With its hordes of backpack-toting tech bros, CES might be the last place you’d expect to find folk heroine Jewel. But the singer-songwriter will be in Las Vegas for the annual conference Jan. 10 to speak about her plan to bring mindfulness to the workplace.
“I spoke at SALT, [Anthony] Scaramucci’s hedge fund investment thing, and I got a standing ovation,” says the 43-year-old when asked whether she has concerns about speaking in front of such a tech-heavy crowd. She’s one of many entertainment figures who will travel to the desert city for the annual event, which is expected to host as many as 200,000 attendees. Actor Neil Patrick Harris will speak on a panel about modern viewership behaviors in his role as an ambassador for the IAm App, which allows people to create video channels for mobile, smart TVs and driverless cars. Meanwhile, Usain Bolt and Shaquille O’Neal will spend time at the Gibson tent and Ring booth, respectively.
Jewel will be speaking as part of The Girls’ Lounge, a female-centric gathering spot and speaker series that founder Shelley Zalis has been operating out of male-dominated events like CES for the last six years. The singer is currently developing a platform called Whole Human, which will provide lessons on emotional and physical fitness to school students and corporate employees. She has teamed with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh for the venture, an outgrowth of her company Jewel Inc. and nonprofit Never Broken. “It will be the next frontier of corporate culture,” she explains, noting that there will be courses on how to be a better parent, have less anxiety or have better health. “It isn’t a more elegant trap to keep people at work by doing their dry-cleaning and walking their dogs.”
Jewel’s foray into this field was Never Broken, a nonprofit website where community members can access free tools that promote mindfulness and happiness. They can also connect with one another to share stories and offer support. Never Broken has partnered with Inspiring Children out of Las Vegas to provide its curriculum, developed with psychiatrist Judson Brewer, to help at-risk youth learn mindfulness and entrepreneurial skills. One of the program’s graduates, Aphrah Brokaw, runs Never Broken with Jewel and is also helping her to build Whole Human.
Jewel says that many of the exercises taught via Never Broken and Whole Human are ones she has used herself from a young age. (She speaks openly about her childhood with her abusive, alcoholic father, and the struggles she faced before she was discovered and went platinum with her first album.) “I really want to help people understand that they have self-agency,” she says. “They can be an architect of a life that they choose. They just have to be willing to be self-aware.”
CES will provide her with a unique opportunity to share her message about Whole Human, which she hopes to start beta testing later this year. It’s not lost on Jewel that many of the attendees are working on technological advances that could someday replace much of the existing workforce. “There’s going to be more and more of a misplaced job market and what they call the gig economy is going to become more and more prevalent,” she explains. “We have to build an entrepreneurial, creative, outside-the-box thinker.”
Jewel is also planning a Whole Human curriculum addressing sexual harassment. “We’re telling men how they behave isn’t acceptable, but we’re not telling them what is acceptable,” she says of the allegations that have roiled Hollywood. “We have to think about what information we’re filling that void with.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.