same thing that we did. We are very, very lucky in that Kurt’s cancer turned out to be treatable and with a good prognosis and he’s making a good recovery. We are also now very grateful for the challenges that we have navigated this year together – it’s changed the very fabric of who we are at what feels like a cellular level.
What is your take on authentic wellness and beauty?
Beauty is on the inside, it radiates out of somebody and has a certain glow to it that no beauty product can replicate. To me beauty is an an energy, a frequency even, it’s kindness, it’s love, it’s authenticity and a genuine want to help and inspire people from a very special place deep within your soul.
Authentic beauty and wellness is understanding that what you feed your body and your mind matters. It’s not a miracle ‘anti-ageing’ cream—it’s empowering women to step into their true selves, and follow their true calling, from a place of true connectivity, inspiration and love.
How has your view of beauty changed over the years?
My view of beauty used to be the perfect body, and the perfect hair, most probably influenced by toys like Barbie, and TV shows like Baywatch when I was growing up. We’re so used to being told how we should look, and what society considers beautiful and it places huge pressure on women, and increasingly on men too to look a certain way. But I think this is changing, I think women are standing up and saying no. They’re pushing back against brands who tell us that ageing is a bad thing (it’s an honour and a privilege to grow older), and we’re supporting and embracing brands who make us feel good about ourselves, rather than not thin/tall/blonde/booby/pretty/taught enough.
Consumers are also putting huge pressure on companies to go cruelty free, and to even take more responsible for the effect their product and packaging has on our environment (the ban the microbead campaign is a great example of this).
Why did you decide to focus on conscious-minded businesses in your own PR business?
Once I had learnt how to manage my own health and become well again I decided I could never work with brands who were contributing to poor health in others. I made a conscious decision to only work with brands and people who are doing good in the world, and are trying to help people and our planet and ultimately be a force for good and for much needed change. Brands who empower women to feel their best, rather than make them feel inadequate for not looking a certain way, and certainly not brands who test on animals.
I’m also a passionate supporter of NZ made and ethically produced, sustainable fashion brands – you can’t empower women in one country by dis-empowering them in another (fast fashion is not okay).
What is your daily routine and what do you incorporate into it to try and stay in balance when you’ve got so much going on?
When I was pregnant I went SUPER basic with my skincare and regime and pretty much just used facial oils, coconut oil and a natural solid deodorant bar. Earlier this year, with the huge increase in stress, worry, anxiety, sleepless nights and a small baby I looked in the mirror and decided I needed to ‘up the anti’ so to speak and give my skin a little more to help it cope as the stress and broken sleep was really starting to take it’s toll.
At the moment I use Ultraceuticals Hydrating Milk Cleanser, B2 Hydrating Serum and Rich Moisturiser Cream in the morning, and I add in their Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum in the evening too. It’s a paraben-free and cruelty free cosmeceutical brand and I’ve honestly seen a big change in my skin since I stepped up my regime earlier this year.
Makeup-wise my skin is looking great and I try and go make up free now whenever possible. That being said I love Osmosis Pressed Base, Bare Minerals Bronzer, Tailor Skincare’s Glow Pot, and although I’m also a huge Inika Organic fan, I am LOVING my new Iris and Indigo Levitate Mascara and I also pop on Karen Murrell Blushing Rose Lipstick when ever I’m headed out the door.
I wash my hair once a week and use Ethique Heali Kiwi Shampoo and their Wonderbar Solid Conditioner Bar which are amazing—so great for a sensitive, dry scalp like mine. I also LOVE Ethiques Solid Deodorant Bar.
Weekly I use Plantae Organic Skincare’s Brightening Camelia Face Polish. I also have about 20 Hurraw Lip Balms floating around the house, car and various hand bags so there is one within arms reach at all times.
I will change my beauty and skincare regime depending on how my skin is looking and feeling, and how much stress I’ve got going on. Sometimes there will be periods where a good facial oil will feel like that’s enough, and other times, like now I feel like I need a little more help – and that’s okay, it’s important to honour your own changing needs as they arise.
What are your all-time favourite beauty products and beauty foods?
Water, water water. We don’t drink or cook with tap water—no one needs all that added chlorine and fluoride. Instead we have water delivered. I understand this is a luxury, but it’s something we have prioritised since Kurt’s diagnosis.
Avocados and coconut oil are a staple in our house. Our baby Sage LOVES avocado!
Oils. I love body oils, and I love mindfully applying a body oil each day. I believe it’s really important to take the time to consciously appreciate our glorious body for truly how remarkable it really is! I spent years berating my body, and now I spend time everyday honouring her, and telling her how much I love and appreciate her. She grew us our beautiful baby girl after all.
People who inspire you?
Sunniva Holt. I thoroughly respect and admire Sunniva’s authentic stance on making a difference in the world and helping to encourage women step into their true selves.
I’ve also developed a massive lady crush on the gorgeous Jessie Gurunathan, her ethos and integrity is nothing short of inspirational and she truly glows from in the inside out!
And Makaia Carr – that women is nothing short of inspiration personified!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m genuinely so excited by the conscious beauty and wellbeing shift that is going on around us. I love seeing the rise of sites like www.ohnatural.co.nz and their amazing product offering. I’m so encouraged by women rising up and demanding more transparent practices, ethically produced products and being so much more aware of whats in their beauty products and what they’re putting on to their skin. Something really special is going on, and I’m truly honoured to be a a part of it.