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BAME Women in Fitness | Representation Matters

Posted by Alex Lee on

Representation matters to Hey! Holla. These awesome women are the faces we've chosen to represent Hey! Holla over the last few years.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS | Learning About Racism with Hey! Holla

We have always aimed to represent a broad range of ethnicities with our models at Hey! Holla, but we know that this isn't the case for the the fitness industry as a whole. 

The fitness and wellness industry, which has been experiencing a huge boom over the last few years, is overwhelmingly white. But why?

High cost gym memberships, costly boutique fitness classes, high cost clothing (leggings that cost £75+!), and a feeling of exclusivity and elitism all contribute to the fact that the target audiences for the current fitness industry are people with disposable incomes.

Statistically speaking that means they're more likely to be white.

BAME women generally grew up and still live in more deprived areas, earn less, and have less disposable income to spend. So financially, BAME women are less likely to be able to afford the new wave of fitness on offer, and therefore are not of interest when companies plan their marketing campaigns.

That means that the marketing and advertising for the fitness industry is represented by predominantly white faces, which of course appeals and attracts white faces to work and represent the industry, which attract white faces to come and spend their money at these places...and so the cycle goes on.

A report by Sport England found that "people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds who are far less likely to be physically active". ⁣Is this because they are not represented on fitness instagram feeds and advertising and therefore they don't see themselves and so are not encouraged/inspired?

It's no wonder that BAME women are less likely to be active, less likely to feel they belong, and therefore less likely to have fitness on their radar even if it's free, like going for a run.  

And of course the financial picture is a generalization, there are women of colour with disposable income that are working out. As much as there are white women who are couch potatoes.

There's no doubt that women of colour are underrepresented. The fitness industry has a diversity problem.

Sharlene Gandhi loves yoga, but as an Asian woman, she is increasingly concerned by the whitewashing of the industry, and the effect it is having on the integrity of the ancient Indian practice. "If I go to a class run by white folks – which is most of them in the city – then the class is normally, massively white,"Sharlene tells Metro.co.uk. ‘There is such a market for white-washed yoga. Right down to the music that is played when you come into a studio, to the “Namaste” at the end – all of it is disastrously white.

Christina Rice, tells the Washington Post about finding her niche in hot yoga and signing up to do teacher training: "I did bond with some of the other students,” says Rice. “But I did feel very isolated at times. There were no teachers of color. I didn’t have another woman who looked like me, who understood my struggles, my insecurities.” She was the lone African American amongst 54 other women that had signed up.

Something has to change.

We are very aware that as a fitness brand we have a huge responsibility to ensure that we are part of the change to the way BAME people are represented in our industry.

We've both had a lot of conversations over the last week about how we as a brand can move forward in a sensitive and conscious way in the aftermath of George Floyd's death and the serious issues about racism in our society it has brought to the forefront of everybody's minds.

As a very small (just the two of us actually) white owned business, we are committed to making positive changes to better represent and connect with BAME (Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic) women in fitness and are very keen to expand our network of fitness friends to include more BAME women to be inspired by and connect with.

We want to know of any awesome BAME women in the fitness, health and wellbeing sector that you follow, or who's classes you enjoy. 

Especially in industries that are overwhelmingly represented by white skin... such as pilates and yoga. 

We want to support them, communicate and learn from them, share their talents, with an aim to diversify our communications, and in turn our audience, to be as inclusive as it can be.

From looking at the user generated photos we are tagged in, it appears as though our audience is predominately white, but we want to find out for sure. And if that is the case, we want to do better at connecting with BAME women.

So we're going to find out exactly who our audience is right now and will be sending out a 'getting to know you' survey with one of the objectives being to learn how diverse our customer base is so that we can ensure we are representing our audience in the right way.

Keep your eyes peeled on Instagram and Facebook and sign up to our newsletter to join our survey and be part of the change.

Tag us your fave BAME accounts and instructors on instagram @heyhollafitwear.

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