Last week, New York Times writer Katherine Rosman wrote an expose on the Black Lives Matter movement in the boutique fitness world. Her article focused on 3 large, boutique fitness companies in the US: Y7 Yoga, Soul Cycle, and Peloton.
The boutique fitness world is a largely white space that often appropriates aspects of Black culture–music, dance, etc– and sells it at a premium to white customers. Y7 Yoga, for example, is known for its Hip Hop Yoga classes that run $25 per class and “A Tribe Called Sweat” tagline, despite catering to a largely white clientele.
Similarly, Soul Cycle has faced a great deal of criticism, both from the media and their own employees. Despite featuring Black studio owners and instructors for Black History Month and posting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, many feel that these are false overtures due to the fact that Stephen Ross, the chairman of Related Companies (Soul Cycle’s parent company), is a vocal Donald Trump supporter and has held lavish fundraisers for Trump’s reelection campaign. In the past two weeks, Soul Cycle has lost five instructors, beginning with Soeuraya Wilson, who no longer felt comfortable representing a company that she felt used their Black employees in social media to seem more diverse and engages in performative activism.
Peloton, on the other hand, seems to have succeeded in its response to Black Lives Matter, largely by giving their Black instructors a platform to share their feelings, fears, and concerns with members. Tunde Oyeneyin and Chelsea Jackson Roberts’ Speak Up series, which combines cycling and meditation has been streamed over 100,000 times and Alex Toussaint’s emotional class where he speaks about his experience as a young, Black man in America has been streamed over 65,000. Over 100,000 members have joined #BlackLivesMatter to ride together in solidarity with the cause.
Peloton has also put money behind their support of Black Lives Matter. Peloton donated $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund at the beginning of June. Soul Cycle, on the other hand, has organized classes as fundraisers for particular causes, asking members to donate on their own. According to Rosman, Soul Cycle has not donated any of their own funds, citing studio closings due to COVID-19.