The phrase “only in New York” can sound cliché—surely other cities have aggressive squirrels and quirky street performers and tucked away speakeasy bars—but sometimes it really is the most apt descriptor. Case in point: Where else would a celebrated birth and wellness expert fill her spare time with supervising her 13-year-old DJ prodigy son as he spins for the likes of Ralph Lauren and the Clinton Foundation?
The dynamic of Latham Thomas and her son, Fulano Librizzi, is undeniably shaped by the city’s unique environment and opportunities. Thomas, a native of Oakland, CA, is the force of positive energy behind Mama Glow—a holistic women’s lifestyle brand offering birth, yoga, and nutrition services—while her son, who goes by DJ Fulano, is a sought-after DJ (and has been since the age of 5) with a signature look that blends preppy panache with city-kid cool.
But glamorous as they may appear, they’re not immune to the classic struggles between parents and their tweens.
“Hey! Fulano, get off the phone and go talk to the people here,” Thomas implores her dapper son on the afternoon of our photo shoot.
“You get off the phone,” he responds, following up with a question about what he’s looking at on said phone. “Mom, can I buy a sweater?” Thomas raises a fiercely shaped eyebrow and tells him he has to earn it.
It’s an exchange that any tween parent can relate to. Fulano, with his debonair bowties and head of fluffy curls, may exude cache beyond his 13 years, but he still needs his mom’s permission to shop online and to get screen time to play Pokemon GO [Editor’s note: At press time, Fulano was at level 22 and his best Pokemon was a Snorlax]. “He’s not allowed on at home so that’s why he’s like this right now,” Thomas explains, jokingly likening her son’s chirping to that of parakeet’s.
The duo’s playful relationship makes perfect sense given Thomas’ personal and professional ethos. She’s vocal about the fact that celebration and joy are central in the work she does and also about the fact that, in her son’s career (in which she plays the role of roadie and liaison between clients), fun comes first.
“For us, it’s a matter of enjoying the things we do,” she explains. “I wake up every day and find fulfillment working with women, and that’s what I’m most proud of—making sure they feel connected to purpose. And Fulano’s purpose is helping people feel happy with music.”
To say that Thomas, a graduate of Columbia University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, has found her purpose in the birth and wellness space is an understatement. She founded Mama Glow in 2011 and has since cultivated a reputation for excellence as well as a high-profile client base (Thomas was recently the doula for DJ Khaled’s fiancé and appeared on his SnapChat while he live-Snap’d the birth of his son to his 14 million fans—#MajorKey), while also staying active in hosting wellness events and in shepherding Mama Glow’s special projects (there’s a skincare line in the works, for example). In 2012, Thomas penned a book called Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy (for which celebs like Rebecca Minkoff and Christy Turlington Burns wrote blurbs of praise) and plans to release book No. 2 in 2017.
Finally, as a crowning jewel on her wellness resume, Thomas was recently named to Oprah’s Super Soul 100 list of “awakened leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity”—an honor that puts her in good company with the likes of Deepak Chopra, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Arianna Huffington.
With so much going on professionally, how does Thomas maintain her own glow? It’s simple: “I strike a balance with taking care of myself so I can be effective as a care-taker,” she says with a serene smile.
How would you describe the core mission and services of Mama Glow?
Mama Glow is really about helping women reclaim their bodies as sacred and [helping them] to celebrate all the best that motherhood has to offer from before, during, and after pregnancy. We offer nutrition, yoga, and birth doula services, but more so, we’re holding women’s hands as they cross the river… There’s so much trepidation in the [birth] process because there are so many choices to make and everyone’s afraid—“don’t do this, don’t eat that, don’t touch this!” That fearmongering makes people sensitive about the choices they make, and also, sometimes, scared. We want to take the fear out of the process and bring the joy and the excitement back in, and help women—as well as couples and families—celebrate the process.
What drew you to the birth and wellness space?
When I had my son I didn’t really know what a doula was…I had a midwife and I thought I was going to be supported enough. Well, it turned out that when he was born, there were about five women in the room! But I remember afterwards, because of how beautiful the experience was, and also how life-changing it was—it really was a time when I felt like I had crossed this threshold and was privy to all this knowledge, and all of this ancestral knowledge kicked in—I thought: “Nobody talks about this! Nobody protects women in the way that they should so they can experience this!”
What are the greatest joys and challenges of working as a doula?
The greatest joy is when you’re watching a family and you’re witnessing them in this peak moment where they’re about to meet a new member of their family, a person that they’re so deeply in love with and that they haven’t yet met. When you see that baby emerge and you place it on the mother’s chest, you see that transformation and that joy, but also—wow!—that awe! And being there to basically watch them become parents? That’s a joy for me. It never gets old, no matter how many babies I see born… The challenge is the timing, because babies come on their birthdays—you cannot choose. So the challenge is that you could wake up at 3-4am and be with someone for a four-hour birth or you could be with someone for a 30-hour birth.
On top of that, you’re also an author. Is writing something you enjoy?
Writing is something that I love to do, especially when I’m not rushed. I’ve been on book No. 2 for a few years and it’s at a place where it’s ready to come out for 2017. It’s not pregnancy-related but it’s for all women. I’m going to call it Own Your Glow. I’m hoping to do the next pregnancy-related book after that for 2018… I want to do a book that’s more food-focused for moms.
You work as a doula but you also have so much else going on with Mama Glow. How do you set a balance?
I’m always in this dance with figuring out how to allocate time, and what needs more attention and what needs less. I think it’s always a juggle. But I take babies during certain times of the year, and there are certain times of the year that I know I want to be less busy—because I know I have more family commitments or it’s a down time for me for writing or doing something else for our programming… [But when I have a birth coming up], it’s always something where it’s unexpected and that’s what’s actually exciting to me—when I know we’re in that moving time frame where we know it’s going to happen soon.
You’ve built your business and reputation to the point where you’re considered an expert voice in your field. Were there any moments you consider “big breaks”?
I think the coolest thing [recently] is that Oprah included me in her Super Soul 100! I was the only birth doula, or that type of wellness person [on the list]. She doesn’t really ever—on her shows and in her work—acknowledge people in the birth space at all, so that was kind of cool… And of course, my mom cries when you say “Oprah” so [my parents] were very excited. I was excited too, because I grew up on Oprah.
Was it a surprise to be named to Oprah’s Super Soul 100 list? How did you find out?
I did not know and I was so excited! They called and said I was up for it and they’d put me into this grouping and Oprah was hand-picking all of the people. Then they called me and said: “You’ve been chosen and we want you to come out and spend a weekend with Oprah in LA.” So I went with a bunch of other people who are amazing, like Zendaya and Iyanla Vanzant and Sophia Bush and so many cool people doing amazing stuff in their own spaces. We had this weekend all together and Oprah had a big brunch for us at her studio and we watched the “Super Soul Sunday” show together.
How do you bring your yoga and nutrition background into practice at home?
It’s important to have my own personal [yoga] practice in the morning, so I get up earlier so I can have some time to myself. I have a little mat that I use and a little meditation cushion and I create a little area for myself. I move my body in the mornings and I’ll sit still for a little bit as well. I’ll have a little meditation moment, and then I’ll start the day. And that’s getting Fulano awake—which is really hard these days—and making breakfast. I love to cook, and I think it’s really important to start the day off with a really good breakfast, so it’s something I like to make time for and that I believe in… Food becomes your blood, your guts, and your actions, so you have to eat well to perform in life.
Fulano is 13—what have some of the biggest joys and challenges of motherhood been?
It’s a cool thing to be a parent. I have so much fun with him. Not as much fun now because he doesn’t want to spend time with me… For me, family and parenting is really about being the best version of ourselves even when it’s a challenge. So even if you haven’t gotten any rest, or even if you’ve been up late, or even if it’s really intense—being able to respond with love.
Is your mother-son relationship changing now that Fulano is a teenager?
Now that’s he’s wanting to will himself into adulthood, I have to kind of let go a little bit. There are things he wants to do differently, like having some more personal space… [But] I still have fun, even though certain things are challenging. We play games, we cook together. We play tic-tac-toe a lot—I try to get him off the devices… We have our own special rituals. I think that’s really important for kids—to make time for rituals and slowing down and doing things that help them feel connected and grounded.
How do you keep Fulano grounded as he finds professional success at a young age?
He definitely has a lot of accomplishments that are notable for anybody, especially for a kid, but I see it like: “Did you clean your room? Did you do your homework? Did you brush your teeth?” He went to this event for the Clinton Foundation—he was 9—and Bill Clinton said something like: “This is our 9-year-old wonder! We just love him!” And Fulano said: “Can we go somewhere fancy after?” I was like: “No! We’re having lentil soup and we’re going home!” It was back to square one and staying grounded. I think a part of that is giving kids healthy boundaries and I think that’s really important for Fulano. He needs boundaries. His dad and I are separated…so he gets what he needs [from me] in my house and he gets something totally different from his dad, and I think that’s important.
How do you set a balance between his career and a regular childhood?
For us, fun is first. I’m not trying to have him be the breadwinner, so he’s not having a career that’s hinged upon his mother being able to eat. For some people, their children are the breadwinners and they’re managing their children and making money that way, so sometimes they’re forcing their kids to do things they don’t want to do. I’ll tell Fulano that he can’t do something. If his grades aren’t where they’re supposed to be, he can’t do the gigs.
What do you enjoy about watching your child engage in his passion from a young age?
Fulano loves DJ’ing still and he’s great at it and super-passionate about it… And I think it’s cool that he found something that lets him make a little money so he won’t be hitting me up all the time! I think, also, he’s found other kids who are super-passionate about tennis or ballet or whatever it is, and they’re around each other and can support each other and push each other. The most fun part, I would say, is just going to the gigs. He has really good gigs—and I end up going and carrying all his stuff!