Insider’s Guide to Spas, launched in 2013, has been a trusted bearer of truth during a time of tremendous growth in the wellness industry. Insider’s is a celebration of spa culture and the very fundamentals that make up the healing world of spa. Our mission is simple—to keep spa culture alive and to continue the timeless tradition of drawing on this wellspring of wisdom.
About Our Founder
A pioneering journalist and an advocate for all things spa, Mary Bemis forged a vocabulary for spa reportage that is widely used by those who cover the issues today. An inaugural honoree of Folio’s Top Women in Media Award, Mary, wrote Folio, “is reshaping the way people look at spa journalism. She cares about and has the drive to write about what matters—and to make what matters of interest and understandable to the ordinary American.”
Mary’s spa media roots run deep—in 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, in 2007, she co-founded Organic Spa magazine, and in between serving on the ISPA and NYSPA Boards, she was on the launch teams of Luxury SpaFinder and New Beauty magazines. She is a co-founder and Symposium Chair Emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance.
About Our Team
Michael Picón, Creative Director
New York-based Michael Picón has been with InsidersGuidetoSpas.com since its inception in 2013. He is a veteran art director whose first memory as an artist was being dazzled by letterforms. “Words, letters, and pictures have always been my best friends, so it’s no surprise to find myself working with editors and designers for most of my life,” he shares. Michael’s best inspirations and problem-solving time is in the shower. His favorite shower in the world? Outside on his back deck, underneath a myrtle tree.
Damon Cory-Watson, Director of Engagement
Damon Cory-Watson has a background in education and holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. His dedication to wellness started at his first swim class and his commitment to the environment started on his first hike at summer camp. Damon was a writer for and later became the Executive Director of Deborah Szekely’s Wellness Warrior Project through which he developed and launched PolicyWell.com. He is passionate about giving people access beautiful spaces and opportunities for health and wellness.
Becca Hensley, Editor at Large
A lifelong seeker, captivated by the mystery of the impalpable, Editor at Large Becca Hensley is a prolific spa and travel writer and widely published essayist and poet. She has written for Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Gourmet, and Travel +Leisure, among hundreds of other, magazines, newspapers, and journals. As Insider’s Guide to Spas’ Editor at Large, Becca delves deeply into the world of spas and healing. Inspired by her ex-pat grandfather, an amateur herbalist, Austin-based Becca has been interested in spas since she was a child and concocted her first egg, honey, and diatomaceous earth mask. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice.
Stephen Kiesling, Editor at Large
Editor at Large Stephen Kiesling was a founding editor of American Health and Spirituality & Health, where he recently stepped down as Editor in Chief. He was the youngest member of the 1980 US Olympic Rowing Team and the oldest competitor at the 2008 Olympic Rowing Trials. A Scholar of the House in Philosophy at Yale, Stephen is the author of several books, including The Shell Game, Walking the Plank, and The Nike Cross Training System. He has written for The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and Outside, has been featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including Today and All Things Considered.
Dana Wood, Contributing Beauty Editor
Dana Wood has been writing about beauty and wellness for decades and spent a total of 20 years at Condé Nast, serving as Beauty Director for three of its publications (W, Cookie, and Brides). A transplanted New Yorker, Dana now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. When she’s not playing tennis, she writes frequently for The Wall Street Journal and Alexa, a luxury style section published by The New York Post. Her peak spa experience? Dana says it’s impossible to decide between the Coco-Mango Body Buff at the Driftwood Spa at Jakes in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, The Land of Beautiful Waters Anti-Aging Facial at Four Seasons Nevis and the 80-minute 5 Senses massage at the Spa by JW in Marco Island, Florida.
Rima Suqi, Contributing Travel Editor
An avid world traveler raised in an international home, Rima has explored and covered emerging destinations in the Middle East and Africa, far-flung luxury resorts in French Polynesia, as well as those closer to home, and the burgeoning arts scene in Marfa, Texas. Rima has traveled to over 30 countries, writing about the trends and tastemakers for leading travel and lifestyle publications, and subjected herself to innumerable spa treatments—sometimes under very odd circumstances—all in the name of journalism. A weekly contributor to The New York Times Home section, Rima held the envious position of Best Bets Editor at New York Magazine for six years, and is regularly published in national magazines including T Magazine/The New York Times, Departures, Architectural Digest, Elle Décor and American Way. Her last book American Fashion: Designers at Home (Assouline) in partnership with CFDA, sold out three printings.
Alia Akkam, Contributing Food Editor
Alia Akkam is a native New Yorker living in Budapest, where she writes about food, wine and spirits, travel, design, and wellness. Her work has appeared in outlets like ArchitecturalDigest.com, Dwell.com, Vogue.com, Playboy, the Wall Street Journal, and Four Seasons Magazine. She frequently craves avocado smoothies, Hatha yoga stretches, and peaceful sound baths.
Bernard Burt, Contributing News Editor
Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book Fodor’s Healthy Escapes for Random House. The co-author of 100 Best Spas of the World (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Examiner.com. Based in Washington, DC, Burt is a founder of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.