How were you introduced to Pilates? I was fourteen years old and I was a student at the Houston Ballet Summer Program. My teachers told me that Pilates was a requirement and I had no choice. It was the most magical transformation. I needed to understand the “How’s and the why’s.” Pilates opened that door for me.
How did Pilates change your life? I knew I was a good dancer, but I wasn’t a great dancer. Other dancers do multiple turns and great extension, because their bodies looked balanced. I felt like I had a large butt and too skinny on top. I had Body Dysmorphia and no control. Pilates fixed that, by showing me how to balance the muscles in my body. Pilates gave me the exercises to stand up straight. Focusing on “how” to stand up straight rather than just telling me to do so.
Were you destined for Pilates or did you want to pursue Ballet? Pilates was part of my ballet journey. When I returned to Pasadena from Houston (at 14 years old) my parents didn’t understand anything about Pilates. It was seen as an extra cost and we had to drive to LA to get to these classes. So instead, I would just do my exercises watching TV with my weights. Unfortunately, without feedback from an instructor, there was very little progress. I didn’t know enough about it at that time, but it was always with me as a warm up before ballet. So when I was 17 yrs old, I needed to get a job. I auditioned a lot, and I got a couple of offers, but ended up at the Richmond Ballet. Richmond didn’t have any money, thus there were NO Pilates classes offered, unlike the Houston Ballet, which is a very wealthy ballet company, “Oil money”. I then went to Ballet Omaha, but then they folded. My friend Stephanie and I were then going to attend the Ballet Orlando, because we had a letter of promise, but then they retracted. So Stephanie and I decided to go back to LA and we drove cross-country and ended up getting a job at San Diego Ballet. A month into Nutcracker, I find out I was pregnant. I was 21 years old.
What gave you the courage to walk away like that? I wouldn’t think of myself as courageous. I think I was operating completely in fear. I was afraid that I was going to create a life for my child that was sub par. I knew I needed to regroup and figure out what my core values were. It was unsafe. I am responsible for this child. She is too young to know better or who to live with. So we left and I had to rebuild.
How did opportunity present itself to you? I went to live with my sister. She was living in the back house of someone’s home and they were not really interested in having someone stay there with a one year old, so it wasn’t long before she told me that I couldn’t stay there any longer. I didn’t know what I was going to do? My very good friend Roger, who danced with me at Francisco Martinez Dance Theater mentioned there was a Pilates studio opening over in the west side and he told me that I would be a great Pilates instructor. It just hit me and I was like, “Oh yeah!” This is my favorite thing and I just have this warm feeling about Pilates. I knew Pilates. One day I was driving up La Cienega Blvd in LA and saw Roger standing there. I started honking at him and shouting at him, this was pre-cell phone era. This is random shit, but I really saw him on the street, I honked until he pulled over into the parking lot on La Cienega and Santa Monica and I said, “Tell me about that Pilates job, I really need it.” He tells me about Mari Windsor and how she is looking to hire a new Pilates instructor. By now, my daughter and I were living in the pantry of my dance partner Cole’s place in West Hollywood with his three roommates. That was a very low point, BUT when I saw Roger I knew I HAD to get that job. I didn’t have a high school diploma or a college degree. All I knew was that ten years ago I was passionate about Pilates and I knew enough about it, so I had to go in there and get this lady to hire me and tell her that I love Pilates. And…I got hired.
You are given an opportunity. So how do you turn that opportunity into a paycheck? The first day, remember this is a hard-core scene, celebrities, fashion people etc. I cried in the bathroom. I was so intimidated, but I knew I had to turn this into something. I knew the alternative and I couldn’t go there. I realized that I had to find my uniqueness and figure out what I could bring that no one else had. I had to bring that forward and I couldn’t be afraid to be myself.
What was your unique quality, besides your killer abs? Sure as shit it wasn’t skill or knowledge! I am kind, and I am a good listener, and I can see goodness in people. I can find a quality that you don’t know you have and I can help you believe in yourself. And I think that is what people were drawn to. I am also very empathetic in the moment and understand what it feels like to be in a terrible place.
Has Pilates helped you in other areas of your life? We could examine something and look at it from a different angle, which are the same principals as Pilates. We are working and stretching at the same time, and it opens your mind up and you have this interesting flow. At the same time, it could just be that we are engaged in an activity, where the mind is free to think. Much like when you are super creative, when you are driving. It changes how you think, and you have a conversation and great ideas are exchanged. Lives are witnessed.
What kept you going during these extremely difficult times? I was so afraid of failure. I was so afraid that my mother and my sisters and the city that I came from (Pasadena) would be disappointed. I take responsibility for my bad decisions and I think when I had my daughter, everyone thought it was the end for me. No job, no marriage, no education to speak of. I always knew that I was smart and I was quick. And I could do anything. Maybe I loved her more than I loved myself. I was okay to treat myself like “However”, but I was not going to do that to her.
But I then realized that I was failing if I didn’t give it a try. I also had the gift of understanding that life wasn’t forever, having lost my dad, when I was so young. I never had money before and no one ever believed in me, and if they did, I gave them a reason not to. So DO IT! Whatever this is, however we do this, let’s just do it. It was harder than I ever imagined. Mari was furious. Everything that I dreaded happened. We had no floor, no ceiling, one piece of equipment and these fancy clients that were accustomed to these beautiful studios. They looked at us like, “What the FEAK is this?” Sam and I lost clients, and gained clients. Our studio was slightly hidden from the street, but it was on the 2nd floor, which is what I wanted. I wanted to have this feeling of light, lift and air. You are above it all. Here we are three years later. Booming!
What does success mean to you? Happiness. For me I see a leaf in a stream. The leaf has no control, but the fluidity of the water takes the leaf on a journey. If the leaf gets stuck in one place it will some how get past it and keep going. You can free yourself.
How do you balance your life with work, three kids and a hubby? Organization and time management. I went back to school to get my bachelor’s degree. I went to Liberal education for Arts Professionals (LEAP). I was approached in ballet class, destiny perhaps again, by Joanne Devito, who runs Career Transitions for dancers (CTFD/LA) in Los Angeles. She asked if I was interested in going back to school, someone had dropped out and there was a spot open. My first class was called Time Management. I remember thinking, time management? Lets get the English, the real college stuff. We had to do a presentation on how we managed our time. I learned that the busy people knew their exact amount of time they had in which to get stuff done and they got a lot done. People that were not that busy, found it really hard to get anything done. Still today I do not use an electronic calendar, everything is written down. I don’t believe in zig zagging around town, wasting time on the road. I learned to plan my routes and be more efficient. These were tools for success for grownups back in school. After all, how would we manage college in your life, show us how. Then I got pregnant again, when I was in school. Bottom line. BE ORGANIZED!
How do you and Sam still keep it alive? We are very competitive. Whether it is at work, knowledge or the kids. We are always comparing. Who drove the kids the most today etc. I realize that I am engaged in this competition with my husband and we both want to win. We have the same goal. It is exciting for us. We have now been married 17 years. This dream we live we hold it in our hands together and treasure it.
Favorite song…Anything by the Eagles.
Natural or Aluminum Deodorant… Great question. I try not to wear any deodorant, because I am so on the fence, I just opted out. However, if I have to wear something, I wear the Tom’s – lavender scent.
Favorite piece of clothing that empowers you… I love Denim, my Rag and Bone pants & wedge sandals – give me height but makes me feel really grounded.
What is your favorite family recipe? Cotrone Turkey Bolognese Sauce