We had the good fortune of connecting with Sonja R. Price Herbert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sonja R., we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My purpose was to advocate, speak out for and support my Black Pilates/Fitness community.
Black Girl Pilates® originated from depression and a feeling of loneliness within the industry. I wanted to solve a problem that was not only specifically for me but many other Black Instructors. I had created the only International collective specifically for Black identifying women who teach Pilates.
By June 2020, my community had suffered tragically from the pandemic and the insidious lynchings of Black men, women and children. As a Pilates instructor as well as a competitive powerlifter, I had not seen any response from the Fitness industry acknowledging their inherent racism individually and collectively. It was at that time that I knew I had to do something about it. I created a series of antiracism webinars to begin act education and awareness process.
So I guess you could say, I decided to solve the problems that I knew existed.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
If you had asked me 5-10 years ago, if I would be doing what I am doing now, I would say absolutely not. My previous career was in Social work. I assumed that by this time I would be therapist in private practice however, that is not what the universe had in store for me. Obviously, Had a greater purpose for which I was being prepared for during my early college years. I had noticed for a long time the lack of representation in everything. I told myself upon graduation that I would be that representation and also memorable because of my genuine compassion for clients.
I was also dedicated to my own physical health and used exercise to aid in improving my depressed, anxious moods. I eventually found the one method that would prove to be the thing that would be the catalyst to what I am doing today. Pilates found me in 2006 with Cynthia Shipely, a Romana’s Pilates Level 4 Teacher. I felt something I had never felt before; space, mobility, flexibility and strength all at once. Even though. I had been introduced to Pilates by a Black woman, my heart still felt alone. So I solved my loneliness with Black Girl Pilates®.
BGPI did not come without its own challenges. I had started a Facebook group specifically for Black Pilates instructors. We need safe spaces to discuss, vent, cry, be angry etc without the white gaze. Our very existence caused some uproar in Pilates industry but yet, I was determined to keep this space save and I have for almost 4 years.
I also knew that representation required acknowledgement of inherent racism and white supremacy by the white Pilates community. With support from friends like Monique Melton, Layla Saad and Rebekah Borucki, I started my first group of antiracism webinars that were met with overwhelming response. My webinars sold out within days of posting. I also knew that this would not last long since it was mostly a knee jerk reaction so I made sure there were options to purchase replays, a monthly newsletter with action items, book recommendations, and many other resources to keep them engaged.
Family legacy in the Black community is important so if there was anything I would want the world to remember about my brand was that I loved my Black community, loved my family and I was committed to Black liberation.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One my favorite spots in Brooklyn ( where I reside) is the Akwaaba Inn. It is a Black owned bed and breakfast in the Bedstuy area of Brooklyn. I would love for she and I to stay there in our own rooms, order a nice dinner and catch up on life.
I obviously love buying and supporting Black owned businesses, so I would definitely want us to visit Peaches Hothouse for Brunch on the weekend and after that head back to Bedstuy to shop of some the Black owned boutiques.
I am huge fan or mani/pedis so I would definitely take her to my favorite nail salon all the way in Washington Heights – Creme De La Creme an Afro-Latina owned salon.
I lived in Harlem for about 10 years so of course, we would have to visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. They have a beautiful and bountiful gift store with t-shirts, books, jewelry, art by Black creators.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to first dedicate this my Black Girl Pilates® Sisters who have been my support, mentors, friends and confidants. Because of them I have had the confidence to be who I truly am.
My second and last shout out goes to my therapist, Roslyn Hunter who has helped see how important I am to myself and the major impact I can have on this world if I can only believe what I know to be true about me.
I had trouble uploading the other photos. is there anyway I can send them a different way?