“I’m Chinae Alexander, and I’m an owner of an event planning company, but I also accidentally fell into the lifestyle and fitness Instagram world. It was completely an accident, but here I am a year and a half later doing this for real.
GetFitBrooklyn actually started when I was mildly unhappy in my old job after eight years of being a marketing director there. I was like, ‘What do I want to do?’ My friend worked at ClassPass and they needed a social media person. I interviewed and I started this account just to show them I have some interest in social media and fitness. I had 300 followers the day of the interview. It was a phone interview, and they were like, ‘You do not have enough experience for this job.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know. But I’m great, I think, at doing this. I will be.’ I was like, ‘I’ll just figure it out.’ That apparently is not a great thing to tell a future employer. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. But I thought, this is a fun thing. So I continued doing it and it’s literally an accident that I’m here, but I love it now—now it’s very purposeful.
My journey with body image was largely influenced by the fact that I came from a house where my mom consistently told me how pretty I was. She instilled in me to feel proud of the way I looked and also that I had so much more to offer than just the way I looked. Even when I was 225 pounds at one point, people around me, not only my mom, were still like, ‘You’re so beautiful. You carry yourself with confidence.’ So I didn’t really have a ton of body image issues, even when I was at my biggest, most awkward self. At one point I was wearing JNCOs and red eyeliner, and I was still like, ‘I’m so cute.’ Now I’m like, ‘What the fuck was I thinking? I was not cute.’ But I thought I was cute. And then, you know, what’s so interesting about body image is I think when I started focusing on changing my body, fitness, and lifestyle, there was a time when I swung a little too far the other way into getting too concerned about it. Actually, what’s funny to me is I was probably more self-conscious at my lowest weight than I was at my highest weight. It’s made me realize that the one thing I want to do is help women know, wherever you are at, you can love yourself and better yourself simultaneously.
I think the biggest thing that I learned from transforming my body was not really about losing weight, it was changing my mind about the way I see the world. For me, it wasn’t about having this massive goal of losing 70 pounds or whatever, but finding the motivation to change my life physically and mentally, one micro step at a time. Some days you feel great and you’re like, I don’t need the motivation to get to the gym or eat healthy or even look for that great new job. Other days it’s as minute as saying, ‘Okay, get out of bed. Go wash your face. Okay, can you put your shoes on? Now lock the door behind you and just go.’ For me, it was a transition of mentally saying to myself, ‘You can do this,’ whether it being big decisions or small.
Even though I don’t have a ton of body image issues, there are still moments when I struggle with feelings of self-consciousness or not fitting in. I’m an Adidas running ambassador, and there are six of us on the team for the year. I had a very candid moment on Snapchat with the people that follow me—it was at the end of the photo shoot day, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m surrounded by tight asses and six packs. I am the normal one.’ What I’ve realized is in those moments of feeling self-doubt, you can step back and say, ‘I’m here with a purpose.’ Maybe I’m the one that makes people feel like they are okay no matter what size they are. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny, fat, fit, whatever, everyone has an issue with the way they look. At the end of the crazy mental spins that we go through, if you can come around back to a central point of saying, ‘I’m doing what I can at this moment, I look the way I look, and I have a lot of people that love me,’ you will realize there’s a lot of stuff beyond the condition of your thighs that matter.
When it comes to body image, there’s definitely this sense of competition and measuring yourself against others. But I think there’s also a major shift happening in women supporting one another, which is really, really refreshing. I think it’s still a very vulnerable place for women to go, because every woman has been hurt by someone when it comes to their body. I was talking to my boyfriend about this recently, and I said, ‘Pretty much every woman can go back to a place, probably their earliest memory, of the first person that ever made them feel bad about themselves physically.’ Women have a recall with that. Guys don’t think about that. They can’t remember when someone called them stupid or ugly. A girl can go back to that moment in 4th grade when someone called her fat or ugly or awkward. It’s like you’re reliving it. So there will always be those wounds of the past for girls, but I think women are starting to trust each other more, which can only work if women continue to not participate in body shaming or backstabbing or being catty. It’s a real possibility that it shifts, and I think it is shifting, which is so great.
I think what’s helped me deal with any body image issues is that I haven’t gotten so wrapped up in my value being dependant on what I look like. I think the more that we as people, and we as women, can really cultivate the parts of us that aren’t just physical, we won’t get as caught up in it. That’s why I like to encourage people and ask, ‘What do you want to do with your life? What’s your passion? What makes you get up in the morning? What kind of food do you like? What kind of books do you like to read? What do you want for your life beyond what you look like?’ I think when all of those things are firing, there’s just less focus on your body. If my goal in life is to have a six pack, then I’m going to have to spend so much time and energy thinking about that one thing. If I have a kickass career going on, if I’m mentoring five girls, if I’m reading a fascinating book, if I’m spending my time not scrolling through Fitspo but instead cultivating relationships with other women on Instagram that I truly like, all of these things will give you perspective. You realize that how your body looks is important, but it’s not the most important.”
As told to Stephanie Park, September 2016.
Photos by Stephanie Park