Nadya Okamoto: Hormonal Health, Periods, and Claiming Your Body

Nadya Okamoto is the co-founder and CEO of August, a lifestyle brand working to reimagine periods. She is a fierce fighter against period poverty, a thought-leader in understanding and innovating on actual period care, and a believer in investigating how hormonal health affects women’s daily lives. We sat down with Nadya to discuss her social justice initiatives, how we can all band together to use social media for the greater good in women’s health, and how we can leverage understanding of our bodies to understand ourselves a little better.

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Nadya Okamoto, and I’m currently based in NYC. 
I’m the co-founder and CEO of August, a lifestyle brand working to reimagine periods, which I launched in 2020. After working in the nonprofit sector for 6 years, I started to feel called to really innovate on existing period care. For me that meant sustainable period products that were accessible, stigma-free, and transparently sourced and made. 

Can you talk about your journey in the health space, and where your passion for period care started? 

Yes, definitely. I learned about period poverty in 2014 after hearing stories directly from homeless women about their experience of not being able to afford period products.
Before that point, I had never heard of the term “period poverty” before, but learning about that, combined with the fact that the tampon tax existed in 40 states at the time - it ignited a fire in me. I knew I had to take action. That same year, I started what is now known as, a nonprofit. I led it as executive director until January 2020, before I launched August as a sustainable period brand.

What role does social media play in helping to destigmatize periods and advocate for women’s health?

I’m of the belief that social media has allowed us to democratize information and spread it much faster than ever before. 
Since Gen Z is not just digitally native, but native to social media, we are uniquely positioned to mobilize these messages for social change. My hope is that we can thoughtfully leverage social media to empower creatives, activists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers of Gen Z to join in the fight against period poverty. 

What inspired your decision to start August?

At the time my co-founder and I decided to start August, I had been working in the period space on the nonprofit side for six years. 
Through my work in the advocacy space, and in writing my book, Period Power, I slowly realized that the period industry had the responsibility, the means, and the potential to catalyze change. It just required a reimagination of what being on your period looked like. I believed, and still do, that the period experience could be radically improved (for both those with uteruses and for the planet!). 
At that time, August was just a nugget of an idea, but we soon started to connect on video calls with young people from around the country. We began to create a community to collectively reimagine periods -- and that’s how August was born.

What is the biggest piece of advice you have for people when it comes to people advocating for their (menstrual) health?

First and foremost, never be afraid to ask questions about your body, however “embarrassing” they may feel. 
Try to understand and learn as much information as you can about your period, if you have one, as well as your hormones, and your overall physical health. Increased knowledge means you can more effectively make informed decisions about your body, and find more comfortability in it, too.
At August, a big part of our mission is simply to encourage people to ask every burning question they’ve ever had about their periods! 

What gaps exist in the hormonal health discussion?

Unfortunately, the biggest gap is… the whole topic. 
In mainstream conversations, discussions surrounding hormonal health rarely arise. And when we talk about periods, we often forget to delve into what role which hormones play, as well as how hormone levels change during the menstrual cycle. We currently talk about mood and changing body image, but I believe we don’t need to stop there. This opening of the period discussion poses a huge opportunity for more conversation about how hormones are linked to countless experiences in our own lives.