How This Spin Studio Is Fighting Against The Whiteness Of The Wellness Industry

Photo: Courtesy of Briana Thompson.
For decades, the wellness industry has continuously failed to serve and grossly underrepresented Black women. Briana Thompson is the founder of Spiked Spin & Wellness Co., a Black-owned holistic and intuitive wellness company and her vision for Spiked is to change that. The company started as a spin class in Brooklyn but is now establishing itself as a full wellness company. With its current expansion, Spiked Spin & Wellness is emerging as the new template for what everyone in the wellness industry should be working towards: a space that doesn’t exclude Black women but embraces us. Spiked ignores the investor mindset of valuing money over the person, instead Thompson chooses a people-first, community-first wellness practice. Spiked clients are the main character. Instead of pushing products on you, Spiked pushes you on you, and pushes you to take control of your wellness journey. 
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The current mainstream (read: white) wellness industry is rooted in making people feel inadequate in hopes that they will spend money to fill that void in a capitalist society. However, Spiked Wellness puts an emphasis on the individual, putting their wellness journey above the company. Thompson recognizes that the wellness industry needs to do better, especially for Black women. Which is why the company is expanding from just spin classes to offering various classes, including yoga, pilates, wellness educational courses, nutritional resources and guides, monthly mental wellness sessions with licensed therapists and psychologists — who are all Black women. The Spiked expansion will offer a hybrid of digital and in-person experiences in order to honor whatever journey you’re on, as they value “intuitive wellness” over forced consistency. Intuitive wellness is the core of Spiked, giving you autonomy to make decisions, listening to that intuitive feeling, a gut instinct that tells you what you need. Instead of staying with a trainer that doesn’t fit your needs or vibes, you can switch to a new one.
I’ve never been a SoulCycle kind of gal, but after my conversation with Thompson, I know for sure that I am not, but I am definitely a Spiked gal. A place created by Black women and for Black women, Spiked is the “child of all of my innermost feelings,” Thompson tells Unbothered over the Zoom call from Chicago. 
Spiked Wellness is rooted in community and the betterment of Black wellness, which is why I hope to see Thompson and her space emerge as the IT Girl of the wellness industry in the coming years.
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Unbothered: I love that you’ve created this space for Black women to unapologetically be themselves and have a hand in their own wellness journey. What pushed you to elevate this space you’ve created into a full-on wellness company?
Briana Thompson: It's crazy because I was reading through Google Drive notes from when I first started Spiked in 2016. I always had in my notes that Spiked Spin would be the first of a conglomerate of wellness spaces. And it’s coming to fruition. 
To answer your question, I'm a Black woman, our number one target consumers are Black women, and what I saw was that we need more than a spin class, we need more than a physical experience.  Frankly, we have so many burdens, there's so much pressure that comes along with being a Black woman, and we are providing the solution to meet Black women where they are on multiple fronts. It's no longer just about, “Hey, come in and change your body.” We're saying, “Hey, take autonomy of your wellness,” which is why we also chose intuitive wellness. You have ownership of your health, of your wellness, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and we are here as a support to what you're already doing in your life. 
We both know that trust isn’t easy between Black communities, wellness spaces, and medical industries due to their history of harming us. What are you doing to foster trust between the community and your company? How are you trying to reach out and get different people to join and take care of themselves?
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BT: We have been neglected and so when we thought about Spiked, we wanted to curate a space that unapologetically speaks to Black women. The very first thing that we're doing to forge that relationship and build that trust is we're calling out [our intention] plainly. The language is very explicit: we say Black women and allies. With just that small nuance we got a lot of pushback. [People say] “Is this becoming too exclusive?” “Do we feel like we are not being inviting enough?” I was kind of bullish in the fact that I need Black women to understand and know that we are here to support them. We're absolutely not an “exclusively for” company, but we definitely are an “especially for” company. 
Beyond using the language that we're using, we are very intentional about the imagery that Black women will see when they enter our spaces.  We choose different body types, and beyond different body types, Black women are not a monolith, so we don't only want to show a “natural Black girl” or a “Black girl with a weave.” There's so many layers to who we are, and we are very thoughtful about that. I think that's how we're going to forge trust with our community. The third way is that we're partnering with a lot of other professionals in the industry. We're broadening our reach but also showing that this is not [something] Spiked can do alone. This is not a one company mission, this is something that we all need to be involved in to create this change to build this trust with each other. 
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I need Black women to understand and know that we are here to support them. We're absolutely not an “exclusively for” company, but we definitely are an “especially for” company. 

Briana Thompson
It seems like the Spiked Way is ‘progress over perfection’ everyday. But, at the end of the day, it must feel pretty close to perfection when you come into a studio and see it full of active Black women, working out and taking care of themselves, knowing you started that – and that’s got to feel pretty sweet. 
BT: I think it allows me to think about what the word perfection means, so I would almost look at that as progress. But I could see how in your brain, you're like, “Well, this is the goal, because we want to see more Black women and more Black people making healthier life decisions.”  I look at that as progress. If we only get three people and then four people and then five people. That is the progress that we’re mentioning when we’re saying, “You don't have to wait until you're ready, you can listen to your body, listen to what you feel that you need today. And hopefully there's a resource through this company that can meet you where you are.” 
If that's coming to one of our spin classes in Brooklyn, or that's taking one of our virtual yoga classes, if that's attending one of our mental health sessions, or simply just engaging with some of our content that will tell you what's happening in the lifestyle industry. This expansion is allowing us to shift the conversation from only talking about spin or hip-hop, we're completely moving away from that, to really focus in on the holistic intuitive approach to being a human, a woman, a Black woman, and all of the many layers of what that means.
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What would you tell Black women who are still figuring out how to fit taking care of their mental and physical wellness into their busy schedules, whether it be balancing work or motherhood or anything else? How do they start?
BT: They start. I think that's the number one thing that I hope will come across is that this is not about you waiting until you feel ready. It's about trusting that gut instinct that's telling you I need to do something. So if there's a voice in your head that's like, “Damn, I really wish I worked out today, or I wish I found a therapist today. Or I should call my mom today, or I really need to have some alone time and just sit on my couch.” There is a voice that's speaking to you, and the number one thing that I want women, people to take away from this is to just come as you are to Spiked.  We're going to accept you and we're going to help you figure it out along the way. That's what this intuitive wellness is all about. That's what this expansion from a spin studio to a holistic wellness company is. It's so that we can help you navigate all of those fears, all of those doubts, and the confidence that comes with it right because as many women who are saying, “Wow, I don't know where to begin.” There are women who are like, “Oh, I, I got this shit down pat and like, how do I jump into the room?” That range of women, we're here to serve all of them. 
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Photo: Courtesy of Briana Thompson.
As the daughter of a Black woman that would go out and work for hours everyday, then come home bone-tired, I know a thing or two about the resilience of Black mothers. Black mothers are the backbone of the Black community and household. Which leads me to my question, how do you do it all? I want to know how you juggle all these roles in your life: human, mother, business owner, woman with perfect hair.
BT: [Laughs]. I've gotten very comfortable with it not being perfect. I think that's also a part of that intuition. Initially, when I had my son and I was  running this business and thinking about my big goals, I would be lying if I said that I don't feel those pressures. [I would think] I'm not doing enough with this company, we should be going further, my son should be saying more words, my outfit should be better, my nails should be done. 
I've just learned to give myself grace, and I think that this evolution of the brand is very closely tied to my evolution as a woman, because there are so many parts of who we have to be. There are so many things in the world that make us not trust who we are, and that's why intuitive wellness came to the forefront, because there's this gut instinct, this autonomy, this intuition that we've been given, but that has also been taken away from us slowly piece by piece. What we're hoping to do is refuel  women to believe in themselves, to trust themselves, to value themselves, to make the decisions for their own bodies. It's really shifting the narrative in the conversation in the wellness space from making these brands the main character to making sure that our clients are the main character. The Black woman and allies who make up our community are who we are focused on.
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How does it feel for you to know that you are not only creating generational wealth for your family, being a business owner, but you're also creating generational health for Black women in general?
BT: It feels great. Generational health is a hashtag that I've used since like, 2016, when I didn't know that I was making any impact. I just consistently manifest what I want to come to fruition for this company, and the ultimate goal is truly health and wellness for people of color, specifically Black women. To be a part of that in any way is a huge responsibility, but it's one that I was made for. 

It's very difficult to convince people that a demographic that has not mattered for so long deserves this amount of care and this amount of investment.

briana thompson
It's so interesting, when you say things like, “you look like everything is all together” because there's so many hard, very hard days of building this company. It's very difficult to convince people that a demographic that has not mattered for so long deserves this amount of care and this amount of investment, and that's what my days are filled with. It's figuring out how to convince other people that they are worthy themselves. On the flip side, from a business perspective, it's asking for funding and money and opportunities from people who don't understand why this type of specific niche company is necessary. And so, just hearing, “Oh, you're impacting generational health is incredible.” I pray that there is longevity, and that this is something that impacts people for generations.
The diverse amount of classes you offer is great. It’s not just yoga, there’s also Pilates, and educational courses about nutrition. The emphasis on food is important because our lack of knowledge about nutrition is a big issue in Black American communities. With the prevalence of diseases like diabetes in our community, if we had more information on that, it would be possible to lower these numbers.
BT: Diabetes, to me, didn't seem that serious because it felt like everyone around me had it. Everyone's grandma has diabetes, and it was accepted as culture. Now that I'm an adult, I realized what comes with diabetes, and I had to watch my grandmother get dialysis. I started to realize this is [a serious] disease. You have to go and get dialysis every other day, if your diabetes gets to that place. That completely deteriorates your ability to live life freely. 
My grandmother had a kidney transplant and now she doesn't have to go to dialysis anymore. But all of those things are trying on the body, right? When people ask me, “Why are you so passionate about this?” I'm like, I live this. I have family members who have had strokes in their 40s. I'm not an outsider, looking at the poor Black people that need saving. No, I am amongst this community and immersed in this culture. I deal with the pain and agony and heartbreak that comes with seeing people in pain and knowing that people need to be healed, and figuring out like, how can we just make a small mark on that? What does that look like? That’s why this expansion was so important. I'm a person that always feels like we need to do more. 

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