Last week I got to engage in one of my first loves, and something I haven't had the energy to do throughout the early part of my pregnancy - DANCE! I was one of the lucky few who grabbed a ticket to the sold-out In The Dance Fitness class with Jamaican dynamo Yendi Phillipps at Toronto's City Dance Corps, and I'm SO glad I did.
First off - if Yendi Phillipps' name isn't one you're used to hearing, get familiar. I first "met" Yendi through her pageant life, serving as Miss Jamaica World 2007, and Miss Jamaica Universe 2010 (as 1st runner up, she made history by being the highest-placing Jamaican ever in the pageant). Since then, she's parlayed her beauty, smarts, and charisma into a complex career: brand spokesperson (Air Jamaica, Digicel), Smile Jamaica TV host, foundation creator, model, actress, dancer, and much more. With her educational background (a BFA in Dance and a Master's degree in Recreation & Leisure Management), Yendi returned to her first love - dance - for her latest project, In The Dance Fitness.
The recipe for ITDF? Mix one part love of dance with one part love of Jamaican culture, and substitute the need for a gym with the comfort of working out at home to a DVD. Using dancehall dance moves like the Butterfly, Body Basics, and One Drop, Yendi has created a fun and challenging workout that incorporates cardio and aerobic activity, core work, body toning, and fat burning all in one. I went not once, but twice to her live classes here in Toronto for the Canadian launch, and adored every minute. Yendi's energy was the best blend of motivation, positivity, and fun, so we all got into it. Y'all also know I'm not a gym girl, so In The Dance Fitness is perfect for me - give me some good music, some dance moves, and a guaranteed full-body workout, and I'm happy - plus, my Jamaican heritage loves all the good things yaad has to offer!
After Thursday's media class, I got to kick it with Yendi and talk a bit about this new project and more. Here's a taste of our hilarious and open chat:
On In The Dance Fitness...
Bee: What was the idea for this project, and where did In The Dance come from?
Yendi: So, outside of what people know me for, which is you know, Miss Jamaica and Miss Universe and so on, I actually am a dancer. So I've been dancing since I was 3 years old, and I'm a trained dancer - I have a bachelor of fine arts in dance where I completed my degree in New York, and this is what I've done my whole life. This is what I know, right?! And then, in training for the competitions and to get ready for those competitions, I wasn't the biggest fan of the gym - but body is a big part of it. You know, when you have the swimsuit competition and you're only walking in front of 3 billion people [laughs] no big deal, no pressure, right? So, I have to get fit and I have to get ready! My method was dance, so what I wanted to do was merge Jamaican culture - which is the culture I know best, which is what I do - and merge it with my passion, which is dance. And so, here came the idea of putting it together, putting it in a product, and the birth of In The Dance Fitness came.
Bee: How has your daughter's [16-month old cutie, Israel] presence shifted things in your life?
Yendi: Oh - it's shifted things tremendously. I feel like I had a mission before, and now there's a bit more purpose to my journey. It's not just about trying to get to a goal, but it's about enjoying the experience and the journey towards that goal [...] it's actually made me more determined to leave an indelible mark, because I want her to look at me as her inspiration and no external factors. And yes, there's a part of me that wants to make my mother proud and my parents proud, but I want to make my daughter proud to say "That's my mom."
On Natural Hair...
Bee: I know you recently did your big chop, and you're still wearing your hair naturally - what was the impetus behind that decision, and did you feel anything around redefining what beauty means to you?
Yendi: You know what it was for me - and I'm SO glad you asked that question! No one has asked that question at all, so thank you for that! This world of pageantry puts out this image of what beauty is 'supposed' to be [...] and it was so much of not who we naturally are - it's almost like it was a big façade. In retrospect, I kind of felt like, why is it that we as women are made to feel as though we have to do a particular thing to be a particular thing, and I wanted to almost redefine for myself what my projection of beauty was. My personal journey is that I wanted to go back to what I was created to be.
Check the video for Yendi's additional thoughts on bouncing back after baby, motherhood, natural hair choices, being a big dreamer, work-life balance, and the top 3 famous folks she'd handpick for her dream In The Dance Fitness class! Plus - if you pay attention, you might just catch footage of yours truly balancing pon head top in the studio!
Did you catch her face when I said I was hitching a ride in her luggage?! Lol!
Yendi's In The Dance Fitness DVD is available at Walmart locations across Canada, and more details can be found at the In The Dance Fitness website. Make sure you keep up with her via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and search the #inthedanceTO hashtag to see some of the real-time reviews on social media!