Meet the Winners of American Spa's 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Back for its second year, American Spa’s Women in Wellness Awards honor the women in our industry for their contributions in making the world a better place. Nominated by their peers and chosen by acclaimed wellness journalists, these women are showing they’re a force with which to be reckoned. Making a profound impact in the industry and beyond, they are leaning in by serving on related industry boards and organizations, discovering untapped opportunities, giving back, and bringing their unique perspective to all that they do. Here, check out the winners of the 2018 Women in Wellness Awards and discover just what makes them the cream of the crop within the industry.

Industry Icon: This award honors a longtime female spa leader at the spa or manufacturer level who sees the potential of our industry and has influenced its growth and success.

WINNER: Kerstin Florian, founder and CEO, Kerstin Florian International

Last year, Kerstin Florian was chosen as a finalist in our Industry Icon category, and this year, she cements her iconic role in the industry. The Swedish-born wellness pioneer knew early on that spa was a lifestyle. As a result, she based her life around the four cornerstones of wellness that would become the foundation for her namesake brand—regular exercise, proper nutrition, peace of mind, and care of face and body. After moving to California in the 1960s, Florian realized that U.S. skincare products lacked natural ingredients and real results beyond moisturizing. Understanding the transformative effects of wellness living, she knew she could create a new concept in skincare by sharing her passion for results-focused, botanically based products and healthy self-care products. After a decade of contributing to the spa industry with innovative design, menu, and management concepts, she opened her own facial studio where she inspired clients with her holistic approach. She launched her brand in 1978, and it can now be found in the world’s leading spas and resorts. Florian has spent her life spreading the message of spa wellness in everything she does and continues to inspire others to do the same.

Owner and Operator: This award honors the female owner of a spa or wellness facility who makes an impact by successfully managing with business acumen, creativity, integrity, and grace.

WINNER: Karina Stewart, cofounder, brand, and concept director, Kamalaya (Koh Samui, Thailand)

Committed to creating an environment where healing and harmonious transformation can flourish, Karina Stewart cofounded Kamalaya Koh Samui with her husband, John Stewart, in 2005. Her wellness journey began in Mexico where she was born and raised until the age of 15. There, she was influenced by her mother’s interest in natural healing and meditation, yoga, and Asian spiritual philosophies. Stewart later attended Princeton University. During that time, she took a year-long sabbatical to immerse herself in a meditation retreat under the same Himalayan yogi master as her future husband. She then attended California’s Yo San University, where she achieved a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine followed by internships in Japan and China. Stewart went on to create a health center in Kathmandu, Nepal, then collaborated on a research project in California with James Dahlgren, M.D., founder of the B Well Centre, and Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., DAOM, founder of the Tao of Wellness, to develop and test medical detoxification protocols combining modern medicine, TCM, and naturopathy. She also designed and directed medical detox programs at the Hall Centre in California. Today, Stewart incorporates her life experiences, training, and study of Asian healing traditions into Kamalaya’s integrated wellness approach, which has garnered numerous fans. “What troubles me the most about the wellness space is the rampant lack of authenticity, the cutting of corners to save a dollar and make a marketing claim, the vast sea of self-appointed unverified experts,” says Chase Polan, founder and CEO of Kypris Beauty. “This is everything that Karina and her beautiful resort are not. Karina is well educated and a passionate and persistent learner who has imbued her entire resort, its wellness programs, and unique experiences with the thoughtfulness, wisdom, and authenticity that wellness seekers deserve.”

Founder of Product or Equipment Company: This award honors the female founder of a wellness-centric product or equipment company who makes an impact by successfully managing with business acumen, creativity, integrity, and grace. 

WINNER: Barbara Close, founder and CEO, Naturopathica 

A lifelong practitioner of the healing arts, Barbara Close promotes a holistic approach to skin health. With a master’s degree in therapeutic herbalism from the Maryland University of Integrative Health and with credentials in esthetics, advanced massage, and aromatherapy, she is a pioneer in the wellness movement. Close founded the Naturopathica East Hampton Healing Arts Center & Spa (NY) in 1995. It was there she began to formulate the Naturopathica line of skin, body, and herbal remedies. Two decades later, she opened Naturopathica Chelsea, a flagship spa in New York City with healing facials and massages, herbal consultations, meditation classes, and workshops that give spa-goers a comprehensive holistic wellness experience. “From the beginning, my goal at Naturopathica has been to educate people about natural health and beauty in new and exciting, but accessible ways,” says Close. “I define beauty not as a pampering or indulgent experience or a quest to achieve an artificial, idealized form of beauty, but as an expression of living an authentic, healthy, and vibrant life that celebrates one’s own unique beauty and spirit.” After 23 years leading the award-winning skincare brand, Close is releasing her third book, The Naturopathica Effect: A Holistic Approach to Skin Care (2018). In it, she reflects on her experience as a product formulator and a spa owner, offering her simple, yet refreshing, approach to skin health. Today, Naturopathica can be found in more than 400 of the world’s leading destination and resort spas.  

Spa Director: The award honors a female spa director who leads a successful team and inspires her staff, her employer, and her clients with savvy business skills as well as courage, integrity, fairness, and creativity. 

WINNER: Jennifer Lynn, senior director of spa and wellness, Waldorf Astoria Spa (Las Vegas)

An impassioned activist for the spa and wellness industry, Jennifer Lynn received a degree in history from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas while also pursuing her passion for health and fitness by obtaining certifications in personal training, health coaching, nutrition, yoga, and meditation. Involved in spa design, brand development, operations, and wellness programming, Lynn has opened and led the spa teams at spas such as  Waldorf Astoria Spa Las Vegas; The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Las VegasSpa Bellagio (Las Vegas); and Qua Baths & Spa (Las Vegas). She has also provided pre-opening business consulting services to The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee (Greensboro, GA), Sasanqua Spa (Kiawah Island, SC), and Poseidon Spa at Mansion on Forsyth Park (Savannah, GA). An active member of the Las Vegas spa community, Lynn is a founding member of the Las Vegas Spa Association and currently serves as the board chairperson. She is also an advocate for sustainable living and chaired the corporate responsibility committee for Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, for six years and currently sits on the Nevada Hotel Lodging Association Sustainability Committee. Lynn recently presented her sustainability initiatives specific to spa operations at the Green Spa Network Congress earlier this year in hopes of inspiring others to adopt similar practices. Lynn is also supporting education for local spa directors to implement new sustainable practices in their operation to help elevate the local desert efforts for water reduction and plastic bottled water reduction. 

Spa ConsultantThis award honors a spa consultant who helps create unique, meaningful, effective, and expertly crafted wellness spaces.

WINNER: Amy McDonald, principal, Under a Tree Consulting

A 30-year veteran of the spa and hospitality industries, Amy McDonald is a pioneer in wellness, sustainability, and transformational programming. She not only created one of the first 100 percent organic spa products and recyclable containers in her quest for sustainable ecological authenticity in the spas and resorts she managed but also played a role in demanding verifiable “greening” of the industry when green-washing threatened the health of both employees and the environment. After serving as spa director at both Miraval Arizona (Tucson, AZ) and The Living Spa at El Monte Sagrado (Taos, NM), she founded Under a Tree Health and Wellness Consulting in 2004, where she has gained recognition for projects such as Chablé Spa (Chocholá, Mexico). She recently embarked on a major collaboration with Watermark Senior Living in Tucson, which serves to fulfill her long-term dream of providing spa and hospitality-level service to the aging population. McDonald also helped establish awareness about hot springs and geothermal water through the Global Wellness Institute, where she has served as chair of the Hot Spring Initiative for the past two years. 

Educator & Trainer: This award honors a woman who is making a difference in education and sharing her knowledge of industry topics, products, equipment, and more.

WINNER: Joanne Berry, founder, Wellness Education Hub

A qualified massage therapist, aromatherapist, esthetician, and nail tech, Joanne Berry is a jack of all trades. Her true passion, however, is as a teacher. Her career path has involved teaching others and supporting brands by offering high-quality education to spa and wellness facilities covering product knowledge, specialized treatments, techniques, and bespoke-designed treatment offerings. She has worked for academies in the U.S., such as the elite Bellus Academy, mentoring students entering the industry and teaching them the skill sets they need to be successful. She recently founded the Wellness Education Hub to fulfill the demand for her style of high-energy, high-quality training across the U.S. and internationally. Dedicated and incredibly passionate about contributing to the industry that she loves, Berry has worked hard to learn all facets of the industry, so she can approach education with a well-balanced and knowledgeable approach. For more than two decades, she has shared her skill set and knowledge with audiences around the world. Engaging people with her enthusiasm, humor, and own love of learning, she inspires those around her to continue advancing their skills.

PhilanthropistThis award honors a woman who is making an altruistic impact on a charity or cause within the spa and wellness industry.

WINNER: Julie Bach, executive director, Wellness for Cancer

When it comes to making a real difference in the way spa-goers who have been touched by cancer are treated, Julie Bach has had a profound impact. As the founder of Wellness for Cancer (WFC), she has changed the way spas approach those suffering from cancer. A patient advocate, she has been instrumental in creating awareness for the role of spas as her organization has trained in more than 30 countries and is expected to expand to 70 by the end of 2019. Bach also manages cancer outreach programs in Colorado. “Julie has gained global recognition as a beacon for cancer awareness and training within the spa and wellness industry,” says Monica Helmstetter, event director of SPATEC NA, and founder of Spas Pushing Limits. “Bach answers many emails from therapists who are either going through cancer treatment themselves or assisting loved ones undergoing treatment. This became the impetus for the ‘Giving Back to Our Own program, in which she is raising funds and identifying properties willing to host retreats to finance the travel needs of selected professionals to spa where they themselves may reconnect and heal. Julie puts her heart and soul into this mission and deserves to be recognized.”

Industry Insider: This award honors a woman known as a powerful connector, serving as an inspirational mentor due to her networking prowess and for connecting like-minded members of the wellness world. 

WINNER: Mia Kyricos, senior vice president, global head of wellbeing, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

A globally respected thought leader in the business of wellness and hospitality, Mia Kyricos is senior vice president, global head of wellbeing for Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Previously, she served as president and CEO of Kyricos & Associates, a boutique advisory firm providing strategic guidance to wellness-driven hospitality, tourism, and healthy lifestyle companies and communities; chief brand officer of Spafinder Wellness; vice president of EXOS, where she oversaw the workplace wellness division and related deployments at Fortune 500 companies; and director of global spa brands at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, where she led the creation of six international spa brands for Le Meridian, Sheraton, St. Regis, Westin, and W hotel brands. “Aside from her impressive career accomplishments over the last two decades, Mia has always been generous with her time to help support, build, and champion industry organizations,” says Julie Bach, founder of Wellness for Cancer. “Few even know that she helped me to develop, brand, and launch WFC when it was only a dream or how she has worked to help define, shape, and give voice to wellness communities and the opportunity for spas within them around the world.”   

Environmental Leader: This award honors a woman in wellness who is making significant strides in protecting, nourishing, and rejuvenating the planet.

WINNER: Bonnie Baker, cofounder, Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts; board president, Green Spa Network

With more than 20 years of experience in the spa and wellness industry and a background in hospitality, ecotourism, and spa development, Bonnie Baker has dedicated her personal and professional life to enhancing the human experience and our connection with the natural world. She has worked with some of the leading spa companies and award-winning properties around the world, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, where she served as corporate spa trainer. She also developed and managed Tabacon Spa and Thermal Springs (Costa Rica). With a passion for sustainability and social responsibility, she has been a strong advocate for environmental education for children. Not surprisingly, Baker is also president of the board of directors of the Green Spa Network and chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Sustainability Initiative. She also founded of Satteva Spa and Wellness Concepts, a Mexican-based consulting and distribution company dedicated to creating and supporting projects that have a green and holistic focus. Baker and her husband also own and operate a biodynamic farm and learning center in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 

PR & Marketing Guru: This award honors a woman in wellness-related public relations and marketing who manages, creates, and shares the message of wellness-related locations, products, equipment, and more. 

WINNER: Darlene Fiske, cofounder, S’Well Public Relations; owner, The Fiske Group Public Relations

Passionate about the wellness industry, Darlene Fiske spent 10 years as the director of sales and marketing for Lake Austin Spa Resort (TX). In 2006, she established The Fiske Group, and award-winning national public relations firm specializing in campaigns for properties such as Ame Spa & Wellness Collective at Turnberry Isle Miami, La Cantera Resort & Spa (San Antonio, TX), and Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz, NY). Recently, she cofounded a new wellness-oriented communications firm, S’Well Public Relations, with public relations professional and fellow Women in Wellness nominee Kim Marshall. A true spa and wellness enthusiast, Fiske has served on the marketing task force for the International Spa Association (ISPA) and is currently on the Women in Leadership committee for the Global Wellness Institute. When The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina (SC) wanted to introduce some wellness offerings, she was able to get eight Schwinn Bikes donated to launch a Bike to Beach Program. After a chance meeting with Louie Schwartzberg, a celebrated cinematographer, director, and producer who captures breathtaking images that celebrate life, she received the licensing rights to share his movies with children as part of the hotel’s Mini Mariners Camp, bringing wellness to children.

Be sure to check out American Spa's October issue for the full story of winners, finalists, and nominees. Stay tuned on American Spa online, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for more about Women in Wellness. Visit for info on the two upcoming 2019 Women in Wellness Leadership Conferences.


Meet the Judges of American Spa's 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Bonnie Baker Named Environmental Leader Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Karina Stewart Named Owner & Operator Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Julie Bach Named Philanthropist Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Amy McDonald Named Spa Consultant Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Jennifer Lynn Named Spa Director Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Joanne Berry Named Educator & Trainer Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Barbara Close Named Brand Founder Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Darlene Fiske Named PR & Marketing Guru Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Mia Kyricos Named Industry Insider Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards

Kerstin Florian Named Industry Icon Winner of 2018 Women in Wellness Awards