FITBOX Plus editor Michelle Mitchem posed a few good questions to the legendary tennis star and entrepreneur Venus Williams about her life, inspiration and her amazing fitness line Eleven By Venus. See what she has to say below and check out our exclusive partnership FITBOX here: Thika Box
Michelle Mitchem: You made your debut as a professional tennis player in 1994. That is a very long time ago. Did you know that you would become the sensation that the world knows you to be?
Venus Williams: I didn’t know I was going to be a sensation, but I had a lot of goals that I was working towards. I put in a lot of work and had the confidence that I would achieve my dreams.
MM: Tennis is a complex and simple sport. What is your favorite part of the game?
VW: My favorite part is winning! Losses are hard to take, but it makes me a better winner. I love the journey to winning.
MM: You have launched a fun and functional athletic clothing line - EleVen (that we proudly carry at FitBox). What inspired this venture?
VW: I got a letter in the mail when I was 18 saying, "Come to design school." By that time, I had already been pro for four years — I thought it was a great idea. [Venus studied fashion design at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.] Obviously after school, everyone dreams of having their own line. I was already an athlete, so active wear spoke to my soul. Being active is part of who I am every day, and I wanted to bring a new voice to it and combine fashion with performance.
MM: I notice a lot of functionality in your designs- seems perfect for working out, or hanging out. Can you share your vision when designing the line?
VW: It’s really organic. I sit down and sketch what I’d like to make happen, and then sit down with the EleVen team to figure out how it’ll actually get produced. Then, we go through the color process. One of the biggest challenges of the design process is actually color; you’ve already used all the colors you want to use or the ones you want to use might not work for that season. It seems like I’m always in the process to find another color on the spectrum of the rainbow. When you’re wearing something, you want it to perform, to be comfortable. The fit has to be there every single time so that your clothing doesn’t distract you when you’re playing or doing sprints. The fit process is ongoing, especially because we’re creating new SKUs [styles] all the time. It’s a lot of work.
MM: Can you paint the picture of the woman who wears EleVen?
VW: The EleVen woman is wonder woman, she pushes herself to strive for more; EleVen’s motto is ’10’ is just a number, but EleVen is a lifestyle.
MM: Can you describe EleVen in 3 words?
VW: Fierce, strong and confident.
MM: In closing, what would you like our readers to know about Venus Williams and your clothing line – EleVen?
VW: You can reach your potential and your potential is limitless. Becoming an EleVen is not something you settle for; rather you should continue to push yourself.
I was born in NYC to a Filipino mother and German father. Athleticism in my family was a daily ritual: from an early age, I trained as a dancer, diver, swimmer, and track and field while my three younger brothers played soccer. Dance has always been my passion and through the years I excelled in it because I discovered that it was the only athletic workout that allowed me to express myself, release emotions, and keep me fit.
At the age of 17, I booked my first Broadway show, appearing in 42nd Street, Bombay Dreams and Wicked.
Inspired by art, dance, fashion, music, and popular culture, my workout method is creative, innovative and unconventional. I seek to continuously do what’s never been done before combining my knowledge of the body, dance, sports science, anatomy and eastern practices that focus on the chakras, acupuncture points and energy work. The NW Method has played a leading role in shaping some of the best bodies in the entertainment industry including Madonna, Mya, Rachel Weisz, Stella McCartney, Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish and Steven Klein.
From 2010-2014, I was the Creative Director of Hard Candy Fitness’ “Addicted to Sweat” program, which I co-created with Madonna to make our workouts accessible to all fitness levels. During this tenure, I successfully helped to open 8 Hard Candy Fitness gyms across the globe, teaching trainers in each location the Addicted to Sweat program.
At the end of 2014, I was announced as the new Global Ambassador of Women's Training for Adidas by Stella McCartney.
Saying yes to the universe and trusting myself has led to me to where I am today. I am always pushing the boundaries of fitness and strive to set the new standard of fitness in the 21st Century. Through movement, I want to inspire others to realize their dreams and lead them to their most balanced, beautiful, and best self.
January 31, 2017, at 6 AM, in Solana Beach, CA, Kimberly Caccavo began the day with her usual morning stroll along the beach, with breathtaking views worthy of a San Diego postcard. Accompanying her are her dog Buddy, her GRACEDBYGRIT Chelsea Leggings, and me! Yes, that’s right, “ME.” This bewitching hour was the best time of the day for Kimberly to speak with me.
She is a very busy woman. As CEO and Co-Founder of socially conscious and beautifully designed wellness clothing brand, GRACEDBYGRIT, there are many demands on her time. Balancing personal time, family time and a thriving business doesn’t leave room for much else- hence why I happily obliged the 6 AM interview.
Kimberly is a Montana, NV native, who moved around a bit before settling in picturesque Solana Beach, CA. Before moving to California, she lived in New York City with her family but her husband’s career suggested it was time to pack up and head west. And, thank goodness for the shift, because it was in California that Kimberly met her now business partner, Kate Nowlan.
Seven years ago, former run and swim coach Kate was tasked with the job of helping Kimberly train for a triathlon that was only 3 weeks away. The triathlon was in honor of teenage jogger, Chelsea King, who was raped and brutally murdered by a known sex offender. Her attacker had admitted to committing a similar act of violence, in the same park, just one-year prior.
During their workouts, Kimberly noticed that the clothes she bought to train in were nice, but weren’t extremely flattering. It was then that the two began to explore conversations about developing a line of athletic wear that was flattering, functional, safe and that could stand the test of time. So, in 2013, GRACEDBYGRIT was launched. The company grew rapidly, selling product by the 4th quarter of the same year through trunk shows.
This brand is quite dynamic. The undeniably soft and decadent fabrics used are sourced from Italy, but the clothes are designed and made in San Diego, not far from the ‘former’ Sans Diego Chargers stadium. It is a quaint operation that employs about 20 women from all over the world. GRACEDBYGRIT is committed to empowering women and is dedicated to supporting two very special social organizations: Chelsea’s Light Foundation and Beth Steele – Badass.
Beth Steele is a GRACEDBYGRIT Influencer from Ohio, a badass mom, and a breast cancer survivor. She discovered a lump in her breast after attending a Patriots game that promoted breast cancer awareness. After her diagnosis, she began to collaborate on blog posts with GRACEDBYGRIT to share the story of her journey from awareness to survival. Inspired by her courage, GRACEDBYGRIT continues to support Beth each October by donating 20% of all pink purchases, both online and in-store, in support of her participation in the Susan B. Komen breast cancer awareness walk.
Chelsea’s Light Foundation is dear to Kimberly and Kate. Chelsea King’s murder could have been prevented, had there been stricter laws against sex offenders in the state of California and had she been running with a whistle, or pants able to hold her cell phone. GRACEDBYGRIT has launched the Chelsea Collection in honor of Chelsea. Thus far, the collection includes the Chelsea Legging and the Chelsea Headband. Chelsea was passionate about sustainability and recycling. Both items in the collection are made from recycled water bottles. The leggings are designed to compress all your “lumps and bumps,” making for an extremely flattering fit. Lastly, each GRACEDBYGRIT product sold comes with a whistle to keep women safe while they’re out doing what they love. Each garment has an easy to reach hook for the whistle to stay put while exercising. In the event that a woman’s safety is in jeopardy, they can use the whistle to call for help.
In our interview, I said to Kimberly, “athleisure is a term that is being used often, as it relates to workout clothes. How would you categorize GRACEDBYGRIT?” She shared a story about a time she and her husband made plans for a night out on the town. She was away from the house and asked him to bring her a dress from home. When they met, Kimberly realized her husband forgot her dress (surprise, surprise!) Luckily, she was wearing her GRACEDBYGRIT and had a pair of cute shoes in the car. When she changed out of her tennis shoes and into these cute flats, her workout apparel became functional enough for a night out. She said, “our clothes are designed to go from working out to any other activity. They are great layering pieces for day to night.”
Every season produces a beautiful new food- different from the season before. For example, in the spring we enjoy strawberries and rhubarb, and in the fall, it is all about pumpkin spices and sugar cane dreams. To consume fruit and veggies during their time of harvest is known as seasonal eating, and seasonal eating is becoming the new it ‘thing’ in wellness.
This way of eating is not new to the holistically health conscious, it is commonplace to eat the foods that are in season. The nutritional value of produce is at its’ peak during harvest season, and it is at this time that foods have the most benefit.
For example, if you live in New York, and buy a watermelon in July, you would expect a fruit, that is full of juicy sweet goodness. Now- lets imagine buying watermelon in December. You would be taking a gamble on whether it is a sweet and juicy. Also, the watermelon will most likely cost more because it would have to be imported from a region that is able to cultivate watermelon during this time of year. Accompanied with importation, rising prices and lost nutritional value are unfavorable realities.
The 3 factors that support food health are oxygen, temperature and light exposure.. The longer fruit and vegetables are exposed to either of these three factors, nutrients are lost. Because of this, to preserve the produce, preservatives are added, and this compromises the nutritional value and authenticity of the product.
Buying produce that is in season, for your geographical region, saves money. There are no importation costs to factor into the cost of the goods. When you purchase fruit and vegetables in season, it is less expensive for companies to make these foods available to consumers, thereby making it easier on your wallet.
Another desirable benefit to seasonal eating is quality. Foods are better tasting and more nutritious.
Overall, seasonal eating offers the most benefit for your body.
Meet the Newest Face of Fitness: Brittne Babe
By Janell M. Hickman
To describe fitness guru Brittne Babe as busy, is somewhat an understatement. The 21-year-old already has the titles of athlete, certified personal trainer, online health coach, and Herbalife distributor under her belt—and she’s just getting started! She has over 1 million followers across her social media channels, and 11 years of experience.Thankfully, Babe had time to squeeze us in for an interview in between her finals at MSU during the busy holiday season.
FB: How did you get involved with FitBox? What does it mean to you to be a brand ambassador?
Brittne Babe: I was approached by the owner Greg Lowe—he has a great track record in regards to business and technical software, which is how I've built my business. I feel like he understands how it all works and can only help me grow my brand as well. I have never endorsed a company other than Herbalife, so to attach my name to Fitbox is something that I am very proud [to add to my business resume].
FB: You started working out when you were 11-years-old, what inspired you to get into fitness?
BB: My mom encouraged me—she worked very long hours and wanted me to join some sort of team that would keep me off the streets (and out of trouble). I started with basketball and I was horrible with that! Next, I tried cross-country, [which was] too much running. Finally, I tried track and found I was naturally good at it.
FB: Your body is incredible—what do you say to naysayers who claim it's more than hard work? What tips do you have for staying body confident?
BB: To be honest, I am still learning how to deal with that. But the way I look at it, there will always be a small percentage who will find something wrong with me. The larger percentage will appreciate and love me—that’s is who I am going to devote my energy toward.
I have a slight case of scoliosis and on one side of my body there is a dent (I am shaped like an S). I used to be really insecure about it, but I’m learning to own it and love my body for being as unique as it is. In terms of body confidence, there is a fine line between being confident and over or underweight. There is no reason anyone should accept poor health and pass it off as body confident. However, if there are some things you cannot control (i.e. crooked leg, crooked spine, big hips, etc.) you need to own it because it is what makes you “YOU.”
FB: How do you stay motivated to squeeze in daily workouts?
BB: To be honest, I do not workout daily. I get in at least three to five good days of training. I do not obsess over my body, so it all comes easy to me. I am no longer interested in competing because I have no interest in making training and strict dieting 75% of my life. What I do now is a lifestyle for me, I do things that are fun and if I do not want to work out for 3 days straight, that’s okay too.
FB: What’s an average day like for you?
BB: I get up [daily] at 6 a.m. to get ready for class. Then, I look at my [blog] posting schedule and follow-ups (my mom and I create them the night before) then plan my day based off of that. Next, I create my pre-planned meals before studying. If I don’t have any studying to do, I’m head to the gym or do an at-home workout.
My social life isn’t like the “average” 21 year-old’s, my days and nights are usually filled creating content for BrittneBabe.com and other ideas for my business. Actually, the reason I started to come up with workout ideas is because I often have little time for the gym. When you can workout from home, there should be no excuses.
FB: How has social media played a role in branding yourself as an expert?
BB: I [aim to] appeal to the masses—think, the young woman who is contemplating plastic surgery, the older woman who doesn’t know what to do in the gym, the guy who can barely do ten push ups (but is impressed how I can fly with mine!) I relate to a lot of people, so my social media account isn’t just a bunch of photo shoots of me. All of my accounts focuses on results, how to get them, and how I got them.
FB: They say abs are made in the kitchen—what is your meal plan like? Any guilty pleasures?
BB: Yes, that is true! My meal plan is actually pretty basic during the week. But, I’ll have a couple of small cheat meals throughout. Remember, this is my lifestyle—I am not dieting, I am making positive choices to encourage a better quality of life.
FB: Tell me more about your 21-day plan, what do you think is the biggest hurdle for clients to get over when they start?
BB: I have so many followers who really have never dieted and have no idea of how to train, so I wanted to create an affordable platform to get people educated. The biggest hurdle is consistency, however I remind them to keep trying. This is a challenge, not a diet—you have to eat and train like this for the rest of your life.
FB: What are your must-have workout items and what’s on your playlist?
BB: [I always] bring my water bottle and my iPhone (so I can listen to music) to my workout. I listen to just about everything, but when it comes to working out I prefer dance music. Anything that gets me pumped, it's on the list!
FB: What's on the horizon for you in 2016? What was your biggest blessing and obstacle in 2015?
BB: My goal for the new year is to be a better, much stronger Brittne, both mentally and physically. Honestly, there have been so many obstacles and blessings this year. Sometimes I forget that I'm just 21 years old. [I remind myself] every single day that goes by is a complete blessing! Next year, I’ll be selling swimwear on my website and hosting a few bootcamps so I can meet my followers.
“Meet the Woman Behind the Hip-Hop Workout That’ll Unleash Your Inner Vixen”
By Erika T. Butler
Some of us log our miles on the treadmill and others enjoy a high-intensity spin class, but what about a workout that feels like a night out with the girls? That’s just what Janet Jones, the 34-year-old mother, wife, and fitness instructor, created with the Vixen Workout. Born out of her love of dance and a desire to recapture her inner essence during her late-20s, Jones—a professional dancer, choreographer, and producer—launched the hip-hop-based fitness craze that’s spreading across the country. We sat down with Jones to discuss her thoughts on dance, a healthy lifestyle, FitBox, and why a tube of red lipstick is all you really need to unleash your inner vixen.
FB: Have you always been involved in the fitness industry?
JJ: No, not at all. I was born and raised in Miami, but my father was Cuban and my mother is Dominican, and I've always danced. I started off in classical ballet and my mom would send me to the Dominican Republic for about four months out of the year to train. I wanted to be a classical ballerina, but as I got older, I got big thighs. (laughs) So my dreams of being a ballerina didn't work out and that's how I ended up trying hip-hop. I made the Miami Heat dancers when I was around 18 and that's when I became a professional dancer. From there, I went into choreography and producing. I never actually did fitness at all.
FB: As a dancer, having your body be at its peak level is so important, right? How was it that you were able to link your love and passion for dance with a lifestyle surrounding dance that other women could relate to?
JJ: Because I was a dancer, just doing what I loved, the perk was that I was in great shape. And around [age] 27, I think all women go through this: once you're close to hitting 30, you give yourself this surreal amount of pressure to have it all figured out, like you're a complete failure if you don't. So, you start to make wrong life decisions in order to fulfill that timeline. That's what I did. I gave up everything dance-related to get a career in corporate America. And in doing so, I discovered the life that most women live. Working from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to then go pick up my daughter from daycare, to come home, tend to the baby, tend to the house, laundry, cooking, and you do it all over again, and at what point do you have time for yourself? And even then, to take an hour or two to go to the gym? Absolutely not, because the gym feels like another chore. So that's how Vixen happened.
FB: So you took those experiences and created the Vixen Workout?
JJ: I merged what I loved—and the only thing that I knew, really, was dance—with the mindset of the general woman. I remember when I was in that part of my life, I couldn't go out to a nightclub with my friends anymore. And going to the gym felt like a chore, so I made a dance workout that felt like a girls' night out. And it was so fun and it felt like you were just hanging out with your friends, dancing to your favorite songs, and doing all of the moves that you see on the videos. You don't even realize that you're having a really intense workout. That's the whole purpose behind Vixen.
FB: How would you define a vixen?
JJ: A vixen is in all of us. I think that we, as women, look at the TV and see these pop stars. It's almost like it's somebody that we can never be. And that's why I called it "Vixen," because I remember in my teens, I would watch MTV every summer and just be obsessed with the music videos. Everyone wanted to be the star of the video or the "video vixen," as they used to call it. So that's how the name "Vixen" happened for this. I think that everyone is a star on the inside, everyone has that Vixen in them.
FB: How have women been impacted by your classes?
JJ: We try to target women from the inside. We make sure that everyone feels welcome, that no one feels invisible because I feel like invisibility is something that a lot of people go through. Maybe they don’t hear, "Hey, you look beautiful today." So we give that to them. We make sure that the change happens first from the inside and, because they're having such a good time, they lose weight. The statement that stands out the most in Vixen is one of the clients who had yo-yo dieted her entire life. She started the Vixen and lost a lot of weight really rapidly. And she said, "the difference between Vixen and the rest of the workouts is that with Vixen, I look at myself in the mirror, and for the first time, I see myself." That's a pretty powerful statement. And that statement pretty much sums up our mission as a brand. What we say is, "Don't let them take your light,” because I feel like society takes the light from a lot of us and, in essence, we lose ourselves. [Vixen's] purpose is to switch on that light again. Or if you've never had it switched on, help you discover that you have that in you.
FB: If there's a young lady who wants to try out the Vixen Workout for the first time, what's your number-one tip?
JJ: Wear red lipstick. Vixen is set up like a performance, so you're supposed to feel like you're performing in your own concert. For someone who's not comfortable with dance, I think that dressing the part helps you get into character, especially if you're not used to wearing lipstick. It's almost like you're acting out a persona. We want you to tap into all the different layers that you normally don't get to and maybe don't even feel comfortable with, but because you're in class pretending to be powerful or confident or even pretending to be sexy, you take that with you and then you eventually realize that you're not pretending—that you have all of that in you. I recommend that you get your red lipstick and get your hair done, even though we're going to sweat it out—it helps you get into character. And it helps you feel like you're going to an event and not a workout.
FB: What are your top three healthy-lifestyle habits?
JJ: I live by the 80/20 rule. As in, during the week, I eat healthy and during the weekend, I cheat about 20%. If I want a piece of pizza, I'll have the pizza and then the next day, just get back to eating clean. There's no reason to be so hard on yourself. Eating should be approachable and fitness should be approachable, and more people would do it. I drink a lot of water, because it helps with my energy, since I run the business, I'm a mom, and then I teach my classes at night. I try to drink a gallon a day and sometimes I do have to drink it from the gallon so I can measure it. And I take moments to just do nothing. I think it's important, just to be one with yourself, listen to music, and take moments and just be present. I think it's very important for your health.
FB: You've recently been named a brand ambassador for FitBox. Can you talk a little bit about how you got involved and why you wanted to sign on?
JJ: What I love about FitBox is that it's really cool clothing. It's easy. Convenience is key, so the fact that you could have this great line of clothes delivered to your house is something that really intrigues me. And the price point intrigues me because I love wearing workout clothes during the day, especially cool workout clothes because it kind of makes you feel like you're together and not in your pajamas. It's part of fashion, that whole athleisure look, but when you go to the stores, the pants are about $120, so it's not a price point that's attainable for most people. So that's why FitBox is so intriguing to me, because the clothing looks just as good as the expensive clothes that you buy in those stores and the price point is attainable for girls that take my classes at Vixen. I'm very honored to be a part of it