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While quarantine and the lockdowns have been difficult for countless reasons, they also opened the door for a whole new type of celebrity. TikTokers became A-listers, Dr. Anthony Fauci went from physician to internet crush, and big cat zoo owners shot to viral fame. But this list of new stars wouldn’t be complete without the fitness instructors who helped millions of people get through some of the most challenging days. Over 30 instructors have become Peloton users’ motivators, bright lights — and yes, even best friends — during an otherwise very dark time. Business Insider even declared that some Peloton users found that their “bike changed their lives and helped them to quit therapy.”
As more and more gyms closed, the Peloton community grew to over 3 million users and the instructors have become celebrities in their own right. One look at their social media pages and you’ll see what we mean. Many of them have hundreds of thousands of followers, partner with huge brands, and have been featured by major outlets, including Vogue, ESPN, Today, Vanity Fair, and more. But the road to fitness fame and internet stardom hasn’t always been easy for many of these instructors. As they’ve become more famous, Peloton instructors have revealed more about their backstories and personal lives. And so, we’re going to dive into everything you need to know about your favorite teachers, as we uncover the untold truth of Peloton instructors.
Cody Rigsby experienced homelessness while growing up
Peloton members know Cody Rigsby as the life of the party who you can always count on for a RuPaul’s Drag Race reference or Britney Spears fangirl moment. Rigsby’s fans are known to take their love for him off the Peloton app, including this one who tweeted, “Cody Rigsby is the best thing Peloton has to offer.” Rigsby’s personal Instagram page has grown to around a half a million followers and counting. On Instagram, Rigsby shares photos with his boyfriend, Andrés Alfaro, who is a fellow fitness instructor. And while Rigsby’s classes and social media are peak fun, his journey to where he is today hasn’t always been easy.
In a November 2020 interview with Vogue, Rigsby revealed that he and his mom were homeless for around three years during his childhood. Rigsby explained his mom was a single parent, and during this difficult time they bounced around from living in hotels to staying with friends in his hometown, Greensboro, N.C. He recalled one special moment amid their financial struggles, when his mom bought him CDs by Britney Spears, Destiny’s Child, and the Spice Girls. Rigsby said he “scream[ed] like a little girl” and told Vogue that these CDs provided him with a way to disconnect from his uncomfortable reality. So while Rigsby is now known for blasting these pop tracks in his Peloton classes, the songs hold a special place in his heart.
A terrifying near-death experience motivated Robin Arzón's fitness journey
Robin Arzón’s fans know she’s a Type-1 diabetic, a bestselling author, and that before Peloton, she was a corporate lawyer. What they might not know about, however, is the near death experience that led to swap fitness for litigation.
In May 2019, Arzón revealed to ESPN that in 2002, she and 40 others were held hostage at a wine bar in New York City. Arzón recalled being held at gunpoint and covered in kerosene as the perpetrator threatened them with a lighter and shot other patrons. Thankfully, police were able to intervene before the situation escalated any further. This traumatic experience is what got Arzón into fitness. She said, “That incident is the reason I started running, because I physically needed to run the trauma out.”
A year later, Arzón competed in her first race, and immediately fell in love with the sport. While she struggled through this 10K, since then, she’s run 26 marathons, “three 50-mile ultramarathons and one hundred-miler.” According to her Instagram page, Arzón is now the head instructor at Peloton and a VP of the company. She’s also amassed around 700,000 followers on IG, where she posts about health, fitness, and occasionally her husband Drew Butler (who proposed to her after only three days). And throughout Butler and Arzón’s first pregnancy, she taught Peloton’s first prenatal classes.
Ally Love was told she 'would never become an athlete'
Ally Love brings positivity, spirituality, and good vibes to the Peloton bike, but at one point Love wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to walk again (much less teach fitness classes). In an October 2020 piece for Women’s Health, Love detailed the moment that changed her life. When she was nine years old, Love was hit by a car and the accident left her with a severely broken femur. Love said, “After my surgery, the doctor said I would never be a runner. They said I would never become an athlete, and that I may get arthritis from walking by the time I’m 15 years old. I was able to defy those odds and decided that I really wanted to move my body.”
After months of physical therapy and learning to walk again, Love said she fell in love with dancing. She eventually pursued a career as a professional dancer and had success as both a ballerina and an NBA dancer. Eventually, Love turned her passion for dance and music into a career in fitness, landing the Peloton instructor position in 2016.
But Peloton is only a part of Love’s brand. She moonlights as the Brooklyn Nets in-arena host and founded her own company Love Squad. And through it all, she still makes time for her partner of nine years, Andrew Haynes. Haynes proposed to Love in December 2020 and she shared the exciting news with her 525,000 Instagram followers in early 2021.
Alex Toussaint's Peloton journey started with a mop
Peloton members love Alex Toussaint’s Club Bangers rides and notoriously difficult classes, but like many of the other instructors, Toussaint’s success wasn’t overnight. In April 2020, he spoke to Military Families Magazine about how he uses the discipline he learned at military school to push Peloton riders. In the interview, he also revealed his journey to the Peloton stage.
He recalled a “weird, dark depression” after his car was stolen in college. Around this same time, Toussaint started working as a maintenance worker at Flywheel, another indoor cycling studio. After spending so much time cleaning the studio, Toussaint asked the owner if he could audition to be an instructor. When looking back, Toussaint said that it was his discipline from years of military school and his rhythm from being in marching band that made him a natural on the spin bike. He said, “I literally went from one week mopping floors to the next week teaching a class.”
Now, Toussaint is a favorite Peloton instructor for many professional athletes like pro golfer Bubba Watson and NFL star Cam Newton. In May 2020, Toussaint even taught one of the pro-athlete filled Peloton races that aired live on ESPN. He told the outlet that, “I’m providing an athlete workout. I call it the ‘this ain’t daycare’ kind of energy. We’re not here to twiddle our thumbs.”
Jess King went from reality TV to Peloton
Jess King lights up the Peloton stage with her high energy, eccentric outfits, and love for house music. She makes her passion for Burning Man and live music known especially during her series, The Jess King Experience. These classes have had everything from an in-house live DJ to drum circles with other Peloton instructors. King is certainly anything but boring. And her social media pages are no different. King has over 250,000 followers and she often shares photos of her craziest Peloton looks and her fiancé, singer Sophia Urista.
During an October 2020 episode of A Sweat Life’s podcast, King revealed that she’d actually never used a spin bike before her Peloton audition. She explained that her mom was a bodybuilder while she was growing up, so while fitness was in King’s blood, she always wanted to pave her own path. On the podcast, King opened up about her career as a gymnast and a professional dancer before Peloton. She performed with Cirque du Soleil and even made it to the Top 12 on Season Four of So You Think You Can Dance. King also said that throughout her professional pursuits, she’s always taught dance, so becoming a fitness instructor wasn’t a huge stretch. And as luck would have it, Peloton’s catalog of classes eventually expanded to include dance, which King got to teach dance again for their Dance Cardio series. What a full circle moment!
Tunde Oyeneyin struggled with obesity as a child
While it’s hard to believe when taking her Peloton classes now, Tunde Oyeneyin struggled with obesity while growing up. Oyeneyin is known in the Peloton community for her motivation, tough love, and ability to have necessary conversations about topics like the Black Lives Matter movement. Oyeneyin has these honest discussions both on and off the bike, but many of Oyeneyin’s fans might not know about her own fitness journey.
Speaking with Today, Oyeneyin revealed that when she was 13, she weighed 200 pounds and wore a size 18. She recalled always being “the biggest girl” in class. Oyeneyin said her struggles with her weight stemmed from her parents’ Nigerian culture, in which “food is such a focal point.” But she hit a breaking point with her weight in middle school when a dress didn’t come in her size, so her mom had to sew two dresses together.
Oyeneyin originally set out to lose weight, but over time, she “decided to focus on what [she] was gaining rather than losing.” Among the things Oyeneyin has gained are friends, self confidence, and a new career (before spinning she was a makeup artist). But even Peloton didn’t come easy to her at first. In December 2020, Oyeneyin told Vanity Fair that she didn’t land the gig after her first audition. Eight months later, she got a second chance and “made sure the second time they couldn’t say no.”
Kendall Toole prioritizes mental health both on and off the bike
Kendall Toole joined the Peloton family in September 2019, and quickly won over Peloton members’ hearts. “You can always count on her for an unreal workout,” ne fan tweeted, while another added, “You haven’t Pelotoned if you haven’t taken one of Kendall Toole’s Metal workouts.” Like many of the other instructors, since joining Peloton, Toole has completely blown up on social media. She has over 325,000 followers on Instagram and as of September 2020, she started sharing photos with her boyfriend Joseph Nicholas.
Landing the job at Peloton wasn’t her first experience in fitness though. Before moving to New York for Peloton, Toole was a boxing instructor at Rumble in Los Angeles. According to her LinkedIn page, before that, she worked as a story editor/producer at Snapchat. And in college at USC, Toole was a cheerleader and she often shares throwback photos from her cheer days on social media.
But what fans love most about Toole is how candid she is about discussing mental health. She often talks about mental health on social media and is honest with her followers about her own struggles. Toole also takes these important conversations to the bike by teaching rides like the World Mental Health Day class. One fan tweeted their favorite motivational quote from the ride writing, “They might knock you down but they will never knock you out.” Now those are some words to live by!
There's a reason this Peloton instructor is so chill
While Peloton is headquartered in New York City and most of the classes are filmed at their NYC studio, the fitness giant also has studios overseas. Sam Yo is one of the Peloton instructors that teaches out of its London studios. And ever since Yo’s first classes in November 2019, he’s been beloved by the Peloton community.
While many of the Peloton instructors have interesting backstories, Yo’s might take the cake. Why? Because Yo used to be a Buddhist monk in Thailand. Speaking with People, Yo talked about his experience coming from a Thai family and being the first generation to grow up in England. Yo recalled taking Thai lessons from monks in London and found that monks helped him connect to his heritage. And eventually, Yo told People that he realized he needed to become a monk himself to fully understand his roots.
So at 23, Yo put his life on hold and moved to a monastery in Thailand. He told People that he only planned on staying at the monastery for a month or so, but he ended up staying there for 10 months. After discovering a newfound love for a “routine lifestyle,” Yo left the monastery for London, where he made fitness his new life goal. Yo’s time as a monk sets him apart from all the other Peloton instructors. He told People that, “I’ve been told I’m very calm in the way I teach.”
Cliff Dwenger was a semifinalist on The Voice before Peloton
While the majority of Peloton classes are taught in English, the fitness platform also offers classes in German. One of the German instructors is Cliff Dwenger. Dwenger joined the Peloton family in December 2020 and taught his premiere ride that same month. For those wondering, Peloton offers subtitles in case you wanted to take Dwenger’s classes but don’t speak German (you might also learn a new language!).
Before Peloton, Dwenger was a personal trainer and nutritionist. And even after starting as a Peloton instructor, Dwenger continues to share his favorite healthy meals and workouts on social media. Additionally, he posts pics with his wife Mary Les, whom he married in May 2019. The two also welcomed their first child together, Anaya, in August 2020.
But what Peloton members might not know about Dwenger is that before he got into fitness, he was a musician. Dwenger’s vocal talent took him all the way to The Voice of Germany where he was a semifinalist in 2018. So you can count on Dwenger to have great music in his classes and maybe he’ll even show off his rapping skills (he’s really good)!
Christine D'Ercole was told she was 'too big' for ballet
In October 2020, Peloton’s Christine D’Ercole told Insider that she wanted to be a ballerina while she was growing up. Unfortunately, she faced repeated rejection because of her size. D’Ercole told the outlet, “My thighs were twice the size of all the other little girls. … I was just bigger. I was too big.” While this realization was heartbreaking at the time, D’Ercole is now a top fitness instructor and uses those same strong thighs to her advantage while teaching Peloton classes.
D’Ercole eventually traded ballet for acting, and became a bike messenger to make extra money. Interestingly enough, her side hustle became her passion when she realized she was a natural on the bike. D’Ercole felt like she found her purpose and left acting behind to pursue cycling.
D’Ercole went on to become a world and national track cycling champion (she’s the only Peloton instructor with these accolades). D’Ercole also started teaching spin classes at Soul Cycle, but she never got comfortable there. In 2014, Peloton reached out and she found her perfect match. When inspiring others in her classes, D’Ercole said that she often taps back into the negative comments she received about her thighs in ballet class. The Peloton instructor said, “Self talk is about embracing where I am, not judging myself, and reminding myself that I am bigger than a smaller pair of pants.”
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