Monday, July 22, 2024

Happy Birthday to the CHANI app!

The world’s best queer astrology app by Chani Nicholas is turning one and our favorite female celebrities are getting onboard.

As the world has grown more turbulent, the interest in astrology is soaring. But many queer women, myself included, have always held an interest in astrology. Besides, there’s something sexy about wanting to tap into a force that is larger than yourself and use it to improve your life and how you interact with others.

The latest leading light in the field of astrology is Chani Nicholas, President & Founder of the CHANI app, is a Los Angeles-based, New York Times best-selling astrologer and author of You Were Born For This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance

Chani has been a counseling astrologer for more than 20 years, guiding her community of over 1 million monthly readers to discover and live out their life’s purpose through understanding their birth chart. She is the President of Chani Nicholas Incorporated, and she still finds time to write all the content across her website and newsletter, the CHANI app, personally manages her social media presence and community engagement, oversees the creative direction and visual identity of the company, and co-directs it with her wife and business partner, Sonya Passi. 

Since we first introduced you to the app here, it has grown exponentially and attracted the attention of some of our favorite LGBTQIA+ celebrities and their friends. Check out the fun readings below for a taste of Chani.

The app itself is friendly, chatty, positive and wise—much like its creator! Unlike many astrological services found online whose creators are anonymous or mysterious and opaque, Chani is completely transparent about how she wishes to serve the user. The app, even the free part, is strong on information, positive thinking, preparedness, mindfulness, and setting intentions. It’s designed to help you. And best of all, the app’s charity and social justice component is helping other women.

“My wife and business partner, Sonya Passi, has a non-profit called Free From and they work at the intersection of gender-based violence and economic justice,” Chani reveals. A portion of profits from the app will be given directly to Black, Latinx, Native/Indigenous, queer and/or trans survivors of gender-based violence through Free From. For more on Free From’s work, go here. And rather than outsource the coding of the app to a commercially-driven firm, Chani and Sonya chose to give the work to survivors of sex trafficking via non-profit, AnnieCannons.

Astrologer and author, Chani Nicholas

“We really wanted to work with folks that would build an app with us in a way that was also mission driven,” says Chani. “We felt like it was very important to have this app built from a place of creating abundance for more than just us personally or the people that work with us, and so baked into the model, five percent of the proceeds get distributed directly to survivors of gender-based violence, because we know that one of the main obstacles to healing from gender-based violence is economic.”

Sonya Passi, CEO of CHANI

In this way, Sonya has been co-building the business with Chani since they met in 2014, and together, they have grown Chani Nicholas Incorporated from a blog that started in the early 2010s to the full-fledged media and tech company it is today. Far from being purely a commercial venture, the app works to promote healing, both for the nonprofits and for the user and draws on six years of Chani’s work as an astrologer to deliver an experience that is accessible, user-friendly, honest, and has a maximum impact now.

“I never set out to build a brand,” says Chani. “I just I just took the things that I had and made use of them to the best of my ability. And it all just kind of happened organically from that. I just wanted to give people the tools that I have that have helped me. And I felt really passionate about writing from a place that I could be proud of that felt really specific, and that was really about me.”

Chani has invited other astrologers to work with the app for maximum accuracy, authenticity, and variety. “I’m the horoscopes and the podcast and the weekly readings for your signs. But then there’s also a lot of different astrological influences in terms of the people we chose to work with and to help us with all the content. So the app is very me, obviously, my name. And also there’s a collection of phenomenal astrologers that have worked on it.”

I ask Chani when she first fell in love with astrology. “I think that my whole thing has always been about rituals I’ve done, you know, I’ve always marked the new moon since I was a really young person and meditation and having an altar was just always something that I did long before Instagram or anything like that. And I think meditation is so important. We wanted to give you like little portals on the app that if you felt like you needed this kind of thing, if you don’t want to be heady, you need to be more in your body then we’ve got stuff for the body. We’ve got stuff for journaling. We’ve got stuff for creating your own altar. These are tools and I want you to use them in a way that makes you feel like you have the agency in a relationship with them.”

As to why queer women tune in to astrology. “I think communities that are marginalized have maybe a deeper desire to feel like there’s a context one fits into; if one doesn’t fit into the context of society that they’ve been given, then where does life fit? And astrology, as judgmental as it is in terms of your planets and signs and all of that, it’s not judging who you love or where you’re from — it’s just giving a judgment on the quality of life that you have. And so I think I think anybody can come to astrology and find some very kind of blatant truths that aren’t imbedded in other cultural norms.”

What is astrology, a science or a pseudoscience? “It is one of the best friends that I’ve ever had,” says Chani. “It is a constant teacher, consort, best friend. Yes, it’s a set of tools, but it’s something that I’m always in conversation with.”

And if you don’t believe in it? What would she say to the disbelievers. I’m asking for my skeptic friends. “All over the world, every culture has had a relationship with the sky,” she says. “What do you believe in? What gives you hope? What helps you through the hardest things that you have to work through? What helps you make meaning of your greatest blessings? What is that for you?” As astrology gets more popular, Chani says it feels like she’s having to come out about a secret relationship. “I kind of liked being obscure,” she says.

“You don’t have to believe any of it. But it’s a whole philosophical system of how ancient folks saw the world and you don’t have to make meaning out of it like they did but to miss that whole thing because, you know, there are bad articles about Mercury retrograde…”


When I speak to Chani we are celebrating the New Moon at the tail end of Mercury retrograde and wouldn’t you know: it was the week of the Trump impeachment trial when new film footage of the Capitol riots was aired. That, she says, was “like this revealing of information that is so important to the ways in which we govern and agree to be together — and it’s a mess. But it’s also demonstration of what Mercury retrograde is so powerful for, which is to review, reassess and to retrieve the truth from somewhere that we’ve lost it.”

I realize that it’s no coincidence I’m speaking to Chani on a New Moon day. I’m sure she chose the date of our interview. I ask if she chooses the dates for everything in her life, including her relationship with Sonya.

“Oh, astrology is the central figure in our relationship. Sonya is so ridiculously intelligent. She’s an Aquarius and when we met she literally learned astrology in like six weeks. She was then telling me things. So she is as obsessed with astrology as I am. And so we make all of our business decisions on astrology. We’re kind of over the top about it. Everyone we know, we know their charts. We think about their transits. Before we hire people, before we take a vacation, definitely before we launch anything—we always pick the astrology. I want everything on our side.”

Download the CHANI app here.

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Merryn Johns

Merryn Johns is the Editor-in-Chief of Queer Forty. She is an award-winning journalist, as well as a broadcaster and public speaker. Originally from Sydney, Australia where she began her career in journalism in the 1990s, she is based in New York City where she became the editor-in-chief of Curve Magazine and wrote for a variety of publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Slate, and more. Follow on Twitter at @Merryn1

Merryn Johns has 141 posts and counting. See all posts by Merryn Johns

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