What else do you have down right now?
Most of the time I have my diet down, but I’ve been traveling a lot so that’s been pretty bad too. But the workouts I usually dedicate one or one-and-a-half hours six days a week, and nothing can compromise that because that puts me in my place. It centers me when everything goes haywire. Working out is like my time alone, so I like that a lot.
Originally you went to school to become a doctor, so how did you come from studying to be a doctor to being this fitness star?
Okay, so obviously I come from an Asian background; I’m Chinese and Vietnamese. And my father basically — well, my parents — in the Asian culture if you’re not a lawyer or a doctor, it’s hard to find respect in a career — I’m just being honest, and I think a lot of people from that background can agree with me. And so I was set to graduate with biology, go on to med school, and I did end up graduating with an honors in biology, but right after that I pursed fashion buying, and I flew over to Boston and made my parents extremely upset. And they were like, “When are you going to get a real job?” and in fact, I wasn’t even happy in fashion buying. The truth is I wasn’t happy being in a corporate environment, and so in college I had already started a yoga bag business because I was a pilates instructor throughout college, and I couldn’t find anything that would fit my mat and all these other things in there so I had to design one, because if you can’t buy one, you make it. And nine months into my job, one of my bags is featured in Shape magazine, and when that happened I remember someone texted me the picture. I went right into Target, I opened it up, and I saw my bag in these glossy pages, and I literally melted down onto the linoleum floor and started crying it was so crazy. And then I quit my job, I flew overseas to get this stuff mass produced, and now because of YouTube I have this audience where we can wear the bags, we can wear the clothes, and it’s just really, really cool. And it really has helped with the relationship with my parents, because now they believe you don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer to be successful, you really just have to follow your heart and that is what makes success.
How are they involved in your ventures?
So my mom is helping me with the shipping and everything, and my dad is helping with the linguistics in terms of if I have to deal with anything overseas. So before, I was doing all of that, but thank goodness they stepped in to help me, so I’m very fortunate for that.
So you said YouTube has helped your business grow. How did you discover YouTube?
Oh yes! I was moving — this is right after college — from the West Coast to the East Coast, and basically I was really sad that I was leaving my students. It’s like one of the worst things moving to a different place; you’ve built a relationship with your students that you see every Tuesday and Thursday, and so I thought, “Why don’t I just put up a video, and we can work out together anytime?” I never thought anyone would watch this video, but then people started leaving comments like, “Well, can you do an ab video?” Can you do this or that, and then I didn’t really understand what YouTube was, and it wasn’t until really when I quit my job and I had more time to do the YouTube thing, and that’s when everything started to blossom, so it started with me just putting something up on YouTube.
How did you maintain that progression of updating videos and updating your blog? How did this become something you knew was going to be a career?
Basically I do whatever my fans tell me to do because these videos are for them, so because I’ve been very true to listening to what they want, I think that has really helped with the growth of the channel and the blog and everything. I just write about what I’m interested in and what they’re interested in, and that’s it.
And you say you try to be transparent with your fans — how do you interact with your fans on YouTube, on social media and outside of YouTube in person?
Yeah well, I answer all my tweets all the time. I think I’m too connected: Instagram all the time, answer my comments, but also the meet-ups are super-duper fun, especially the international ones because they get really excited when I’m not from the country and just meeting the people. It feels like you’ve all done this thing together, so you already feel like you’re all friends. We have this one commonality, so when you see each other it’s just so friendly. The atmosphere is so inspiring and so positive I can’t even really explain it — you should come to a meet-up one time! It’ll be fun!
You have any meets-ups coming up soon?
Not yet, but I probably will!
You wrote on your blog that you are starting a blogilates community soon. Could you give us the rundown?
Basically it’s going to be a Facebook for fitness. That’s basically all I can say and probably the easiest way to explain it, but it’s going to be a hub for everyone to share fitness ideas, healthy living tips, healthy recipes, so that’s in development right now, and if everything goes smoothly it should be out pretty soon.
Let’s go back to your YouTube channel. What goes on in planning each episode?
Basically whatever song is hot in the moment, or I tweet out something like, “Hey, what do you guys want to work on?” and then I just do it. Honestly, sometimes I just turn on the camera and I just kind of go, ‘cause I’ve been teaching group fitness for about six-and-a-half or seven years now, so it’s second nature to me so I can just come up with it on the fly. I don’t plan a lot of these workouts.
So you do all of the camera work yourself?
For the most part, yeah, and that’s really hard because you have to go back and check if things are in focus and go back and oh my goodness! I definitely have to refilm things, so I would love to have someone help me film it. Yeah, a lot of my own work.