If you’ve ever browsed Youtube in search of a Pilates routine to follow along to at home, then chances are you’ve already heard of Cassey Ho. Since launching in 2009, her Youtube channel, Blogilates, has amassed a huge following, evolving from a modest collection of online workout routines known as POP Pilates to a body positive fitness community.
And it all started with a single video.
Ho first discovered Pilates as a teenager, having fallen in love with the exercise regimen while preparing for a beauty pageant at the age of 16. She loved it so much that she even became a certified Pilates instructor during her college years.
“I knew Pilates and fitness was what I was meant to do because it was what I looked forward to throughout school and when I was [later] working a corporate job. Pilates kept me and still keeps me grounded,” she explained.
She couldn’t juggle both lives forever, though. After graduating from college, the time came for Ho to make a cross-country move and leave her students — and her life as a part-time Pilates instructor — behind. Unwilling to leave her students empty-handed, she recorded a Pilates workout video as a fond farewell and posted it on Youtube, not thinking very much of it.
After moving to the east coast, Ho discovered that the corporate world wasn’t a good fit for her, and she quit her job as a fashion buyer and began teaching Pilates 12 hours a week to make ends meet. Although her new schedule proved to be immensely physically challenging, immersing herself in the world of Pilates boosted Ho’s creativity significantly. She began to focus more and more on her then-small Youtube channel, filming more videos, spending more time working on the Blogilates blog, and upping the overall quality of the content she offered.
Soon enough, Ho was able to watch her small little community grow and grow and grow, and today, Blogilates has over 3 million subscribers on Youtube, 1 million likes on Facebook, and 1 million followers on Instagram. In addition to workout videos, Ho also supplies her followers with meticulously crafted recipes as well as workout plans and meal plans on her blog. There’s a POP Pilates book as well as DVDs, and Ho even hosts live events where she can meet with hundreds of fans at once and lead them in a group POP Pilates class.
“I never imagined it turning into what it is today. I started off simply wanting to share my love and passion for Pilates with people,” Ho explained.
[Photo: Daniel DÉARCO Photography]
It’s not just her easy-to-follow workout videos that have helped her attain such a loyal fanbase – Ho’s relentless positivity is a huge draw for viewers. Missing from Ho’s videos is the insidious undercurrent of ‘You’re not good enough’ that so often can be found in the fitness videos of yore, instead having been replaced by a body positive infectious bubbliness that’s all about making the viewer feel good about themselves, regardless of where they are in their fitness journeys.
“We as a society are finally beginning to realize that being healthy and fit doesn’t mean being a specific size or looking a certain way. Of course, there are always diets, trends and fads, but research has shown that there is no one specific way to be fit or healthy. There are many ways to do it and you can be healthy at any size,” Ho said. “We are moving in a body positive direction, but we still have a way to go. There is a lot of body shaming online and that’s why I create a supportive and loving community who accepts each other no matter what we look like or how much we weigh.”
The Blogilates community is a strong one. Her fans, who call themselves POPsters, can be found all over the map, and there is no set demographic dominating her comments sections. New moms, grandparents, teens, injured athletes — even celebs like Taylor Swift are showing love for Blogilates. Many of Ho’s fans have even gone on to become certified POP Pilates instructors, and as a result, POP Pilates classes are popping up all around the world.
[Photo: Daniel DÉARCO Photography]
But the positive feedback Ho receives on social media from the Blogilates community doesn’t mean that it’s been an easy road for her. The hate is real, and even Ho has felt the pressure to live up to other people’s expectations.
“Being in the fitness industry, you are automatically expected to look a certain way. Not all the comments I get online are positive and that can take a huge toll on me. One negative comment about my body can stick in my mind for a long time,” Ho admitted. “But I think about what advice I would give a young girl, and that’s to ignore the hate, to focus on you and being happy and healthy. Opinions of others don’t matter. What matters is that you are happy with who you are and that you’re making those around you feel good too.”
It was the pressure to look a certain way that led Ho down a dangerous path, pre-Blogilates fame. While preparing for a bikini body competition years ago, Ho developed orthorexia, a disorder characterized by an obsession with maintaining a healthy diet. It was a rough period for Ho. She spent upwards of three hours a day working out, and she religiously avoided eating anything even remotely unhealthy; she wouldn’t even eat apples because she was afraid of injesting too much sugar and carbs.
Ho ended up losing not only the competition, but her joyful attitude and overall happiness in life. It’s what led Ho to ultimately swear off dieting for good in favor of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Happiness is at the top of her list of priorities, and it’s a philosophy that she passes along to her followers.
“Throughout my own experiences, I have been able to relate better to my community,” Ho explained. “I am not the only one who has gone through eating and exercise struggles. Therefore I am now able to approach health and fitness with an open mind. I promote balance, listening to your body and doing what makes you happy. I use my past experiences to help people find balance in life. No extremes are necessary.”
[Photo: Daniel DÉARCO Photography]
As a woman who wears a multitude of hats, Ho is a master at achieving balance. Ho, who’s seen success designing handbags in the past, has a long-held passion for fashion design as well as fitness, and with her latest venture — an activewear line called POPFLEX — she’s been able to meld together two of her biggest passions. For Ho, who’s been sketching outfits and designing clothes since she was a child, POPFLEX is the realization of a lifelong dream.
“I was into fashion design since I was a little girl. Actually, what made me realize that corporate work wasn’t for me was when one of the very first yoga bags I ever designed showed up in Shape Magazine. I couldn’t believe it," Ho said. "I knew that I wanted to fuse fashion and fitness together. It was time to make my dreams happen. But, it didn’t always go smoothly. The hardest part about it all is staying confident and true to myself when I was told over and over again that I wasn’t good enough. People made me doubt myself and my abilities.”
If Ho had any naysayers, she’s clearly proven them wrong and then some, but that’s never what it’s been about for her. She says the best part of doing what she does is “knowing that with each workout, with each video or post, I am able to make someone’s day better.”
“Even if it’s just putting a smile on someone’s face,” she continued. “People have overcome eating disorders, depression, and obesity through Blogilates and that is the most rewarding thing.”
[Top Photo: Sam Livits]