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San Francisco Stories: SoulCycle Instructor & Movemeant Founder Jenny Gaither

Welcome back to another installation of the SF Stories series!

In the first few posts of this series I was able to chat with some truly inspirational and downright amazing women here in San Francisco. One lovely lady focused on healthy living, one on the arts, one on business, another on changing the fashion industry, and most recently, on fitness and inspiring others to find their best self.

Today I’m THRILLED to welcome Miss Jenny Gaither to MCLV to chat about her charity, her passions, her career with SoulCycle, and where she’s heading next.

I connected with Jenny through her charity The Movemeant Foundation and the oh-so-motivational, badass fitness festival Dare to Bare here in San Francisco.

MCLV: Tell us about your fitness background and how you ended up being a trainer and fitness guru here in San Francisco.

My love for moving began at the age of seven when I discovered dance. It flourished throughout my tween and teenage years where I began to dance professionally.  However, it also led me to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I danced on scholarship. It was there that I built a solid foundation as a teacher and trainer and in fact, even had the chance to teach for the U of I Dance Department while simultaneously getting my Pilates certification.

After a move to NYC after graduation, I continued to teach dance, Pilates and personal training for several more years until I was encouraged to audition for SoulCycle, which ultimately became my dance class on a bike—a way to create a physical connection to a more confident sense of self.

Six years later, I’ve taught in multiple cities to thousands upon thousands of riders, but am thrilled to call the Bay my home base.  And it’s through that Bay Area support that my career is coming full circle with the start of my hip hop cardio dance program, Notorious FIT.

SoulCycle Fitness Trainer Movemeant Foundation San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Food Fitness Lifestyle Blogger

MCLV: Being a SoulCycle instructor is a huge achievement. I’ve heard about how challenging (and inspirational) the confirmation process is, and I’ve experienced the badass-ery that is a well-run SoulCycle class. When did you get involved with SoulCycle?

I started teaching at SoulCycle in 2009 when there was only one studio in a rear lobby on W. 72nd Street in NYC. There wasn’t even a sign on the door. I was introduced to the company through a friend who found a listing for a front desk position on Craigslist. I was looking for another part-time job at the time and had no idea I was walking into a goldmine on my way to my interview. I knew I struck gold when I met the founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler. In my interview with Julie she told me her vision for the company — she had BIG plans to give people a platform to discover a better version of themselves while building a healthy and sustainable relationship with fitness. She also wanted to give female fitness instructors the opportunity to make a career (with benefits) as a professional in the fitness world, without having to hop around from studio to studio. I was hooked.

MCLV: You’ve set yourself up as a truly motivational champion of body image – From non-profit work to hosting local events to teaching fitness classes. What’s the story that has led you to this point?

Full disclosure – Throughout my 20-year journey as a professional in the fitness industry I battled body image issues and eating disorders. As a dancer and a fitness professional in my early 20’s, the pressure to be thin and perfect became unbearable. The only time I could escape the pressure and expectations I faced daily from the media and my peers was when I was moving. Whether I was on a run, in a dance class, or on a bike; moving reminded me of my strength, resilience, and power.

Running up a hill makes me feel strong. Sprinting on a bike reminds me of how much I love my body. Dancing reminds me that my body is unique, that my body is my sanctuary and my vehicle to elevate not only myself but to elevate and empower others. Movement has helped me see and find qualities in myself that I love, regardless of my appearance.

While teaching in New York at the age of 22 in 2011, I quickly realized most women battle insecurities and body image issues. At that time I personally needed a community, support, and a platform to overcome my own uphill battle toward finding self-love, acceptance, and a healthy relationship with my body. After a ton of research I couldn’t find anything out there that helped women build positive body image and confidence through movement. Knowing how hard it was for me to be bombarded by images from the media that glorify women as thin and perfect, I couldn’t help but think about how young girls and teenage girls feel. This is when I decided to create what is now, Movemeant Foundation, in 2014.

SoulCycle Fitness Trainer Movemeant Foundation San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Food Fitness Lifestyle Blogger

MCLV: As a recent stalker of all things Movemeant {Website, Twitter, instagram, Facebook…} I can probably repeat the website description verbatim, but I’d love to hear from you about this organization.

I believe that every body is meant to move. Moving is one of the most powerful tools to connect to our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In order to change, grow, and evolve as humans we must first be self-aware. Awareness comes from connecting, understanding, and accepting who we are, our bodies included. The more confident and comfortable we feel in our skin, the more confident and comfortable we will feel making decisions and taking actions to pursue our dreams personally and professionally.

One issue is that not everyone moves. More than half of this country in fact is battling obesity and other heart related diseases from being sedentary. There are a few key reasons why people are not moving; 1. fitness and physical movement can be very intimidating and unapproachable, 2. there’s a lack of education, resources, and funding toward physical education programs, and 3. most people haven’t found a love and a passion for a physical modality that’s approachable and sustainable for their lifestyles.

The second issue is that over 30% of young girls are skipping at least one meal a day.  Over 60% of women in a national studies dislike their bodies, and as a country, we spend about 40 billion dollars a year are spent on diet plans and supplements. These issues are causing young girls to develop body dysmorphia, body image issues, insecurities, and depression at a much quicker rate, at a much younger age.

I chose to create Movemeant because I can’t stand back and watch women (and men), friends, colleagues, and peers struggle from body image issues and physical inactivity. I want Movemeant Foundation to be a driving force in creating the next generation of female leaders and influencers.

MCLV: I was checking out the Notorious F.I.T. Instagram page and it looks like an exciting new adventure for you! Can you share a little with the MCLV readers about what this latest venture is and what your goals are for the business?

An opportunity recently presented itself to teach dance again, so I decided to curate a high-energy, beginner cardio hip hop class that I’m now calling Notorious F.I.T. I will be debuting my new class at Shape Magazine’s ‘Shape Body Shop’ event at Hudson Lofts in LA on June 18th! After Shape Body Shop I plan on teaching Notorious F.I.T. in SF, on the road at Movemeant Foundation events, and hope to create a collection of classes and workouts on my Youtube Channel.

 

Missed out on the previous SF Stories pieces? Check out my interviews with healthy living guru Nataliia Karpenkomodel, actress & singer Jenefer Taylor, online entrepreneur Jia Wertz of Studio 15, Project Runway alum and fashion designer Candice Cuoco of House of CCUOCO, and nurse & fitness instructor Chichi.

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San Francisco Stories: Designer Candice Cuoco of CCUOCO

Welcome back to another installation of the SF Stories series!

Last time we caught up with model, actress, singer, jack-of-all-trades Jenefer Taylor and before that I sat down with Nataliia Karpenko to chat about staying healthy on the go. Today I’m back to share my interview with San Francisco-based designer Candice Cuoco.

Her name should sound familiar as her brand CCUOCO has made a number of appearances here on MCLV. We did a leather-clad lookbook last year featuring some of her amazing Spring/Summer 2014 collection, I was thrilled to join her for London Fashion Week last September, and I recently shared her first bridal collection on the blog.

I initially met Candice in September 2013 at San Francisco Fashion Week and proposed a coffee date a month or so later. Our “quick meeting” stretched into a two-hour gab fest covering everything from dating in San Francisco to her upcoming collections to, naturally, our plans for world domination. We’ve been friends ever since and she even did me the honor of making me a custom leather piece to wear for New Year’s Eve.

There are a number of things that impress and inspire me about Candice. Not only has she created a design house from the ground, meeting every challenge head on, but she’s done so while remaining true to herself, her roots, and her vision of the future. Read on to hear her talk about fashion week, personal style, and staying focused.

SF Stories San Francisco Bay Area Designer Candice Cuoco of House of CCUOCO

MCLV: To date you’ve shown collections at New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week – Was there a distinct difference between the two locales? 

CC: Much like the difference in a relationship between loving and being in love, I enjoyed New York, but London owns my heart. The main distinction between my first NYFW appearance and my recent LFW show is my team. I have a small force to be reckoned with backing me when I’m in London.

Additionally, London has in the past and continues to give me the platform to create a show and express my vision however I choose to. I feel as though I thrive the minute I set foot in the UK. 

MCLV: Any specific style, material, or piece that you’re dying to tackle in the future?

CC: YES! Power mesh is on my list of materials to dominate, and the perfect palazzo pant will be visited this season. When it comes to style I let that develop itself in my collection, more so than style there is always a message I am trying to infuse into every piece.

Always, always strength.

MCLV: Who is your dream client? Or is there someone that you think really embodies the CCUOCO Woman spirit?

CC: So many women in so many ways represent all that I stand and design for. Gaga for her pure raw passion, Niki for no shame, Beyoncé for demanding presence, Angelina Jolie for the way she makes strength look so femininely beautiful, FKA Twigs for the art she infuses into her music, and Lana for her beautiful broken heart.

These woman have overcome mountains and hurdled over every obstacle life threw at them and conquered. Never letting society define them, always pushing the boundaries and breaking them for women all around the world. They are the epitome of CCUOCO and what we stand for, women with strength.

SF Stories San Francisco Bay Area Designer Candice Cuoco of House of CCUOCO

MCLV: Your personal style is practically trademarked at this point: Head-to-toe black, blunt cut bangs, and a bold red lip. How has your personal style evolved over the years and how did you come to create your signature look?

CC: The moment I stopped trying to be what everyone wanted me to be I became myself. It was natural. I was always too much – Too loud, too opinionated, too much makeup, hair too dark, too tall, showed too much skin.

I realized watering yourself down to comfort others only makes you feel lost and confused. I gave up on what society told me I needed to be as a woman and gave in to what made me proud to be the woman I am today. Black is my happy color and it celebrates who I am and who I was in so many ways. My very repetitive style is a constant reminder of how I will ALWAYS stand true to my perception of myself not of what others think I should be.

MCLV: You’re a determined, independent woman who has earned every ounce of her success – And that strength is something that’s very visible in your collections. Can you tell us about the CCUOCO woman? 

CC: CCUOCO stands for the woman who is fierce at heart, for the women who have learned the rules and know how to break them. For the woman who wears, not her heart on her sleeve but her strength.

Those who are a driving force in their family, love, and career lives. When you wake up and get dressed, the moment you walk out your front door you are delivering a message, and I want to be a part of that message.

Want to see more from House of CCUOCO? Head over to Legally Vogue for more interview questions – House of CCUOCO: Branding, Expansion & Tackling London.

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San Francisco Stories: Singer, Dancer, Model & Actress Jenefer Taylor

Welcome to the second installation of the new MCLV series San Francisco Stories. In SF Stories I’ll be sharing features on some of the interesting, innovative, and creative people who I’ve had the good fortune to meet during my years here in San Francisco. From entrepreneurs like Livzo Founder Nataliia Karpenko who I featured in my first post – Catch up on that here if you missed it – To Designers, magazine editors, healthy living gurus, and start-up mavens.

Today’s interview is with a talented and beautiful young lady who I saw walk the runway at San Francisco Fashion Week in September 2013 and whom I followed on social media long before we actually got a chance to meet.

When we were finally introduced I was impressed to discover an ambitious, creative, artistic soul with dreams of conquering the music industry. And perhaps film and fashion while she’s at it. 🙂

Singer Dancer Model Actress Jenefer Taylor SF Stories San Francisco Fashion Fitness Lifestyle Food Beauty Blogger

Read on to hear about her healthy approach to fitness and nutrition, what she’s hoping to accomplish, and where you may be able to find her in the next few years…

MCLV: Singer, dancer, actress, model – You clearly enjoy exploring various creative projects. Which art form would you say is your favorite?

Jenefer: 100% singing! I LOVE IT! It’s been my passion and makes me happier than almost anything… Aside from dogs. Saying I am obsessed with animals would be an understatement.

MCLV: With the many hats you wear, having a strong, healthy body is important. What tips do you have for people who want to start 2015 on a healthy note? 

Jenefer: Don’t obsess over where you want to be. Be aware of where you are now and make choices daily that will get you to where you want to be. I’ve found that when I fixate too much on an ideal, it can be nerve-racking. Instead I choose to reward myself daily on my improvements and keep pushing harder.

MCLV: With call-backs and auditions popping up at a moment’s notice, you need to be in fighting shape at all times. What are your top work out and healthy living tips?

Jenefer: Well, I walk every day. It’s so therapeutic and it keeps me happy. I like to walk and listen to music to reflect. But I mix it up with private training sessions, kick boxing, yoga, and ballet. I’ve recently picked up running and even though it’s hard sometimes for me to start, I’m always glad I did after the run. I start my mornings with hot water and lemon to kick-start my metabolism. And then, other than that, I just drink LOTS of water, always get in a green drink and sleep when my body tells me I need it. 

Singer Dancer Model Actress Jenefer Taylor SF Stories San Francisco Fashion Fitness Lifestyle Food Beauty Blogger

MCLV: From Porsche to Neiman Marcus, you’ve worked with some amazing brands during your career. Do you have a favorite experience or an especially fun project you could share with MCLV readers? 

Jenefer: The Porsche commercial has been the most exciting and rewarding so far! We got to shoot it in San Francisco and I was lucky enough to work on set as a precision driver. Never before did I imagine myself flooring it to 60 miles plus and driving through the streets of SF, with police escorts in front and back and multiple cameramen in the backseat. It was like the city was ours for the day! It was exhilarating and I could have kept driving for days. Plus the people on set, really made this experience. Everyone was a rockstar that weekend! 

MCLV:  You’ve recently made the move from San Francisco to Los Angeles – With regular trips back up north, of course. What are the biggest differences between SF and LA on a day-to-day basis? What changes, if any, have you see for your career?

Jenefer: Oh my gosh! LA is packed. There are so many people here! The traffic sets it apart from any place, for sure. Haha. I went to Pepperdine so I am familiar with SoCal. But it was different in college. I feel this time, living here I am really focused on my career and because I am so dialed in to my passions, it has been amazing! There is just so much opportunity and every day presents new avenues to explore.

Changes to my career? I think the biggest change I’ve noticed is feeling more empowered and excited… Even more so than I was before. I just started advanced classes at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and my fellow actors are so supportive! I have two teachers, Allen and Art, who are just so talented and have such great feedback to scenes performed. Everyone has such high energy, is super dedicated and really goes after what they want. I feel a real sense of community in these classes and it’s one of my highlights every week!

Singer Dancer Model Actress Jenefer Taylor SF Stories San Francisco Fashion Fitness Lifestyle Food Beauty Blogger

MCLV: What’s in your five-year career plan? Where do you see yourself?

Jenefer: Hmmm. I’ve learned “plans” don’t necessarily work out the way we always think and that’s not a bad thing… When I was in High School, I always thought I would be married by 24 and have 2 kids by now. But that’s not the case and I’m so happy about that! REALLY.  I have a journal I use. I like to write down my biggest goals and then under them, write down every possible thing I can do to reach them. Then in a couple of months, I check back in and see what I’ve accomplished and what else I can pursue.

Before I booked the Porsche commercial, one of my entries in my journal was “book a national car commercial.” The Porsche commercial was global. In 5 years I want to own my own home, be in love, be the face of a major brand (perfume, makeup, clothes… Something like that), be working on set as a lead actress/singer in a major feature film and I would also like to have my own non-profit… Probably something with animals.

MCLV: What words of wisdom do you have for people who are new to the entertainment or fashion industries who would like to follow in your footsteps? 

Jenefer: Be grateful. Because when you’re grateful life is just better. Know your gifts and know where you need to improve. Have goals, be precise and stay motivated daily! Focus on being the BEST version of you, you can possibly be. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. When someone knocks you down, get back up again. Elvis Presley was told he couldn’t sing. He didn’t let that stop him from becoming the King. And believe in yourself. If you truly want something, find a way. It’s that simple.

Thank you for stopping by MCLV Jen!

Be on the look out for the next project from this talented performer by following her on Facebook or checking out her website.

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