Cassey Ho is part fitness instructor, part Disney princess and full-on YouTube rock star. As the founder and creator of the website and YouTube channel Blogilates, Cassey inspires her over two million subscribers to love themselves and their bodies no matter where they’re at on their fitness journey. Her new book, Hot Body Year Round, was released last week.
Listen to the full interview here:[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/191633883/HMWC%20Interviews/Cassey%20Ho%20Blogilates_mixdown.mp3]
You’ve really built yourself an empire. You have your new book coming out, Hot Body Year Round (now available in stores), people can get certified to teach your fitness program at 24-Hour Fitness gyms across the country and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What got you interested in Pilates in the first place?
When I was 16 in high school I was watching an infomercial and I saw that Mari Windsor was selling her pilates DVDs and I got really intrigued because it looked so graceful and really easy to do at home and I begged my parents to buy that set of DVDs for me. Then I started doing them at home and I really fell in love. Four years later in college I got certified as a Pilates instructor, I started teaching my friends and started teaching at small gyms and now my format Pop Pilates is going to be taught at 24-hour Fitness locations everywhere so it’s like literally so crazy but such a dream come true for a group fitness instructor.
When you first graduated college, you started out working in the fashion industry. Why didn’t you stay on that path?
It was a really toxic environment and I cannot handle people that aren’t positive and situations where we aren’t rising from being in each other’s presence and so for me, that drove me away from the job after just a quick eight months. I knew I didn’t want to be there but because I did have the corporate job experience, I really do appreciate the life that I have now as an entrepreneur and as a YouTuber.
Something that you’ve written about candidly in your blog is that when you first started to pursue Pilates as a career, your parents didn’t have the greatest reaction. Did you ever second guess yourself when they weren’t so supportive?
Yeah! All the time. College was a really difficult time for me, not academically or anything, but emotionally because my parents wanted me to be a doctor and I wanted to be a designer and they really were not supportive of that. Looking back, I do understand that the reason why they were so stressed out and imposing their ideas on me is because they wanted me to be financially stable, but the way that they did it really, really broke me. But at the same time, I knew that I’m living this life for myself and not for them and I have to follow my passion. And now when I talk to people and they’re like ‘how did you know what you wanted to do?’, seriously I just do more of what makes me happy. What doesn’t make me happy, I do less of it and try to delete it out of my life. In my core and in my gut, I knew that I had to be doing something else.
What turned the tide for your parents?
When they saw that this was actually a career. Like I said, they wanted me to be financially stable, they wanted to make sure I was okay. Once they saw I was running a business they saw that this was a very unconventional but very realistic way for me to be happy and them to be happy and to live the life that I actually want. It took a lot of proving, a lot of crying and screaming.
You’ve said that when you grow up Asian, you’re expected to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. You had to fight hard for what you wanted to do.
Absolutely. I just recently talked to another friend of mine who’s a blogger and her parents were extremely hard on her, always asking her ‘when are you going to go back to school?’ I got the same questions. So I think it’s cultural, but after this first generation when we start having kids, it will be less and less. It is so important for children to see that you don’t have to fit into these molds that their parents think they need to and that they should stand up for what they believe in and go after what they love, and seeing someone else do that in our culture is super important. I’m glad I’m able to be a role model.
How have you found that your platform on YouTube has helped you to stir discussions on body image and body acceptance?
Everyone who’s on a fitness journey is that. They’re on a journey from one point to another. So you can be any size or shape or form. My message is that you have to find a workout that makes you smile, something that doesn’t seem like a chore because that’s how you really transform your life. It shouldn’t be grueling and you shouldn’t hate it. You shouldn’t hate your food. It’s something that should really become a lifestyle and really in the process of loving the whole lifestyle it becomes less and less about the physical body and more about just becoming happy and healthy. That’s how we really attack the body shaming, by showing just how fun it is to be healthy. In the process, you’ll gain your body anyway.
You’ve broken some pretty huge stories about body image and body acceptance on Blogilates. You broke the Target bikini photoshopping controversy on Blogilates. What makes you decide to write about things like that?
First of all, the picture was ridiculous. It wasn’t even a good photoshop job. It was literally a square taken out of the crotch to create an inner thigh gap, which is really ridiculous because she already had an inner thigh gap, so it’s just something to write about. What I really like about my blog is that I can still be opinionated, I can still be me. And sometimes l feel like when people grow “too big” everything just starts becoming politically correct and you don’t actually have feeling in your posts anymore. I just say whatever because it’s on my mind and I think it should be known. So I didn’t realize that it would become such a huge deal because I write about stuff all the time. I just happened to hit, so that’s really awesome.
Photoshopping is pretty much everywhere, even on Instagram. People like Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, all have been accused of editing their pictures to make themselves look smaller. A lot of times, to have a thigh gap, which is an insane cultural obsession right now. When this became a thing, you really felt the heat about an old printable you made called ‘How to Get a Thigh Gap.’ What was it like dealing with that?
Thigh gaps went into style like two or three years ago, but when I made that printable, it was probably four or five years ago. When people were asking me questions like how do I get a thigh gap, I just thought they wanted to make their thighs more toned. I made the printable not knowing that a couple years later it would actually become this unhealthy obsession. When I first made it, I didn’t think anything of it. I just thought of it as thigh exercises… [perception of] beauty changes over the years. What’s perceived as gorgeous changes based on what society thinks and what’s in the media.
There’s a fine line between exercising for your health and exercising for vanity reasons, like to get a thigh gap. Where do you draw that line for your audience?
Here’s the distinction to make: when we talk about all the videos, of course it has to be something interesting, like 5 ways to have flat abs. But when you get into the video, you see it’s about really just enjoying the workout and embracing the progress. The line really is maybe you want to have a slimmer waist or a bigger but, that’s cool, that’s a great goal but it can’t be your goal in the long term. That’s a short term goal. The goal is to find a workout that makes you happy and really strive for that healthy lifestyle that you wake up so excited for it every single day. That’s what I try to teach to my viewers.