Frankly, it’s easy to say over and over again how important it is to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle. It’s not easy and rather uncomfortable for some to address the lack of black female representation in fitness. Have we thoroughly dived into how overwhelmingly isolating it feels to walk into a boutique fitness class and see no one else in the room who looks remotely like you? Have we delved into the key factors that could be contributing to the fact that four out of five black women are obese, overweight, or lacking in physical fitness, which, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is by far the highest percentage of any group in the U.S.?
A lot of circumstances could be perpetuating this glaring disparity within the community of women of color. However, the isolating divide of being the only curvy woman of color in your fitness class is real when everyone around you is thin and looks the same. What is unfortunately true is that fitness classes can feel uninviting, elitist, and exclusive. As a woman of color living in New York, which is considered to be one of the most diverse cities in America, I’ve felt out of place more times than I can count in my fitness classes.
This is why TrillFit is so important. Founder and fitness enthusiast Heather White was tired of attending boutique fitness classes in Boston and feeling like she didn’t belong. So in 2016, she created TrillFit, a fitness studio that brings hip-hop, culture, and inclusivity to fitness. Think of it as a hip-hop workout party equipped with a live DJ for every class, lots of twerking, high-intensity workouts, and fun choreography. TrillFit has grown into a safe fitness space that celebrates people of color of all shapes, sizes, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s what the fitness world needs more of and is hopefully the first of many of its kind. We spoke to White to learn more about how TrillFit is leading the charge.
What drove you to dream up TrillFit?
Fitness has always been a part of my life’s journey. I live in Boston now and am originally from New York. This city has a ton of history pertaining to its lack of diversity, lack of support for people of color, and institutionalized racism. Being in the fitness industry really shed a light on that. I got tired of spending $28 to $30 for a class and not seeing anyone there who looked like me. The music in a lot of the classes I was going to really sucked. I got together with my now-husband who was then my boyfriend and approached him with this idea. I wanted to try doing something that was fun and much better than what I was experiencing. I knew I wanted a live DJ and to create a fitness concept that celebrates hip-hop because you can’t find that anywhere in Boston. I wanted to create this incredible workout experience. That’s how the first pop-up came to be.
We got world-renowned celebrity choreographer Laurieann Gibson to host our first class. It sold out three days before we’d ever had it. This was a sign that TrillFit was moving in the right direction and can work. At that point, we didn’t have a staff or signature classes yet. All I had was a couple of friends and the name TrillFit. This showed me that there was a willing community here in Boston who were voting for us before they even knew who we were. Fast-forward to now, and we’re about to break ground for our first flagship studio in Boston. Our classes sell out weekly, and there’s a waiting list for every class. This small thing that was born out of something I wanted to see for my friends and I has now become a super-inclusive, big movement. We’re moving from Boston and bringing TrillFit to New York, Los Angeles, and a bunch of other cities. It’s been such a whirlwind.
Why do you think there’s a lack of diversity within the world of fitness?
We cannot continue on this path of exclusion. Fitness, in general, has always been looked at as a luxury. Now, in 2018 people are talking more about wellness, mindfulness, and self-care, so it’s becoming more normalized. Historically, fitness has a way of shaming people into feeling like they need to be fixed and don’t belong to be in certain spaces. You walk into fitness spaces and see super-toned, ripped white women, and you don’t see any representation—so in turn, you feel like you don’t belong. I don’t know why fitness is continually caught in this cycle, because it’s really damaging. I definitely wanted to break it. You can count on one hand the amount of black yoga instructors in Boston. Fitness’s lack of diversity is very apparent here, but Boston is not the only city it’s happening in. This is why inclusive sites like Black Girl in Om are so important because they’re filling this space. Black women want wellness content; we’ve just been in the shadows and haven’t had a platform to see this shine on.
Can you walk us through a typical TrillFit class?
Our most popular class is our cardio dance class called TrillFit. We set everything in our classes to a live hip-hop DJ, so you’re hearing amazing music the whole class. We teach simple choreography that anyone can get into easily and follow along to. We create moments of high-intensity interval workouts between the choreographed songs, so you’re dancing and twerking and then you break to do jumping jacks, mountain climbers, planks, or squats. We keep it fresh and are always changing up the dance sequences.
We also do a sculpt class. It’s a Pilates-yoga fusion based on strength training and a lot of small movements. A part of this sculpt class is a lunchtime class called Ass and Abs. It’s literally a 30-minute sculpt class focused on your ass and abs. By the end of class, you’ll feel like you’ve sweat your life away and toned up everything.
We also work with a lot of college girls and local institutions in Boston. One program we have with Pine Manor College is in collaboration with an organization made up of women who are the first in their families to go to school. Many of them are immigrants, which is amazing, and we do cardio dance classes with them as well as a boxing class called Fight the Power. This class is half boxing and half self-defense. The girls love this class because the skills they’re learning are so practical.
What’s been the most beautiful part about building the TrillFit community?
It’s honestly the feedback from the clients. I was somewhat selfishly creating this concept to be what I wanted to see in the market. I never could’ve imagined TrillFit would touch as many people as it has. I’m overwhelmed daily by what I hear from our TrillFit girls. I’ve had a woman come up to me after class and tell me this was the first time she felt comfortable being in the front row of a fitness class. This really touched me because our class empowered her to own a first-row experience. She had a great time and realized TrillFit is an inclusive, safe, judgment-free zone where you can make any face you want, scream, sing the words, and just do you. This meant so much to me because this is exactly the type of experience I wanted to create. I was tired of going to places and feeling like I didn’t belong. The community we’ve built is real.
What can we look forward to from TrillFit?
We’re doing monthly pop-ups with Project by Equinox in New York of our signature cardio dance class. We’re also hosting a Brunch + Burn workout party and wellness party in Los Angeles this month because we noticed all of the women who’d come to our classes would stay and talk to each other. This year especially with the state of the world, we want to add more conversations around self-care and wellness. We’re super excited to do a panel this year. It’s crazy to see how TrillFit has taken a life of its own. We’ve only been around for two years, and our classes have caught the attention of celebrity guests and so many women seeking a home in fitness.
To get involved in TrillFit, look out for the below events:
February 16: TrillFit Brunch + Burn Workout Party & Wellness Panel @ Ace Hotel Downtown in Los Angeles
February 24: TrillFit Cardio Dance @ Project by Equinox in New York City
For weekly Cardio Dance & Sculpt classes in Boston, visit www.trill.fit for the schedule.