These individuals are making waves and creating change within the fitness industry.
Just like so many other industries, mainstream fitness has a long history of centering and catering to a predominantly white audience, historically disregarding issues of diversity, inclusion, and representation. But representation is vital; what people see shapes their perception of reality and what they deem to be possible for themselves and for people who look like them.
Whether folks realize it or not, cultivating a diverse and inclusive fitness industry is wildly important and a crucial component in creating multifaceted experiences. It’s impossible to take a holistic approach to health and wellness without considering the intersection of race, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, age, and body shape and size, among others. Wellness is for everyone, and the benefits of movement extend to every single human being. Movement allows you to feel energized, whole, empowered, and nourished in your body, in addition to offering reduced stress levels, better sleep, and increased physical strength.
Black folks have always been changemakers, solving social problems and paving the way for others. These 5 individuals are doing just that, making waves and creating change within the fitness industry, while also helping people to live their healthiest, fullest lives:
As a three-time marathoner, a private fitness coach for notable clients including Naomi Campbell, Nike Master Trainer, and GQ columnist, there’s little that Joe Holder hasn’t done so far in the wellness industry. Well known for his philosophy, “The Ocho System”, he is one of the most influential individuals in the world of fitness and sport. Holder is also the co-founder of System of Service, an NYC-based nonprofit organization that strives to establish service as paramount, creating impactful experiences that inspire the community to exercise selflessness as a muscle – daily and with purpose. A firm believer that productivity begins by taking control of your health, Holder has worked with top brands and celebrities, helping them to maximize their health culture and potential and has lead keynote speeches at a variety of places ranging from Harvard to Louis Vuitton.
With more than 30 years of experience as a trainer and health coach, Jeannette Jenkins, founder of The Hollywood Trainer LLC, is a pioneer in the industry and has undoubtedly opened the doors for other Black health and wellness practitioners. A Columbia graduate with more than 18 international certifications covering nutrition and various methods of training from weight training and Kickboxing to Pilates, yoga, metabolic testing, and more, Jenkins has amassed nearly a million followers on Instagram, collaborated with companies such as Apple, and trained celebrity clients such as Alicia Keys, Mindy Kaling, Shonda Rhimes, Tracie Ellis Ross, Serena Williams, and more. She is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after fitness coaches and through her virtual online Healthy Living Club, Jenkins provides individuals with everything they need to get in shape and make healthy living a lifetime habit.
Simeon Panda, who has more than 17 million social media followers worldwide, is a world-renowned bodybuilder and fitness mega-influencer known for his authenticity, commitment to fitness, and high standards. This year, Panda was announced as the new face of the iconic Gold’s Gym. Speaking on the collab he remarks, “My lifelong goal has been to share motivation and positivity within the fitness community, and this partnership with Gold’s Gym gives me another platform to inspire others and take them on this journey with me.”
Besides being a dynamic trainer and Lululemon ambassador, Deja Riley, founder of Deja Riley Athletics is a changemaker within the fitness industry, working to change the narrative and create safe, inclusive spaces for all people seeking to feel better. As a former professional dancer turned fitness expert, she focuses on empowering diverse communities through a functional, yet holistic approach. Deja blends high-energy movements and various disciplines such as dance, boxing, kickboxing, weight training and non-physical hosting for fun, explosive workouts.
As the founder of Decolonizing Fitness, a social justice platform that provides affirming fitness services, community education, and apparel in support of body diversity, Ilya Parker is on a mission to create a more affirming fitness and wellness industry. Decolonizing serves as an incredible educational resource for coaches, trainers, studio owners, and anyone who is interested in unlearning toxic fitness culture. The focus of Parker’s work is to provide a supportive environment to individuals who have historically not felt welcomed in fitness spaces – i.e. Black people, people in larger bodies, people with disabilities, people with chronic pain, people over the age of 65, and people who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Briana Thompson, the founder of Spiked Spin & Wellness Co., an indoor cycling, yoga, Pilates, and therapy studio, is working to make the fitness and wellness industry more accessible and welcoming for all people, but her focus is specifically on the experience that Black women are having in wellness. The mission of Spiked Spin is simple and unique: to transform wellness for Black women and allies. It's the first studio of its kind, providing premium mental and physical wellness experiences, placing the needs of the community at the forefront, and aiding in improving generational health.