You Gotta Represent!
When it comes to health and fitness magazines, they are making more leaps to include black and Hispanic models, but the numbers are still very disproportionate. On top of that, there are still issues of magazines whitewashing ethnic faces and features.
While we may make a concerted effort to not focus on getting wrapped up in the models in the magazines and celebrities on our screens, the media and images we consume every day do impact us. This is one reason why equal representation is important, no matter the field or subject area.
We are diving a little deeper into our thoughts on the importance of representation in the fitness industry.
"Now that I’m older and with the beauty of social media, it finally seems like the needle is moving in the right direction."
Growing up, pre-#blackgirlmagic era, women of color were not represented on the covers of health magazines, fitness videos, or even in healthy cooking shows. At that age, I knew I wanted to be healthy, but the lack of representation caused me to feel inferior to the women I saw in these spaces, a feeling that took many years to get over. What did it mean that I didn’t see women who look like me? I certainly did not think I could grace the cover of a magazine, let alone be a personal trainer or fitness entrepreneur. Now that I’m older and with the beauty of social media, it finally seems like the needle is moving in the right direction. When I see women today embracing their muscles and their curves, I smile on the inside because little girls today get to grow up seeing that beauty has no bounds.
"I often say I don’t quite know how my mom did it, but confidence was definitely not something I lacked growing up."
I began ballet training at a very early age, but first dance instructor was a gorgeous and graceful African-American woman. So, it never crossed my mind that I couldn’t dance for the rest of my life. Maybe that was my earliest example of the importance of representation.
Of course my move to Memphis meant finding a new trainer. As we began to set goals, I started to send him videos and pictures of women who had the body I was trying to build. Women like @goldenfitnic and @fancy85fit. I loved watching them kill it at the gym, showing the power and endurance of the body. Around the same time Gabrielle Union began posting more of her personal workouts in her Instagram story. Then, Danai Gurira’s Women’s Health cover dropped. I mean….perfection!! It was really those two that helped me take a step back and really think about what was realistic. My body is a lot more long and lean, a little more like Gabrielle and Danai, and that is fine. I am starting to build more muscle, which I am very proud. But, it has definitely taken time and a lot of patience. Seeing more women with my body type being celebrated has helped me accept myself at an older age and be a lot more realistic with setting goals that are attainable.
Seeing ourselves has an impact!
Black women in fitness are standing on the giants of sports starts like Althea Gibson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Lisa Leslie. But, the past five to ten years have led to even larger strides and successes like:
- Venus and Serena inspiring generations of young black girls to play tennis, while Misty Copeland made history encouraging all little girls to pursue their love of dance.
- Jeanette Jenkins being one of the first, high-profile fitness celebrities to show the world that black girls can get your fave celebrities a together for the red carpet.
- Massy Arias and Lita Lewis representing that strong is beautiful and muscles are sexy.
- Gabrielle Union, Kelly Rowland and Ciara proving that women are dynamic and capable of living a healthy lifestyle, even when life gets busy with their careers.
The women mentioned above are just the start of amazing women of color who come in all shapes and sizes - from athletic to curvy - who are beautiful, and all around badass. Representation matters because what we see shapes our perception of reality and what we feel is possible for ourselves and for people who look like us.
We’re committed to changing the narrative.
This will be an ongoing focus. We have identified three ways to use our platform to continue the conversation and hope you will join us.
- We want to keep the conversation going: Continue to check back in and talk with us via the blog and social about how representation and diversity in the fitness industry is a key element to creating change. We will also continue to celebrate brands that are focusing on diversity and inclusion in a real way, and not just to check off a box - and calling out those are not, to ensure that our voice matters.
- Support other women and fitness professionals of color: We can do this by following social media accounts, collaborating with each other on opportunities, and sharing our work. As Ne-Yo would put it, we are good all by ourselves, but a force when we pull together. Our #FitGirlMagic spotlights are always our favorite time of the month and we can’t wait to spotlight more women killing it in the fitness industry. Send us those women who are inspiring you so we can spotlight them.
- Show up and show out: We mentioned in a previous article about the lack of diversity in our favorite classes, but we have to keep showing up! When CaCera hosted a Soul Cycle class and brought all her friends to spin, it was truly a magnetic experience. The instructor went so far as to stop during class and ask if she was a celebrity. It opened up some of our circle to a different way of working out. After the event, we had a few friends who bought class packs at Soul or similar studios. There is big buying power in communities of color. The more we show up, the more we are noticed, and the more impact we have on hiring of diverse trainers for studios and fitness festivals.
What would you add to our list? Leave your comment below.