When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
The New York Times said that “dance music needs women, it needs signature vocalists, and it needs identifiable faces.” It also said that Krewella “fills those voids ably”. Yasmine Yousaf — along with her sister, Jahan Yousaf — is better known to music fans as Krewella. The Pakistani-American duo first made the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013, and ever since then, they’ve been running the festival circuit with performances at Coachella and Lollapalooza, and around the world. But music isn’t their only passion. After facing adversity throughout their upbringing, the two realized “how much change can come from each of our tiny little spheres of influence,” says Yasmine. The pair has made it their mission to push for progress in industries of all kinds. Whether they are speaking out on sexism in music, highlighting women’s health issues through The Period Movement, or practicing sustainability by living virtually plastic-free, they view every day as a chance to evolve.
In her Thrive Questionnaire, Yasmine Yousaf opens up about her childhood, the importance of accountability, and the key to resolving conflict.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Yasmine Yousaf: I like to stay in bed for 10 to 15 minutes after waking to just breathe and think about what my day will be; it’s time spent not looking at my phone. I brush my teeth and down about 24 to 32 ounces of water immediately to get my system powered up, followed by my caffeine addiction pulling me to the kitchen to make a double shot of espresso. The ideal next hour after this is spent sipping my liquid energy outside in the garden with our dog, reading, or journaling. Some days don’t allow for the extended time but when they do, I’m grateful for still, peaceful moments in the morning.
TG: What gives you energy?
YY: Being alone, reading a really incredible book from front to back in one sitting, Pranayama breathwork, being with my loved ones, exploring the world’s cultures and vast nature.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
YY: A bad morning doesn’t equal a bad day. A bad day doesn’t equal a bad week. A bad week doesn’t equal a bad month… You know where this is going. Nothing is ever so far gone that it can’t be rebalanced into something resembling peace and happiness. We often take things far too seriously (myself included) and relieving weight from places in life that are suffocating is necessary to keep moving forward.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
YY: My dad, who is pretty much the only person on this planet who can 180 my mindset with just a hug or look, wrote this Hafiz quote in my 19th birthday card when I was in a dark time in life: “This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” I don’t consider myself religious, but for me, this quote means that the universe has a path and even the worst and most cruel moments are a necessary step.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
YY: I am atrocious at this but am always doing my best. I prioritize with lists, an extremely organized calendar, and learning how to say no to things that won’t serve me positively. Deep down, we all know what is important to us and what we’d like to prioritize. If we want to get it done, we’ll do it; if it’s important to us, we’ll get it done. At the same time, our best today won’t be our best on any other given day so it’s become so helpful for me to learn how to be flexible and kind to myself when I feel I’ve fallen short.
TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?
YY: I don’t look much further than my family members for role models; each person has individually taught me so much about love, work, pain, gratitude, peace, kindness, and patience. We know this to be true; the Yousafs are ridiculously lucky as a family to have this built-in support system.
TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?
YY: Cooking and eating. Food consumption in general is a space where a lot of people are on “autopilot” and aren’t completely paying attention. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I took a serious look at what was going into my body. From experimenting with paleo, clean-eating, intuitive-eating, and other various types of food lifestyles, I’ve been able to get to a place where I’m contributing to my overall wellness almost every time I put food into my mouth.
We grew up in a household where there was no such thing as “wastage.” Not finishing food was the worst sin in our household. As I’ve taken this into adulthood, it’s clear what the environmental and ethical/sustainable effects of this are. Beyond even this, I’ve been focusing on less plastic in every aspect of my life, but what I’ve found is that the most plastic usage happens when eating out or buying groceries. So if you look at the relationship of food and mindfulness as a whole, it truly spans everything from chewing slowly to shopping at local farmers markets.
TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?
YY: The first step is to notice the negative thinking in the first place. I once read that getting control of your mind, and meditation in general, is like being able to watch your thoughts pass in your head and label them truthfully as what they are. We all need to take accountability for the negativity that naturally and inevitably brews inside of us, and acknowledgement is the initial step before reframing.
TG: As a team, how do you and your sister work out conflict, say when you don’t agree on something?
YY: Space. I’ve found that this is a key element in every single relationship in my life, including the one with my sister as a family member/business partner/creative partner — and our team surrounding us. Space can be literal and physical, taking time away from your team to come into your individuality and unique thoughts; or space can be an act that you give or receive. Creating space for your colleagues and yourself is a game changer for making any environment more healthy and fluid.
TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?
YY: My focus is hugely affected by the state of my health. If I’m not sleeping, eating the right foods, or moving my body enough, it’s almost immediate that a fog in my brain creeps up. I had to re-haul my way of eating when my body and mind were starting to suffer from incessant touring with little to no sleep, and I had to start prioritizing sleep over just another afterparty to be seen at. There are endless things out of our control in life, but food, sleep and exercise are the closest we have to true optimization.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
YY: There were two moments in the last five years that are imprinted on me in such a beautifully permanent way. One involved someone leaving; one was me walking away. I’m not sure if there’s anything more relatable to people than loss, but the pain, the change, the shattering of comfort and reality — it really does transform and morph us. I hate to leave it so vague but I will say this; my biggest lesson I’ve had to overcome and still have to fight to overcome is to keep moving forward and not let quicksand of the past keep me stationary. I live for the feeling of progression and growth and these two notches in the history of my life have made me intent on continuing to feed that part of me.
TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?
YY: Extremely repetitive and predictable for me, but reading. It’s an incredible way to seemingly escape your own mind for a moment which is why it’s so enticing for me. As I move through novels I really love, I tend to see mirrors and projections of all the good and bad in myself in the characters. It becomes a way to face things about myself through fiction.
TG: Mental health is a big issue in the music industry. Do you have any personal experiences with it? If so, what is your advice for people facing similar challenges?
YY: It’s pretty rare to meet someone who doesn’t combat or struggle with mental health issues these days. For the longest time I didn’t want to talk about my stints with depression, social anxiety, or manic mood swings. It’s still not the easiest conversation to have. What I have found is that in dark times, there is no one singular shiny happy day that you wake up and you’ve pulled yourself out. It’s not magic. It’s effort. Slowly climbing out, every tiresome inch at a time, is a process and a heavy one at that. But the motto is “dedication to self,” and it feels grand to believe you’re worth the time and energy to heal, even if believing just starts as pretending.
TG: You grew up in a Pakistani-American family. Do you feel that your cultural upbringing shaped you in any way?
YY: Absolutely hands-down one of the most influential facets of my childhood. Growing up mixed, a “half-something,” is aggravating on so many levels when all kids want to do is fit in and be understood — including by themselves. Having two parents that didn’t see eye to eye on a myriad of things left ambiguity and confusion in my heart (not their fault, parenting is the hardest job in the game and mixed parenting… well that’s another story). As I get older I feel so lucky to be a mixed kid, though. Sometimes I look at my sisters, and I think; damn, we have a cheat code on perspective. There’s something beautiful about the tug-of-war we grew up in and the balancing way the pendulum is slowing in the middle of it all.
TG: You are business partners, best friends, and sisters. What have you enjoyed about navigating life together?
YY: I’ve met hundreds of people. Fans, mentors, strangers, lovers, collaborators, competitors, creators. One thing I have found to be true is that everyone wants to feel understood. Jahan is the only person in this world who could look at me and see the sum of all my parts. That is priceless.
TG: Recently, you and your sister have lent your voices to a cause that’s close to your hearts, The Period Movement. Tell us more about the movement.
YY: The best way to learn more about it is read Period Power by the Period Movement’s founder, Nadya Okamoto. In short, period poverty is a problem that’s predominantly invisible and not spoken about. It’s a human rights issue that affects not only menstruators but non-menstruators. Learning about how homeless women, women from different countries, and the impoverished have to face their period every single month is a wake-up call, and raising awareness is the first step to change.
TG: Sustainability is yet another passion of yours. What are some sustainable practices you incorporate into your daily life?
YY: Number one rule of life is to bring your own water bottle everywhere. This means to the gym, the airport, the studio, out with friends, etc. The step after that is to always keep a to-go cup, plate, and silverware in your car for drink and food runs at places that only have plastic options. There are endless other ways to be more sustainable but here are a few that my sister and I have incorporated into our lives: only buying second-hand/thrift clothes as to not contribute to fast fashion, quick showers, turning the lights off when you leave a room, never wasting food (give your restaurant to-go box to a homeless person or save it for lunch tomorrow!), planting climate-friendly greenery in your yard, biking if you’re traveling locally, and shopping at local farmers’ markets. The biggest changes we can make are usually the easiest once we put them into practice.