Discussion #4198

Diversity in Pilates

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Gia Calhoun leads this discussion with Tela Anderson, Misty Lynne Cauthen, and Danica Kalemdaroglu addressing the issue of diversity and inclusion within the Pilates industry. They all share their personal experiences and difficulties as black women and Pilates teachers and what their vision for the future of the industry includes.

You can also watch the videos that were filmed as part of a donation event to benefit Campaign Zero, an organization that focuses on ending police violence in the United States. If you would like to donate to this cause, you can go to their donation page.
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Jul 21, 2020
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Hi, everyone, thank you all for being here. I'm really excited for this talk that we have today. I have three amazing guests. We have Misty Lynne Cauthen, Tela Anderson and Danica Kalemdaroglu, did I do it. Good enough.

Awesome, I've been practicing. (laughs) And we're gonna talk about diversity, racism, discrimination, just anything that goes along with inclusion and equity in the country and how it relates to the Pilates industry. This is a question for all of you, but we can have Misty, answer it first. When you were child, did your parents talk to you about race and discrimination and how old were you when you first had this happen? So my parents didn't sit me down specifically say, "Okay, let's have a conversation about discrimination." It was just more of a, you're going to have to be careful because of this or understand that when you go into a store, you have to keep your hands always visible, never have your hands in your pockets, things like that from a young age. So, as I got older, the talks changed and got a little bit more poignant.

But the training started pretty much as soon as I was out of mom's arms unable to get away from her. Yeah, Tela same question. Yeah, I'd actually say about the same thing. So I was sat down and talked to many times about different subjects. But I grew up in an predominantly white, very small town, coal mining town in Pennsylvania.

Where if someone could take one look at me, and they would know whose family I belong to, and it was kind of like an unsaid thing when I was younger because there are certain people who wouldn't let their kids play with us. So I kinda grew up just knowing like, oh, well, they won't play with us because they're the black people in the neighborhood. And so it was kind of organic. And then as I got older and went to school, I was going to a school where I was the only black person in my class. So I did get a lot of talks throughout my childhood.

And, yeah, I know about the whole shopping while black, going into certain places, going to certain stores, getting the look, so it's just something that yes, I was sat down many times, but you kinda learn it organically, from a young age when you're playing and certain people won't let their kids play with you. Yeah, Danica, do you have a similar experience? Yes, it was always talks about there are always conversations that would come up because things would happen. And my father was a Virginia State Delegate, and he was a head of the Black Caucus in Virginia for a long time. So there was a lot of conversation about race and equality in my house, the only time where I can remember really, really sitting down and them having a direct conversation with me about it was when I got in a fight at the very all white private school that I went to, I mean, it was me and my brothers, we were pretty much the only black kids in elementary school.

And then as the school progressed through high school, you would see more black kids come in. But we lived in this duality of worlds at school, where we would have to be one thing at school and then we would come home to the reality of what our lives had always been and I remember struggling with that and I would get into tit for tat arguments. And yes, every now and then some calls came out. And that is when I was sat down to say, you have to realize what the world is around you and your place in this world and what the color of your skin means to some people because yes, some people didn't wanna talk to me, would literally turn their backs on the playground and you know how mean children can be, children can be mean. And that was the only thing that I remember where I really got a direct Danica talking to about race, but everything else was kind of this general.

This is the way race is in America. This is, it was part of just a general conversation in the house a lot of the time. Right, same. I know all of you have kids too. So have you had these talks with your children?

And how old were they when you started talking to them? I've only had to again come at them once directly about it and it was when they had heard terms that were very inappropriate and repeated them. And I had to say, "Oh, you hold your mouth back, 'cause that's not", and I were to hear it and then that's the only time I've had to really talk to them about it. But again, it is still something that is talked about just in passing conversations we talk about it. It's not, we don't carve time out to talk about it unless something really poignant pops out that needs to be dealt with, like the instance where I was like, "No, you don't know "you're saying a racial slur, let me tell you, you are", because they're children.

Yeah, I have not thought, I have two kids. (clears throat) But I have not had direct conversations with them, except for when we do, every year we do study for Black History Month and so a lot of questions come up about that, kids don't understand like, why wouldn't you be able to sit at the same table with someone, why? They don't understand that 'cause I don't see that anymore. We primarily, my kids are actually homeschooled in real life. So, and then we go to an all black church, she's an all black choir.

So I just haven't had, she's basically having a very, my kids are having a very different upbringing than I had. So we do talk about it. And it's just they don't understand. So, I mean, they will understand but as of yet, it takes a lot of explaining. So we actually, once again, kind of echoing on that point, when you're black and not speaking for all black people.

But when you're black, it's kind of something that is just so interwoven into your experience that it's like, oh, yeah, of course I brought it up. I also told him to brush his teeth or comb his hair. My son is 14 and he is dating, well before COVID now he's just sitting. (laughs) But that was a big time for a very separate and a different talk than what we were used to having. Because I live in a very pale area as well. And I had to explain to him and it's suck to have to do it, but this is what life is, I had to explain to him that, someone might look at you and not see, not know that you are a black person until they see me and that could very easily affect how their parents think of you or how even they think of you.

I said you have to be extra sharp and on point about your behavior. It goes beyond just consent. It's not putting yourself in a situation that can be misconstrued, period. And you are a boy and black boys don't get second chances. So you have to do it right the first time, you have to be perfect every time.

And he said, "That's not fair." And I said, "Neither is life." None of it is fair but we've all had to prepare-- Yeah, none of it's fair. It's just so hard to explain. My kids are a little younger than yours. So it's just it's hard to explain to them that that's just the way it is. Yeah, I think we've all had similar experiences where like, we just know, anytime you make a mistake, that's it, you have to be perfect.

There's not as many exceptions made for us. So from a very young age, I was a competitive gymnast and professional dancer and just you guys know, you gotta be in that game and you gotta be on it and you can't make the same mistakes other people can make. Yeah, it can't be mediocre at all. It has to be, like the best of the best to even be considered. You always have to be ready, you always have to be ready, which is personally what I find to be the most exhausting part of it.

You have to be ready because there have been times where, the teacher doesn't show up, or the soloist has broken something, and you need to have your stuff together because there's a feeling that we won't even be considered for it. So we have to even say, "Hey, I got this, let me do this." "I'm ready, let me do this." And you all like, I remember all through performing. I was like, I'm gonna learn everybody's role. I'm gonna learn everybody's everything. I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it because I'm gonna be ready.

And I got some of my best roles, because I was ready and I was like, I can. (laughs) I was the same way. I was always an understudy, but I always knew everyone's parts 'cause I had to and that was the only way I really got anything. The only way to get cast. And it's crazy. I know it's crazy, I think back, I'm thinking back to being in the ballet days, I always knew there were certain roles I would never get, it just wasn't gonna happen.

I'm never gonna be a soloist in Swan Lake like, they're never going to pick me. It's just the things and that was one professional thing. I actually danced with Marimba at Alvin Ailey. So Marimba, and I go way back. Yeah, but that was a, it was so refreshing when I did finally land at Alvin Ailey that I was like, "Oh, my gosh," like, I will be judged on my merit here not on skin color.

So I can work hard and decisions will be made based on that not based on the color of my skin. Whereas in a very all white ballet schools and companies, it just wasn't gonna happen and I knew it. Yeah, I was always the Arabian. Yeah, I was gonna say, we get the Spanish roles-- Arabian, yeah. (laughs) No problem with those roles.

Spanish, Arabian, yeah. True story. Not Swan Lake. Never. No brown swans sorry-- (mumbles) So switching gears, so Tela, I know you were in the military before.

So you had told us a story about a time that you were in uniform and you would had, like people profiling you. Yeah, so I was in the military, and my unit was predominantly black and Hispanic. And we were doing a job in West Virginia. So were there for a few weeks. And you don't think that I had never been to West Virginia.

I didn't know anything about West Virginia. But I do remember being shocked, because a lot of the racism I saw as a young adult, then as an adult, was more covert. Whereas when we showed up in uniform and there was a lot of us in West Virginia, I was shocked. So I remember standing outside of a store and having parents, their children see us and you read body language, they literally grabbed their child like around the neck and went away from us. And I was shocked, I was wow. (laughs) Like, they wouldn't even let our kids get near us.

And I'm thinking, we're serving the country. We're actually serving the country. Wow (laughs). So West Virginia was difficult. Yeah, do Danica and Misty, do either of you wanna share any experiences with like microaggressions or racism that you that you've experienced?

I think what's shocking to me all the time is, I'm a business owner. I own two studios. I'm always dabbling in something or another. It's not like I haven't been around. It's not like people don't know what I do.

It amazes me when somebody comes into my studio, my studio, the space that I've built, and they say something like, hmm, so who's funding this place? Like, how did this happen? And I'm like, leprechauns, of course. 'Cause that's I mean, that's where money comes from, occasionally, like, sometimes I do this little dance, it just falls out of the sky. I've learned to just not deal with it in a way that's going to make me angry, because that kind of anger you hold on to all day long and maybe even all week.

But it happens so much more frequently than you would ever want to admit. And that's why this whole awakening that people are going through right now, people like us, speaking for all of us, but we're kind of like hmm, let's see how it goes. Because we've been there, we've had these moments of courage and hope and then only to have them dashed by somebody coming in the studio and saying, using the N word and saying, "Oh, I forgot your black". I mean, how did you forget? Maybe it's that colorblind thing I'm not sure but it hurts.

It hurts every time, I don't care how strong you are. Anybody that knows me knows that I am a straight shooter and I can be aggressive but it hurts every time somebody essentially craps on your work, and you. I have more of an anger response than a hurt response to be truthful. The micro aggression, those gets. I feel like I'm old enough that they just bounce off me at this point because there's so much of it and the covert racism, there's so much of it like, I hear it and I'm like, "Oh I'm not surprised" and I keep going.

But the the blatant racism the worst that I ever, ever, ever, ever had. I was cleaning my studio, the space that I built, right. I was cleaning my studio, on a Sunday afternoon and someone knocked on the door, there's a dry cleaner next to me and he was getting his dry cleaning. And he knocked on the door and I unlocked the door and I let him in and he starts asking me questions about Pilates and I tell him, "Well, I'm the owner." Well, I give my elevator pitch, do the thing. And he says, straight face, "Black people do this." And that's the kind of racism that just lights my fire.

And that's not covert that's just there and it happens. That's not the first time it's been two times that someone has been so, so very rude and said, "I had no idea black people do this." And I'm like, I can also drive a car. You'd be surprised at the things I can do. Congratulations. Thanks (laughs).

This is beautiful. I mean, I know it's just so shocking that people still say these things, it'll lead to things. I'll share a story about an opportunity that was lost from my kids. My kids are mixed. (clears throat) So they're lighter skin than I am. But I was picking my daughter up from gymnastics.

And I had been teaching a dance class before that across the street. And so I had on my dance attire and I wear a bandana when I teach dance. So I go to pick my daughter up and I noticed so my kids were homeschooled, and there was a homeschool co-op that I actually put a down payment on. I had talked to the head of the co-op and we had an hour long conversation on the phone. It was great.

We all love each other. I put a down payment on it. We were supposed to start that spring. And so I picked my daughter up. And I noticed, I'm not gonna mention the name.

It's a popular co-op. So I noticed that there's a child wearing the shirt for the homeschool co-op. And I said, "Oh, hey, do you go to this co-op?" And she said, "Yes." And I was like, "Oh, that's really exciting. "We're gonna be attending this fall." And as I'm saying that her mom comes up and right away, looks me up and down. (laughs) You know the look. Right away, looks me up and down and kind of turns her child away from me and says, "Oh, what were you talking about?" And I said, I noticed that your daughter had the classical conversation shirt on and I said, we are actually joining the co-op this spring and we're really excited to join.

And she gave me look it up and down. "Oh, okay, that's nice." And she's like, "Take care," and left, not very friendly at all. And we know what that means. And I was annoyed and I was upset about it but I didn't think about it. But about two or three days later, I thought you know what, you better call ahead, because I bet you any money, she went back and said something.

So I call and I said, "Oh, I just wanna check "and make sure everything's okay, "you have my deposit anything like that". She's like, "You know what, actually our spaces are filled. "I'm gonna have to return your deposit." Now I did write a letter to the head. So the global head of this organization is not who's responsible. They are individually, you can start your own any place.

So I wrote a letter to that. And they wanted to and I mean, at that point, I was like, we're not joining no matter what, I don't want my children around people like this. But how terrible is that? It was going to be a great experience for my children. It happens, it's still happening.

Yeah, and the thing about it is, it's so much worse. Like I said, I can make it stupid and say a few words that, belittle the person that's doing it without coming out and using the colorful language that I appreciate most. But when it happens to your kids. It's terrible. When it happens to your kids, that's when I get table flipping mad.

That's when I go to where Danica goes, is because listen, you can come at me, I'm 46 years old in two weeks. I can take anything you sling, but if you come after my child, I can't really hold that together. And I've had issues with my son in school since preschool. And he is the sweetest kid, the most kind. He does not have my forked tongue unless you push him but that's a different story.

Thank you, Kara. But it's such a tightrope because you don't wanna be put into that position where you're the traditional, angry black woman. You don't wanna go sideways on somebody that's just gonna well, cry. Or just say I had no idea I was being inflammatory. It's so, like Danica said it's covert, but very, very intentional.

And that's when things get ugly. It does get ugly, and like you said though, we always have to take the higher road and we've known that since we were little on the playground. People calling you names on the playground, I think that was the first time as a child ever been called, a nigger, the N word, on playground an all white school and kids making fun of us for our hair. I used to made fun of all the time for my facial features, my nose, my hair, my this, my that and it was bad, but you grow up tough, you grew up strong, but when it happens to your kids, it's infuriating. And that experience was infuriating but I had to take a few days then write the letter because like you said Misty we have to take the higher road because we don't wanna be seen as like you said the angry black woman but it makes one really angry.

Yeah it does and and it took me a while to learn that higher road lesson, I won't lie. Took a little bit of time but I got there. My children are, they're very tan now. So now they have more of my complexion but my husband is Turkish and Mediterranean, a very dark olive. My children, you don't know what they are if they're not standing next to us if people understand what I mean by that, so they haven't so much experienced racism directed towards them.

But they've seen it come at me and they've seen it come at my husband's around them like on the soccer field. They've seen it and then it becomes that conversation on the way home. So that's where my kids have this, they have more coming against them just because they're females at this point, they have more people telling them, don't do this, don't do this, act this way, act that way, look right, look this and aside from diversity in the fitness industry, I have another bone to pick with the fitness industry and that my nine year old wants to wear a sports bra because that's what she thinks working out, is what you wear to work out. And I'm like that's what she's like, that's what everyone's wearing. And she's like, see, she flips the channel and there it is.

And I'm like, oh, (laughs) so honestly that is where we are now. And more so than even having to deal with racism directed towards them, which doesn't make it any better or less of stress inside of the house. Because there's plenty of other things to deal with as well. Danica, I wanted to ask you 'cause you're in Virginia, and I know they recently removed the Robert E. Lee or they're removing the Robert E. Lee monument that's there. Ah, they're pulling them all down.

That's awesome. Robert E. Lee is big, big, big one. I'm not sure if it's down yet 'cause that was the engineering feat to get it down. I'm not sure if it's down yet. Yeah, but they are doing, right?

They are doing it. Can you describe your experience when you were working with clients who didn't necessarily think that they were a problem? Like they're thought was more like this, there history. I was I am thankful actually in the timing of it is that I was still 100% virtually online because if had been in studio having to deal with it. I don't think I would have fared so well, but I was able to keep my composure on Zoom.

Either no one wanted to bring it up, but bring it up at all. And just breeze over it. Like, okay, this is happening la la la la and I say, "How are you? "Are you okay? "Are you okay?" And I'm like, "Yeah, I'm fine down down and do the hundred." Ones that did say something were very shocked at how surprised they were in themselves that they didn't realize how big of a deal it was, how offensive the statues are, were, will always be.

And I met them with no sympathy. I said, "How could you not know?" And you realize you don't know because you've never had to think about it and it's never been put in a context to you that is offensive, that is oppressive. It's just a statue to you, which is not what it is to so many people and to have to drive down, literally, Monument Avenue that it has multiple monuments and then they're scattered all out through the city because Richmond Virginia is the capital of the Confederacy. And the name all the streets down in Richmond to are all confederate generals. Yes, and the elementary schools.

I used to live in Lynchburg, Virginia. My mother and father were born and raised in Lynchburg. Hi. Hi, follow (mumbles), actually they made the exodus to Atlanta, but Lynchburg. Lynchburg, Virginia, yeah.

Yeah, it gets its name honestly. (Tela mumbles) (laughs) I would say they've all been supportive. Yeah, supportive or they just want to go about as if this is going to all blow over and it'll all be okay. I have not run into any one of my clients who is overtly disappointed that these statues are getting pulled down. (laughs) Were you against it. Yeah, like that has not happened.

If it did I'd be like, get out. (laughs) So that's how it's happening here but I will say this, in the south, every state, hello kitty cat. Every state has a confederate museum. So for those who argue history, history history, put your history in a museum where it belongs. Take it away and then you go visit it on your free time. Go, don't make me look at it on the way to Kroger.

Sorry. No we love the cat too. (laughs) Yeah, I know when I lived in South Carolina to my last name is Calhoun. And that's a huge name in South Carolina 'cause John C. Calhoun was the Vice President who got the south of secede from the union. And when I moved there, people were so into my last name. They're like, "Oh, my God," like "John C. Calhoun." I was like, my family's not like, we're not proud of that.

Like, we don't wanna be associated with that. And people were giving me all sorts of like history and they're like, "Oh, my God, aren't you so excited? "Like you have streets named after you?" It's like, no, that's not, I like my name, but I don't wanna be associated to that at all. It's not what I want. It's just they didn't understand it.

Yeah, I just find there's a large disconnect. So I have friends of a lot of different races, a lot of different religions, a lot of different political views and I love them all. But I will say it's been a little difficult to, there is one side that I think pretty much talk to anybody. But there is one side that through all this has been so frustrating. And it's the side that says, "Well, I've never seen color "and all lives matter," that component of it, it's very hard to have someone basically discount (laughs) your feelings on something that they don't know anything about. (laughs) So when you are trying to-- 'Cause they haven't experienced it or haven't seen it like that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist-- Well, they to say you have a skin color that they don't see people or their color, which I'm thinking well, you have to because you have eyes.

And although maybe they have not discriminated. That doesn't mean that we haven't dealt with discrimination and that's not a thing, right. So when we say black lives matter, and they say all lives matter. Well, yeah, we know that. But we're talking about a specific issue in a specific problem that we're having.

But yeah, it's very hard to say, Well, I never discriminated. Okay, well, (laughs) that's great. But there's a whole rest of the country that we're having a problem with. Well, and we have an issue culturally. So sorry, this is why I work outside, I didn't think she was around.

But we have an issue culturally, and this really plays out kind of in the Pilates world to both in teaching and what we take in and what we give out, as well as in participating, right. So we have this issue where, because it doesn't happen to me in that way, it's not really a thing. And I think it's kind of the hubris and the youth of American culture that allows us to get away with this nonsense, but it's not really working, is it? When you dovetail that into say race in the Pilates studio, we have different bodies, everybody has a different body, right? There are no clones unless you've got maybe an identical twin.

But how we present that to the bodies that are in front of us, how we are able to communicate, Hey, I'm built this way, so my roll up is gonna look different and that's okay, is a big deal. If we are talking about things like a collective experience and being inclusive and not excluding people, for their differences. I think that we have to look at ourselves and how we process these things as individuals. Customers that say things like or anybody, not just customers, "Oh, well, I don't see color." They use that as their defense mechanism, because it didn't happen to me, it's not real. But I have never flown to space.

But I do know that the space program exists and people have gone up in space shuttles, a lot. I can't discount it just because they didn't experience it. Why is racism different? Exactly, I'm gonna go into the q&a 'cause there's a few questions in here, that I think Eunice is relevant to what we're talking about now. She asked, "How do you deal with clients "who say ignorant things?

"Do you call them out? "Or do you finish the session "and then just never work with them again? "What do you do with them?" I think it depends on what it is and how it's delivered. Some things can wait until the end of the class and some things need to be addressed right there. I had a customer that was calling people mongoloids.

And I was like, "What did you just say?" I thought maybe I'd heard it wrong. And she said it again and she's going on and she's super proud of herself. And I was like, "Do you know how dumb you sound." And it's not really the way I would typically address a full room of people. But I feel like this kind of thing is one of those situations where if you let one get away with it, it's just going to snowball, especially when you've got crowds and there are some people that enjoy having an audience and leading the group. And sometimes that person needs the wrap of the nose of the newspaper like the puppy.

I did fire her by the way, she had to go. I did have one client I had to fire in the middle. It waited till afterwards, but in the middle of the class, the whole entire class stop as I said, that is incredibly offensive. And then believe it or not, the other people in the class took over the fight for me. So I was like, "Yay," and at the end of the class I said, you're not gonna be welcome here anymore.

It's not a good fit for you. But what Misty was saying it does have to do with the way it's said, the way it's delivered. I try to say, okay, that's your opinion. We're not here to discuss this. We're here for your core.

So get to work. And then I'm going to lose count during your stomach series. Sorry, I'm not sorry. So, but there are times, there's a line, and I think for every individual, that line is different. And you should hold fast to that line.

And there needs to be an environment, whether it's the other teachers around or the other clients around where I was so proud of my clients at that moment where they came to bat for me, I just had to say it and then they went for it. And if I were working under someone else, I would expect the studio owner, I would expect the studio manager, somebody to come be on my side, which I know does not happen in studios. And that is why so many people of color in the fitness industry will hold it inside. Because we don't wanna be viewed as the angry one. We don't wanna ruffle feathers.

We don't wanna be told that we have to suck it down because they don't want to deal with it. Can I just dovetail off of that. So for any studio owners that are on this discussion and wondering how or what to do, you have to do something. Because you set the tone in your space and if you don't, the inmates start to run the asylum and you owe it to your instructors who are representing you. You owe them the protection of nipping that at the bud and if you don't you're complicit and I am very, very sorry if that hurts feelings.

I'm just kidding, I'm not. But it's really, really important to understand that we shouldn't have to take verbal bullets, because you don't want to put your foot down. Tela do you have anything you wanted to add about this? Ah, sure I'm the odd one out here where I don't have my own studio. I've always worked for other people.

So that is kind of a tough situation when you are an employee because you can't just end the session. But I have gone back and just basically said, I don't think this person I are going to work, they need to be on someone else's schedule. I just kinda put it like that. To be honest, I don't even think I got into the racial aspect of it. It just, I knew it wasn't going to work and I wasn't going to let someone talk to me like that.

So I just said put them on someone else's schedule but I have seen it in some studios where a person has had a problem with a client, saying things that are not okay, not right and they were forced to work them again. And of course like once a year kinda let down like that from your employer then they don't say anything they're gonna talk to me about it, they're gonna talk to some other black instructor about it. But once they realize that their employer is not on their side, what are they gonna do lose their job? But once the trust is broken it never comes back. I mean, that's why they won't go back and try again because with this specific case, I'm not gonna mention any names, but it was put back on them.

Well, why can't this client say that or why can't like, "Oh, she didn't mean it that way." Oh, that's the worst. So in situations like that, yeah, they're gonna come and confide in us more of a senior teacher or someone who's been in the game a lot longer than they have. But yeah, once the trust is broken with that employer, well, that's it. But they're not, of course, they're not going to lose their job. And that's unfortunate because that means that they're put in the situation over and over again and that's not right.

Yeah, we go into another one of these questions. Sonia asked, "How do each of you see the Pilates industry "changing given what has happened in the black community "over the past several months? "What do you hope to see?" I honestly think that what's happening is positive thing. We were saying before, this happens all the time. (laughs) We've been here before. But I've never seen the table so open for discussion and for people listening.

So I'm thinking that this is a very positive thing, if we can continue this. I'd like to see more black faces, I'd like to see more, we have so many amazing instructors of brown skin, right, but I don't tend to see them. You don't tend to see them in leading roles where they should be, right? Because if we're basing it on merit, they have just as much time, just as much talent, but you don't see them on the cover of magazines. You don't see them like outwardly representing.

When I got alo moves, that was a huge thing for me, because I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to, finally I've been in the fitness industry for 20 years, I was like, I finally feel like someone's accepting me onto a platform and that was huge deal. So I'd like to see more of that. Misty. Yeah, I'm even more than that, though they work together, of course. I want to see spaces that are inviting and that build inclusivity.

So what I mean is, I don't know how many of you listening have ever been in a position where you go into a space and you are the minority. And I don't mean you're the minority because you have short nails and everyone else has long nails. I mean, whether it's an ethnic minority, whether everyone is super thin and your average size, whether you're older and everyone else is younger, going into a space where you are minority is uncomfortable. It's sometimes nauseating. And most people are going to turn around and walk away.

We need more inclusivity in Pilates across the board, not even just racially. But racially, I think there's an onus on the industry itself, to make it so that people feel comfortable participating in these spaces. And then from us, I feel like we have to not shy away from that discomfort. Because right now everybody's on eggshells. It's kinda like when you are walking across the fiery coals, right, it's uncomfortable, you're freaked out, maybe you'll catch on fire, who knows what's gonna happen?

But nobody is feeling comfortable right now. And I feel like everyone needs to lean into that discomfort. Everybody needs to get to a place where they're able to say, you know what, it's not comfortable, but I'm going to be part of this solution. And we as in particular, women of color, black women, but women of color, black men, men of color, need to get into those spaces and say, you know what, I might suffer a little bit here but next time, it'll be a little bit better. And they're gonna keep seeing my face here.

And the more My face is here, the more they may start seeing more people like me. So I think the responsibility goes both ways. I agree, Danica did you wanna add? Yeah, it's really hard to add on to that. 'Cause they said all the things. (laughs) You really did.

I would like to see that, what's happening with black people in Pilates in terms of diversity really opens the entire mind's eyes to really the definition of diversity. And we're gonna take it into age and body size and other races other than black and white. 'Cause there's so many people and this is the true melting pot, I mean with those many mixed children that we have created in the world today, how can we really separate and delineate and I hope that this discomfort that has started. And it has already started to change things, already we have two black PMA members, like it's changing, like things are happening, this discomfort, all of this is slowly starting to like, turn the wheel. So I wanna see it keep going and I wanna see it open more.

So that's, you walk into studios and everyone's feels inclusive, it doesn't feel, I hate to use the word whitewashed. It's what a lot of studios feel like or just incredibly cold and uninviting, like let's bring it together and let's not make Pilates such a exclusive thing. Not just from an angle of race, but socio economics, everything, 'cause Pilates is kinda known as an exercise for the wealthy and you've got a spine you can do something, doesn't matter. And that's what I see happening and hope keeps happening. 'Cause they said everything.

They did, yeah. But Danica, what you're talking about actually brings me to another question I have. "Cause we've seen these diversity scholarships pop up now. So I wanted to get your thoughts on those because it's one way that I know people are trying but is it the right way? And A for effort and I support the idea of scholarship.

But when you say scholarship to me, I really think there just as many broke white people that want to study Pilates, as there are what broke black people that wanna study Pilates or Hispanic or anything so for me when you say scholarship, I really want it to be a scholarship-- A merit based. Yeah, a merit based, it's open to anyone who can have it, now at the same time there needs to be these scholarship applications, need to get out into other communities. And that's where I say, okay, you have a diversity scholarship. You're saying I want people of color, men and women to take these scholarship. Well, how are you getting to them in the first place?

And going back to the point that again, I think it should be an all inclusive thing. It shouldn't just be about the color of your skin, you've gotta open it. So whether you wanna make it for one group of people or not, you still have to get it out there. And you still have to make your space inviting for people to want to come to it. And I wish all training programs have some kind of application for scholarship and work study something 'cause it's expensive.

And for that matter, going to workshops, going to conferences that is expensive. So, I love the idea of work study. Come on, I'll do some work study, (laughs) right. I'd like to slide in here though, and just throw this out there. I don't know where this assumption that all black people are broke comes from and that the only way we're gonna come to a teacher training program is if you give it to us for free.

I just want people to think about it. Go back to grade school, okay? And there was always that kid or those couple of kids in your class that were on the free lunch program. And do you remember how those kids retreated? I have this image in my mind this poor girl she has the thickest glasses in really bad fashion.

But I also know that her family was going through a big thing. She had two kids with cancer, whatever, like what's the big deal, relentless? These other kids were to her. And remember these other kids grow up to be adults. And these are probably the same folks that don't see color today.

So that poor kid is terrorized. Same thing happens with these scholarship programs. So you bring Mavis in, I don't know where that came from the cat I guess, so Mavis comes into your studio and you are living in a town where there's two people of color of any color even have a tinge of color in the whole town. And Mavis comes in, she's not even from that town, and she's doing Pilates teacher training and the owner of the studio says, "I would like for you guys to meet Mavis. "She received a teacher training scholarship "and she's going to be apprenticing here.

You have already put poor Mavis at a disadvantage. And that clientele who's happy to pay the apprentice rate for Mavis will never graduate to the full rate for Mavis because they think she was getting something special for free. And they don't wanna pay her what she's worth. These scholarship programs, like I said, like Danica said A for effort, but we have to look at the stigma that you're putting onto people going down the road. Now Mavis as apprentice, she's met people at the studio, but she can't work there because the environment is uncomfortable once again.

And maybe she throws this career away. The scholarship away, because it wasn't handled right at the beginning. There are right ways to do scholarships. But the assumption that black people are free and the assumption that you're gonna offer somebody a scholarship, and that's gonna solve the problem. Terrible, is bad news.

Agreed. Tela. Yeah, so exactly what they said. (Danica laughs) I'm gonna say A for effort for sure. And people are trying and I think my take on that is, I actually did work study for my first certification. But my take on that is scholarship should be based on merit.

No matter what you think of the scholarship, I think my take on it is, it's still not going to help you or them in the industry? Because we all know that in the industry, you have to be so much better than anybody else, you do. And I'll say it, I've been in the health and fitness industry for 20 years, I've been teaching Pilates for 17. I watch people walk right through a door that I've been literally trying to pry open, opportunities that I'm like, yes, like I this is finally I'm gonna and then I'll watch someone who got certified a year ago, walk right through that door. So even if you give them a scholarship based on the color of their skin, it's not gonna help them once they're in the industry.

Because we have to fix that, right? But we know like it's just an inherent, we know, we have to be 100% bringing to the table and we have to work a lot harder to get those doors to open for us. So if you give someone a scholarship, you're still not gonna open the door once they're in the industry. That's actually something that if you know Juan Estrada. I work with Juan Estrada, Juan Estrada and I talk about that all the time with our Pilates' friends united and trying to highlight these amazing instructors.

They're not getting the light, no one knows who they are, and they're amazing and wonderful, but they are not getting showcased. So, we have to do something. I think what we need to do is start within the industry already. I think scholarship is a great idea, but I don't like the idea like, Misty said that it's based on someone not having money and assuming that black people are all poor. It's my take on that.

I agree with everything you guys said. We only have 10 more minutes, so I'm gonna wined down here. So for people who wanna be allies, what advice do you have for them? What can you studio owners do to make their studios more welcoming, or feel safer for people of color, black people? What advice do you have?

Well, actually, I wanna say thank you to you Gia and to Pilates Anytime for doing these talks, because I think this is just actually letting people hear our voices, is huge. (laughs) Like, bringing us to the platform, letting us have a voice, letting us speak, is huge. So I really wanna thank you for that. Thank you, well, I wanted to showcase as many people as I could, like, get as many people heard as I could, 'cause we all have a lot of similar but different experiences. And I love it, yeah. And I think for us, for employers, I think maybe if you do have employees of color, maybe talk to them, maybe ask them, maybe communicate, but I think number one, hearing our voices, understanding where we're coming from 'cause like we said, a lot of people don't understand what it is the problem is or what is we're working with.

So I think listening and hearing our voice is step number one. Go ahead. Go ahead Danica. I was gonna agree completely that having our voices, have platform to be heard, and people continuing to come to want to listen has got to be what happens. And then yes, the Caucasians in the industry, you need to stay uncomfortable.

You need to keep questioning yourselves. You need to keep questioning things around you. And continually keep pushing yourself to make things better. This is just because we'd like to rip the band aid off and that we're not done here. We're not done here at all.

And it is going to be a very long process. And COVID is Cogley slowing it down but also giving it momentum at the same time because it's like it's here. We're talking about it. We're doing it but what happens when normal ensues? Heavy air quotes.

Dear science help us please? But what happens, right? What happens when all the gyms and the studio doors open back up? Is it gonna be like, well, that was just the conversation we were having then, that is gonna be where I'm really interested to see what's gonna happen then 'cause let's keep going. Let's stay uncomfortable about it.

Let's make this part of changing the industry. I'm gonna call it out now, I wanna see a panel at the next PMA conference. I wanna see some things that is dealing with exactly what we're talking about now. I want that's my vote for that. (laughs) So here's my thought on that question. When you have a person that comes into your studio that maybe doesn't fit the mold?

Do you treat them differently? The answer is yes. Typically you go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. If I have somebody that is, for example, very plus size, come into my space. I'm gonna do everything I can to make that person feel like they've come home.

Because I want them to have the benefit of this. I don't understand this question, in a lot of ways, because why would it be any different for a person with a different tone? If everyone looks the same, and then you've got one standing off the edge that looks a little bit different, you have to do a gut check. Do you want that person to be comfortable in your space and become a part of your community? Because if you don't, don't take their money the first time for the first lesson, then dug them out, let them go.

But I have a feeling that if you're on this call, that's not really your Mo. If you're on this call, you wanna know how to make it better. So treat them like you would treat anybody else that may not feel comfortable in your space. Roll out the welcome mat, say hello. Ask them questions, get to know them, make them a part of the fabric of your studio.

We're people, we're not Ottomans. It's not that hard to talk to us. Thank you. There's a couple more questions, let's see. In your studio, are you taking into account having, this is from Christie by the way?

Are you taking into account having a diverse group of teachers? Not just like this is more just like a broad question for everyone this age, size, race et cetera. I need teachers so badly. I don't care if you're a zebra send me your resume. You brought hyena, hedgehog.

(laughs) Like that just made me cry that's like a whole nother thing of stress. It is so brutal. It is, I am in a situation now where my apprentice is a black male and I can tell you it is a very wonderful grounding effect inside of the studio. Not really because he's black, but honestly because he's a male. And I do have a lot of male clients but that male energy just kinda grounding everything really.

It's been really really nice honestly to tell you the truth but really yeah, I am looking for diverse people who can teach, mostly teach. Take us to number one. (laughs) And you need to live in the south. What do you now in the land of online teaching? Yeah, what about online teaching?

I'm saying do you need somebody that is physically present or are you still teaching online? I have reopened my studio, so I am hybrid, my schedule is a hybrid online and in the studio. I have the fortune of the month, a month lease like I get out of jail free card at this point right now like (crying) please baby Jesus. But I don't know, I mean, our governor could roll us back and shut us down. And if he does, I'm back to online 100 and we'll stay there 'cause it will be something very hard...

it'll be very hard to bounce back twice. But till then send me your resume. I'll take it to when you can teach online for me. Yeah, my head is headed that way. But I'm just so tired right now that I'm like, huh. (laughs) One last question here.

What are common cues that you've heard like Pilates teachers say that like, maybe a black body wouldn't be able to do or that are just not anatomically incorrect. I wanna take this one, (Danica laughs) it burns me to my core every time I say it, but it's something that I want people to hear. So I was going through teacher training. I wasn't teaching it, I was a participant. And there's another instructor there a black woman, super fit like ripped body everywhere, very flexible.

She was also a yogi. She was well endowed in the cheeks department, okay. And so it was a classical training, she had to do the roll up and because of her lordosis, she was unable to do the roll up. And the instructor said, in front of everybody "You'll never be able to do that exercise ever, "but you need to figure it out before your test out." And I was appalled. This is where my rage came in.

So I was like, "That's bullshit." Pardon my French everybody, pardon. But that's what I said, so that's bullshit, and you have a responsibility to do better. She said, "Well, it's impossible. "Look at her body." So then I'm heated and I'm sweating. I'm stuttering, I'm so mad, and I gave her a towel.

We did a supportive neutral, boom, that was it. She never had trouble with the roll up again. Sudden the teachers is a little bit salty 'cause I showed her up. But that's not the point of the story. The point of the story is, I looked at that woman because she was a friend of mine that was going through this training and the devastation on her face.

I will never forget that. I will never forget it. We have to find a way and if we can do it for people who can't, walk and have had strokes and all these other things, we can be kind to a person that is able bodied and has a different anatomy. We can, we can, we're really smart, we read books. So I just want you to keep that in mind when somebody comes into your space and is not what we would consider to be the anatomical norm which by the way is fully manufactured.

Thank you advertising industry, let's be real. The number of size double zero, blondes with natural breasts is not that high, sorry. Yeah, that the anatomical cueing is the number one thing is gonna be with the ample backside which is lordotic. With really it's just your butt. And there's, I have plenty of white clients with booties too.

Yes, they do and I have to give them... and it's funny 'cause I actually have to stop and be like, I give you permission to enjoy the size of your butt. (Misty laughs) Love it. And yes, it's going to put your lumbar in a certain place. We will deal with that as we figure it out because that's what Pilates is supposed to do.

It's supposed to deal with the body in front of you. It's not supposed to morph the body into the image in the manual that I'm never gonna look like the girl in the unitard in the manual, I'm never going to look like that. (laughs) But in training programs and teaching teachers, that's what I loved about the training program I went to it was all about teaching the body in front of you, know your cues, know your stuff and you've gotta be able to swivel on a dime because you don't know who's coming into you. And it's like, did I forget to tell you about that fusion? Which people forget somehow. (laughs) Tela, did you wanna add anything? Yeah, I mean, I was laughing because it's true, the booty but I love it.

We need to celebrate our bodies, they're beautiful, black bodies are beautiful. I think maybe all of us have the experience of growing up maybe as dancers, performers. Not feeling that our bodies are beautiful. So like I make it a point to, I train instructors, I am a teacher of teachers. So I make it a point to make sure that no one's that ever studied with me would ever embarrass someone in the way that Misty said, or make someone feel bad about their body.

That's a big one with me. It took me a long time to love my booty, because I grew up in a world where no one had one. So our bodies should be celebrated. And it just people need to understand that they need to, you can't body and there is a thing in Pilates with body shaming. So I think that's probably a whole other topic.

But there is such thing as body shaming, and it can be done with cueing and in other ways. So we have to, yeah, watch what we say and make things available to everybody. Exactly, well, thank you ladies. And thank everyone for coming to this webinar. We're out of time.

Wait can I ask question real fast. Yes. Misty, is it your birthday? No, no, no, no, not until the 30th. Okay, 'cause someone said happy birthday and I'm like girl wait a minute-- No because I said in two weeks I'll be 46.

You don't look a day over 24. Oh my God, you're best friend. Thank you, Danica. (Danica laughs) That was my only question. Sorry, and thank you for having me Gia. No that's a great question.

No, thank you all. And then we are recording this webinar. So it will be on Pilates Anytime. In a little bit, I can't say when. But in a little bit, it'll be on Pilates Anytime.

So watch it again. Share it with your friends. Just we all need to keep doing the work. So let's see some real change in the industry and in the world and thank you again. Thank you, Danica and Misty and Tela.

And we'll see you all soon. Thanks, everyone for listening. Thanks, guys.

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Comments

1 person likes this.
Great work everyone! Yessss to celebrating our bodies.  Let's meet back here in a year and see what changes have taken place in the industry. 
1 person likes this.
Thank you, Roxana
1 person likes this.
Great initiative: let's hear the voices of our colleagues. Mentalities need to evolve, practices need to evolve. Everyone can take its share of responsibility.

Kudos, Gia, for keeping this conversation moving forward in such a real way.
Thank you, Lina and Kyria! These are such important conversations that we need to continue to have!
1 person likes this.
Thank you Gia, Tela, Misty and Danica for your time, wisdom & real talk! As a new teacher to the industry I feel lucky to be able to hear these conversations from the get go & hopefully learn from your experiences. Looking forward to more! Hana.

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