Wellness

These Black Women Are Making Boston’s Fitness Scene More Inclusive

They want you to know that representation matters.


Boston fitness black women

Heather White / Deanna Belleny / Ashley Mitchell / Portia Singh / Gianne Doherty / Photos provided

From dietitians to fitness instructors to clean beauty purveyors, these five black women are not only making waves in the Boston health and fitness scene, but they’re also starting some important dialogue regarding the way wellness is represented for all. If you don’t already know their names, get to know them now.

Heather White, CEO and founder of TrillFit 

As the fearless leader of Trillfit, a hip-hop inspired dance cardio class, Heather White opened their brand new flagship studio in Mission Hill earlier this year, and she says they want fitness to be accessible to all communities. “It’s our duty to make wellness more inclusive and accessible because people’s lives literally depend on it,” she explains.

She goes on to point out that here in Boston there’s a 30-year life expectancy difference from Back Bay to Roxbury/North Dorchester. “Hire more diverse talent in your studios. Invest in your community. Ride the one bus from Dudley Square to Back Bay (it’s five miles) and see, really see, the disparity in access to wellness. Then do something about it.”

Deanna Belleny, co-founder of Diversify Dietetics 

Did you know that 75 percent of registered dietitians are white? That’s according to the Commission on Dietetic Registration. It’s one of the reasons Deanna Belleny, a registered dietitian and program manager at Harvard Medical School, and her business partner Tamara Melton founded Diversify Dietetics, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

“When it comes to wellness, diversity in representation helps on many levels,” she wrote in “8 Influencers Making the Wellness World More Inclusive,” a recent SELF article. “When people see others who they identify with meditating, or hiking, or even preparing a meal it can make them feel less alone in their own pursuits. It may inspire them to try a new activity or it can even challenge others in the wellness community to have a more inclusive mindset.”

Ashley Mitchell, Barry’s Bootcamp Instructor 

Barry’s Bootcamp only has one African American instructor. Yep, that’s right. Only one. And her name is Ashley Mitchell. Previously a Soul Cycle and Orangetheory instructor, she has been teaching in the Red Room for two years now and says that this disconnect is what keeps people of color from trying a Barry’s class or hopping on a bike at Soul Cycle—because no one in the room, or leading the room, looks like them. “I think the more we can immerse ourselves in cultures other than our own, which extends farther than black or white, we develop a wider sense of empathy,” she says. “It creates a space that is more inclusive and eliminates this feeling of other that can exist.”

 

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There’s no instructor on the planet like this one ☝ He’s been opening the lines of communication about race and diversity, and in particular what it’s like to exist as a black man both in and out of @soulcycle. (If you need to catch up, check out the posts on 12.4, 12.10, 12.16, 12.21 & 1.3) The long and short of it is that existing as non-white in predominately white spaces is arduous, frustrating, and at times… defeating. Do you know that sometimes I can go an entire day without seeing a single person who looks like me? Do you know how many times I’ve experienced diversity training in an educational or workplace setting? ONE (and it wasn’t until 2015) • Do you know how many times I’ve had to field racist jokes, comments about my hair, skin, body, marriage, my strength, attitude, education level, upbringing, and sexuality? COUNTLESS. (My favorite? Someone saying “Ash, I want to know what it’s like to have sex with a black girl, will you?) • Do you know how many times a mother has asked her son not to date me solely because I was black? 5 • How many times people have said, “I was afraid to take your class because you look scary?” Several (and likewise how many articles and data points exist about the fact that black girls are seen as more aggressive and mature than their white counterparts, and therefore get treated differently from as young as 5 years old?) • How many times I’ve watched cleaning staff get treated as either invisible or as “help” vs an integral part of a studio family? You tell me. Sit back and watch for yourself one day. • This isn’t about placing blame or pointing fingers. It’s about recognition and evolving our perspectives. It’s about (once again) DOING THE WORK. • And quite frankly, I need to do the work, too. I’ve allowed myself to only accept the watered down, bullshit version of race in America that our schools so briefly touch on, and to assimilate so deeply into mainstream culture (which is white, heteronormative, and through a male lense) that I haven’t done the work on knowing where I come from. So, I’m changing that narrative. “I didn’t know” isn’t really acceptable is it? When the truth is, “I didn’t take the time to learn”. ⬇️

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Portia Singh, Boss Chick Dance Workout Master Trainer 

The disparity across racial lines in health care is something Portia Singh, a Master Trainer for the Boss Chick Dance Workout, is very aware of when she helps women of color start a workout plan or advocate for their health. She says the Boss Chick Dance Workout, which is a high-intensity dance class only for women set to hip-hop and Afro beat music, is a place for women to feel safe without feeling over sexualized by the way they’re moving their body.

“I was very happy to see that my classes [which are held at Women’s Fitness of Boston] not only attracts a diverse crowd but a huge crowd of African American women,” she says. “The key to diversifying our classes and fitness spaces is to market to that group of people. Don’t count them out. I would also encourage more people of color, who are qualified, to seek positions as instructors and to show that we have a presence in this community and aren’t just hidden.”

 

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Twerk it Tuesday is one of my favorite days of the week! Thank you ladies for bringing the energy! Swipe for some behind the scene photo bloopers! Today’s class was a little difficult for me. I felt my body was tired and really dug deep to push through. Recently I’ve undergone many changes. I returned to work from maternity leave last week and have been trying my best to catch up quickly. Also, yesterday was a bit emotional after sending my baby to daycare for the first time. Thankfully today was better. I must stop and remember, I’m still healing and I’m still transitioning. I underwent a surgery, bringing a new life into the world, being thrust into parenthood, working to return to teaching and finally returning to work. It’s only been 13 weeks! Tonight I will sleep like a brick because I’m burnt! But tomorrow I will wake up and start over because I have the opportunity to do what I love (both my full time job and Boss Chick) and have a family I’m obsessed with. Goodnight . . . . . . #bosschick #bosschickdanceworkout #bellephysique #fitnessjourney #parenthood #newmom #fitjourney #fitnessinstructor #postpartumfitness #bcdwempire #3monthspostpartum #womenfitness #boston #bostonfitness #love #family #selflove

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Gianne Doherty, founder of the WELL Summit, Well Insiders, and Organic Bath Co. 

Gianne Doherty, founder of the WELL summit, a day for people to gather and learn how to live their best lives, seeks out the opinions of others and gives them a platform to be heard. Held in Boston last April, the WELL summit featured bloggers, professionals, and entrepreneurs and Doherty aims to create a platform that is representative of all body types, skin colors, and backgrounds.

“The biggest challenge is seeing ourselves represented in clean beauty and wellness,” Doherty told Madamenoire in an article released before the Boston summit last year. “I’m biracial—Irish American and Afro Caribbean—For those of us in decision-making positions in the green beauty and wellness space, it’s really crucial to ensure that diversity is represented in everything we do. From selecting our team members, to what we post on social media, we need to think about what we can do to represent women from all walks of life.”

 

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Sustainable fashion has seen tremendous growth in the last several years, and with it has come an eye towards inclusivity. Today on @wellinsiders, meet four fashion brands who’ve always had authenticity and inclusivity at their core—and see how they’re working to change the industry from the inside out. @tomboyx @shophazelandrose @brassclothing @hackwithdesign (photo repost from Tombyx)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #WELLSummit #Wellness #WellnessWeekend #WellnessBlogger #MindBodySpirit #WellnessConference #WellnessFestival #WELLSummit17 #Boston #IgersBoston #BosBlogger #BostonBlogger #HealthyLiving #GreenLiving #YourVibeAttractsYourTribe #YourVibeIsYourTribe #GoodVibesOnly #HighVibeTribe #Fashion #EthicalFashion #Mindfulness #ConsciousConsumer

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Know someone else who’s making waves? Let us know!