Breaking Barriers: Black-Owned Pilates Studios and the Legacy of Kathy Grant

Breaking Barriers: Black-Owned Pilates Studios and the Legacy of Kathy Grant

As the fitness world continues to evolve, we are witnessing a growing trend of inclusivity and diversity in various workout spaces. One area where this is particularly evident is within the realm of Pilates, where Black-owned studios are making strides in both promoting the practice and addressing the lack of diversity in the Pilates community. In this article, we will discuss the pioneering work of Pilates elder Kathy Grant, and highlight three Black-owned Pilates studios that are building upon her legacy.


Kathy Grant: A Trailblazer in the Pilates World 

Kathy Grant was a true trailblazer in the world of Pilates. Born in 1921, she was one of the few Black women to study directly under Joseph Pilates, the creator of the eponymous exercise technique. Despite facing racial discrimination and adversity throughout her career, Grant persevered and became a prominent figure in the Pilates community.


In the 1960s, Grant ran a Pilates studio at the iconic Henry Bendel department store in New York City, where she introduced the practice to countless individuals. As an esteemed teacher, she played a crucial role in promoting Pilates within the Black community, particularly at the Dance Theater of Harlem. Grant’s work laid the foundation for greater diversity and inclusion in the world of Pilates.


Addressing the Lack of Diversity in Pilates

Historically, the Pilates community has been predominantly white, leading to a significant lack of representation for Black individuals. This absence of diversity is due in part to the cost of training and certification, as well as the limited exposure of Pilates to communities of color. However, this is gradually changing, as more Black women are taking matters into their own hands and establishing Pilates studios within their communities.


Three Studios Carrying on the Legacy

  1. The Fit In - Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, NY

    Owned by Ife Obi, The Fit In studio has carved a niche for itself as a haven for people of color in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Offering affordable Pilates classes and teacher training, the studio aims to make Pilates accessible to a diverse range of clients. Obi's commitment to inclusivity is reflected in her passion for helping people achieve their fitness goals, regardless of their background.


  1. Tab Pilates - Chicago, IL

    Tabitha Koylass, a certified Pilates instructor, founded Tab Pilates with the goal of creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all. Located in Chicago, the studio offers an array of Pilates classes that cater to different skill levels, with a focus on empowering individuals to take charge of their health and well-being. Koylass also mentors aspiring Pilates instructors, ensuring that the legacy of inclusivity and diversity within the Pilates community continues to grow.


  1. Stretch ATL - Atlanta, GA

    Tanya Stephenson, the founder of Stretch ATL, has made it her mission to create a space where people from all walks of life can enjoy the benefits of Pilates. With a strong emphasis on community, Stephenson's studio offers a variety of classes and workshops designed to accommodate different schedules and fitness levels. By promoting a welcoming atmosphere and making Pilates accessible to a diverse clientele, Stretch ATL is contributing to the growth of diversity in the Pilates community.


In conclusion, the legacy of Kathy Grant lives on through the work of these Black-owned Pilates studios, which are breaking barriers and fostering inclusivity within the fitness industry. By embracing diversity and making Pilates accessible to all, these studios are paving the way for a more equitable and representative Pilates community.

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