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In early April we asked our SOUL community to nominate an LGBTQ instructor who embodies the spirit of Pride month. Six amazing instructors were then chosen to define their souls in a single word. These are their stories. 

 
 
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Valentina

@naturallyvali / Dallas


If there were ever a soul worth celebrating its Valentina Paolillo, a woman who finds strength in the things that make her different. Originally from Venezuela, she immigrated to the states at a very young age where she found her voice. In college, she began to speak openly about her sexuality, and recently gained the confidence to come out to her mother. You can find her leading classes in Dallas, exuding gratitude, and generally being awesome. She would describe her soul affectionately, as “Misfit”.

L

@lm_cascino / New York & Connecticut


Call her “L”. Written like the letter, sounds like “elle”. She’s the New England-based instructor whose smile is sweet, whose soul is devoted, and whose six pack is straight up inspiring. She’s an “all-in” kind of woman, devoted to the people in her classes, and fiercely confident in her identity, and her sexuality. You can find her showing up every day for her riders, singing, being silly, and living every day as nothing less than her authentic self.  

Janet

@spinpimp / New York City


She’s Janet Fitzgerald, senior master instructor in NYC. A legend beyond labels, whose soul is instantly felt, and infectiously free. First and foremost, she falls in love with the essence of a person, rather than a specific gender. You can find her breaking barriers and leading throngs of devoted riders to rocker-chic soundtracks all over the city. A soul so expansive, it’s hard to describe her in a single label, but if she had to pick one, it would be “Fluid”.

 

Kellen

@homosweatual / Chicago


Behold Kellen Townsend, the CHI-town instructor whose soul is as nuanced as the word he chose to represent it, “Queer”. A man with a mission, Kellen seeks to create a safe space for queer people, and queer people of color to come together, workout, be sweaty, and be themselves. You can find him on a bike, at his best leading a pack of enthusiastic riders who nearly feel like family. 

Ryan

@tryansaurusrex / Boston 


Ryan Jones is a force. This NOLA-born, Boston-based instructor has a soul that makes you wanna party. His positivity defies fear, and radiates good vibes. After he came out to his family, it flipped a switch on his insides, and life took off from there. He radiates love from deep inside, and it shows. This is just one of the many reasons why Ryan self-identifies with the word “Electric.” 

TirrelL

@meeester_cherry / San Francisco


Make way for Tirrell Cherry. A man who believes confidence is key to making all good things manifest. This Cali-cool instructor based in San Fran believes in the power of the vibe, and that becoming comfortable in your own skin, is a process worth investing in. You can find him in a crop-top leading classes all over NorCal, and generally doing his thing. He describes his soul proudly, as “Magnetic”.

Every Instructor Has a Story.

Beyond the six, our studios are overflowing with amazing souls. Get inspired by their stories below. 

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Nicholas W

 

One of the only New Year resolutions that I have kept true and going is one from 2005. I decided that it was finally time. 5 months before graduating high school, 14ish years into being a competition kid- I was finally going to tell everyone in my life that I was gay...by telling them I was bi first. That first part only lasted a week, but from that moment on, I have been able to be me.

    I am so incredibly grateful for my family, friends, and SoulCycle for always being so accepting of me. I was scared that everyone was going to hate me, bully me, not want to talk to, or be close to me. But it was a lot less dramatic than that, haha. Most people were glad that I had finally realized what they already suspected. I mean, I was a musical theatre loving competition dancer, flamboyant teenager. Figuring out that I was gay was a long journey for me because I created this idea of who I wanted to grow up and become. My heart and soul definitely had other ideas. I’m so incredibly thankful that I was able to hear those ideas, because now I am living a life that I love. I’m engaged to the man of my dreams, and we have plans for life together, along with our dog Artemis. Pride is always a great time of the year to celebrate who we are and who we love.

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Roger

 

Ok so here’s the real deal growing up I was overweight and everyone was already telling me I was gay before I knew what gay was. I grew up with tons of shame around both my weight and sexuality. I remember times that I walked into rooms and people would instantly make comments, and laugh at who I was. For many years I continued to let shame and fear dictate how I behaved.  Early on in my sobriety, I began to look at my behaviors and finally let go of the shame and resentment I had been bottling up. Then I found Soul! Which allowed me to express myself in new creative ways. Even through training and my first couple of years of teaching, I continued to struggle with letting people see who I really was. Now, the struggle isn’t as tough. That change comes from being of service to others in our community. Both in and out of the studio, I acknowledge and accept people of all races, sexual orientation, and sizes.  I aim to be the same person both in and out of class. I aim to make sure everyone feels welcomed and acknowledged. I know what exactly what it feels like to be ignored, and to be the outcast. I’ve also struggled with acceptance, so if my behavior and actions can impact someone’s day for the better, then I am always down to say “hi!” and flash a smile!

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Allie

 

I feel extremely lucky to work for a company that celebrates diversity and individuality the way that SoulCycle does. Since I started working here 6 years ago I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most unique and interesting people. SoulCycle has this way of making you feel like you belong no matter who you are or where you come from. It’s because of this amazing place that I met my girlfriend (and fellow instructor), Lisa. We first met in NYC while in training. Soon after training I was relocated to San Francisco to open our first studios in Northern California. As luck would have it, about 6 months after I moved, SoulCycle relocated Lisa out to San Francisco as well. Shout out to Julie Rice for convincing her to move across the country with 10 days notice!  To work at a company where we are celebrated both as a couple and as individuals is a wonderful thing. I’ve always felt that I had a group of people that supported me unconditionally, it truly is like having a second family. This community gave me the confidence and the courage to live a life that is truly authentic to me and for that I will be forever grateful.

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James L

 

This is what I think what PRIDE means to me, and at SOULCYCLE. To have the courage to love who you are, and the courage to love others as well. Regardless of race, orientation, status, creed, or religion, we all have one thing in common: our ability to LOVE. I try to exercise this within my classes and within the SOUL community on a daily basis. During PRIDE, I especially try to drive that point home and create a space within my life where I celebrate myself, and others who are different. Our differences are our strength and at SOULCYCLE and in the world. There is always room to be celebrated and included. Happy Pride!! :)

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kathleen

 

I am a strong, independent, successful, intelligent, happy woman. My sexuality doesn't define who I am. I came out in my late 20's as a woman who started dating other women. For me the transition seemed natural because it’s more about being drawn to certain energies than a specific sex. I HATE labels for anyone or anything, so I am just Kathleen: a woman who dates women. My main goal in class is to not only let people feel safe to explore themselves in any capacity, but to feel free to be who they are. My theory is if we move more freely, we start to think more freely leading to the possibility of understanding oneself and others. "Move in this room knowing you are safe to be who you want to be, believe what you want to believe in, love who you want to love, and most importantly feel what you want to feel" Happy PRIDE to all beings!

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lisa

 

I’m so grateful to work for a company like SoulCycle where LGBTQ pride is celebrated with fanfare across the country, and in every single studio. Soon after I became an instructor in 2013, I met a truly incredible human named Allie Fell who had just become an instructor herself. By chance (or perhaps by fate), we were both asked to move across the country to help open the Bay Area market. Today, Allie is my girlfriend of almost five years, and we continue to feel supported by the entire SoulCycle community. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to work for a company that empowers you to be unapologetically yourself.

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Erin

 

When I think of myself and how the word “Pride” relates to me as a women. I feel emotions of honor, certainty and feelings of utter joy Then, my mind wanders and I instantly think of a song James Arthur sings called “Certain Things.”

“Something about you
It's like an addiction
Hit me with your best shot honey
And there's certain things that I adore
And there's certain things that I ignore
But I'm certain that I'm yours
Certain that I'm yours
Certain that I'm yours”
It feels good when you are absolutely certain of something in life and sometimes those things take time.

As we continue to grow into our own lives and embrace ourselves, we learn to feel a lot as humans. Feelings are inevitable, processing those feelings is not always a given. Emotions can run through us in a passing fleeting moment, they may stick around and turn into valuable lessons; while still not defining us. Then, you have those gigantic feelings that slap you right across the face in life and are impossible not to process. Ignoring them not an option because after a while, it may seem as though your taking the chance of not recognizing your honorable, joyous self as much. Life is just to short for that.

For me, understanding how to organize my emotions is something SoulCycle has helped me with immensely over the past 4 1/2 years. Another way to say this is, I am certain that I have found my voice. I am also certain that for me, my "voice" is not just the sound that comes out of my mouth and into the microphone 19 times a week. My voice is my essence, my voice is the way that I stand, the way that I walk. My voice is my rhythm, the way that I ride and the that way I feel like teaching on a Monday verses on a Friday. Knowing my voice is just another way to say, I know my soul and I'm forever grateful.

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Nicholas s

 

Pride at SoulCycle has always been my most favorite time of the year- mostly because of the energy in NYC, and the camaraderie that is felt all around us with the studios. It’s a dream come true that I will be teaching at the Chelsea studio on the day of pride this year. I should pinch myself, this is something I have always wanted to do. I consider myself someone who is very proud. Proud of where I work, proud of where I come from, and proud of being the gay man that I present to the world everyday. I’ve been at SoulCycle for almost 8 years. I’m coming from behind the front desk to leading the pack on the podium. SoulCycle is in my blood, it’s in my DNA it's who I am. I have grown up here and have learned many life lessons, some good and some bad. If anything, working at this company has taught me to be proud of who I am, and that everyone around us should love and be proud of who they are- no matter what shape, race, or gender. This is something I try in convey in my room everyday. I tell my riders to wake up every morning and love the person staring back at them in the mirror. That life is about having fun, and you should be having fun every hour, every minute, every second. No one can tell you the word "no" except for you. I have riders that message me, stop me on the street, talk to me after class and praise me. Sometimes I feel that I am put on this pedestal, and all I ever say is "I'm just being myself." And that’s all I can give time and time again: myself, and who I am. At the end of the day if I can put a smile on someones face for being my absolute self then I have done my job. It would be an honor to be part of such an inclusive campaign that could reach and touch so many people. I want to close with this: There is so much negativity going on in the world today, and it affects our riders in different ways. Something I strive to be throughout my SoulCycle career is a beacon for love, support, and positivity. That’s how I live my life everyday and how I'll always live it, smile first :).

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earl

 

I believe that vulnerability is the purest form of strength. I’ve always preached in my classes to love yourself unconditionally and whole-heartedly. It feels good to finally be taking my own advice. I came out to my Mom last April, shortly after moving to Seattle to open the first studio in Bellevue. My biggest fear was letting her down. She raised us in an extremely religious household after my father passed away when I was five years-old. Self-doubt and the fear of the unknown kept me silenced for far too long.

When I was 7, I got lost in the Miami airport. I somehow became disconnected from my family after using the bathroom. I don't remember ever being that scared again. I was surrounded by strangers and everything was unfamiliar. It was terrifying. The not knowing part.

Eventually I was found by a security official, and then returned to my relieved family. When I think about those moments, I’m reminded of one of the most basic human requirements: the need to be accepted, acknowledged and loved. To feel safe.

As humans we tend to embrace the familiar and reject unknown. My hope for this PRIDE is that more and more humans feel acceptance and love over anything else. That we can all choose faith over fear.

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James J

 

I’m lucky enough to come from a family that believed in me and loved me no matter who I decided to love. I’ve always known this but through middle school and high school I played the role of heterosexual best friend who had crushes on all the wrong girls (because they were girls...not because I had bad taste). Sorry, ladies. In large public schools, student populations will definitely scare the gay right out of you. So when I went to college, I promised myself I would try to live more in my truth. Obviously, it’s easier said than done and led to some very, very confusing times. It’s sad but true — I knew what I wanted but did not know HOW to live it.

Senior year of college, when I finally dragged myself out of closet, there was no dread of losing my parents or siblings...they simply nodded and said, “oh yeah, we know...we’ve known since you were 5.” And that was that. Apparently, the Easy Bake Oven I wanted for Christmas that year was a dead give away.

Then in 2013 I did what all raging homosexual musical theatre lovers do, I moved to New York City and it was time for this little butterfly to spread his rainbow wings (seems like the right metaphor to use, right).

Honestly, since working at Soul, I have truly found MYSELF and my voice (well maybe refined the voice I already had). Over the last four years, I’ve been able to settle into my own as a fierce person who doesn’t sacrifice WHO I AM to be what someone else thinks I should be. I don’t have the most Instagram followers, I don’t have a “fitness professional” body, and all my classes don’t waitlist every week...BUT that’s also all the stuff that does NOT define me.

What does define me is that I use my strengths  — my kindness, my humor & wit, and my personality — to show my riders and the world that it is OKAY to be normal. By helping people fall in love with themselves, I’ve been able to help myself fall deeper and deeper in love with who I’ve always been: a fierce individual.

And as I say every class:

You are strong. You are capable. You are worth it.

 
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