Bonus: Cassey Ho – Living Your Dream, POP Pilates, and Blogilates


Jonathan: Hey, everybody, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus calorie myth and Smarter Science of Slim show. We’re very excited about today’s show. It’s a little bit of a challenge today. I have been challenged folks, implicitly, not explicitly, by someone who has even more energy, dare I say, than I. This is an individual, who, people are like, “Jonathan, you’re smiley and you’re energetic.” Well, when you get to know, if you don’t already know, because she is all over the Internet, today’s guest, you will be like, “Yes, Jonathan, you are in that second place position when it comes to smiliness.” Our guest today is the delightful creator of POP Pilates, an Internet YouTube sensation. She has got, like, 500 trillion views online, for good reason, because she’s awesome and motivational. Cassey Ho, welcome to this show.

Cassey: Hi. Thank you so much Jonathan, it’s a pleasure to be here and see you.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Well, I’ve seen you all over the web, and it’s cool to actually be interacting with you live here now. So, Cassey, we all have seen you online doing your fitness stuff, doing your motivational stuff, but I want to take a step back because I was intrigued by your bio on your website, in terms of your history, and medical practice, and what made you transition. Let’s start from little Cassey and work our way up to today.

Cassey: Okay. Well, we’ve got to start when I was 16 and I wanted to be a fashion designer. I’m very artistic, I’m very right and left-brained. I told my dad I really wanted to be a fashion designer, but see, in the Asian-American culture, and just the Asian culture, you’ve only got three things that you can be when you grow up or you’re like, illegitimate, and you have dishonored the family name. That is doctor, lawyer, or accountant. My dad literally told me to my face, he said, “You will not be successful, you will not succeed, and you will have no friends, and no money.” So, I cried, and I hung my head low, and I said, “Okay, I will go into Biology.” I went to Whittier College on a full ride and I got a degree in Biology, but my heart just really wasn’t into it. Actually, my junior year when I was supposed to look for a medical internship, I went out and got a fashion internship instead, and my dad went berserk! And then the following semester I came back in and I signed up for Advanced Chemistry only to drop out of it, a few times, actually, because I wanted to sabotage all of my chances of even taking the MCAT. I don’t know, it’s crazy. My parents were crazy, and I was just not happy, my heart wasn’t there.

And then, I eventually flew out to the East Coast and tried to pursue fashion buying and, interestingly enough, though, I had started a yoga bag company as a college student, and eight months into my new job, maybe less than that, one of my yoga bags got featured in Chic Magazine, and I was like, “Oh my God.” I remember going to Target, like flipping through the pages frantically because I got a text from a friend and a blurry picture, and I remember melting down onto the floor and just crying because I was like, “Oh my God, [inaudible 03:15]. So, the next couple of weeks I quit my job and I remember buying a ticket to China on Friday and leaving on Sunday and saying, “You know what? If I’m going to go, I’m going to go big. I’ve got to give myself a 100% chance to succeed, or else I’m never going to know, right?” So, during that whole process while we were developing back and forth, I started to YouTube a little bit more, and I started to blog a little bit more. I’ve been doing Pilates forever. I’ve been teaching for about eight years, doing it for 11 years. At that time I was doing more Pilates and still teaching and things started to grow. It is interesting, though, now, because now my parents do talk to me again. They’re very happy for the success and they are actually working alongside with me. Not only has it brought our family closer together, but now I’m also developing a clothing line, so I’m back where I wanted to be, which was designing clothes. I think that was a really long answer to your question, but that’s kind of how medicine was involved. But I am glad that I have that Biology background a little bit because it makes me understand nutrition a little bit better.

Jonathan: Cassey, that’s a very fascinating story and I would like to dig deep into one aspect of that, if you don’t mind, and that is, this transition period, because it’s wonderful to see you online. Obviously you’ve had this success, and it’s very easy for folks to just be like – they only see the success. They don’t see all the hard work that went into that, and I want to focus, specifically, we talk about hard work, just like putting in that work. But there’s another level of hard work, in terms of, it sounds like there was an emotional path, here.

Cassey: Oh, yes.

Jonathan: And how did you cope with that time period, I don’t know how long it was, where you were, basically – you have lost your anchor? You were brought up for however many years as, this is correct, this is reality, and you challenged that. How did you get through that?

Cassey: It was, honestly, really hard, because I’m actually a very obedient child, and so I have always done what my parents told me to do, and at the end of the day you just have to know that you know yourself better than anyone else does, and you know what your potential is. I was just like, “You know what, I’m not going to have this. I’m not living for my parents, I’m not living for anyone else, I’m living for myself. We were fighting and yelling, and I was crying a lot for probably like a good few years. And my parents were like, “What are you doing with your life? You need to go back to school,” and all this kind of stuff. And I just [inaudible 05:38] I know this is going to work out, and I don’t know how, but sometimes you’ve just got to believe in yourself, and go, even if you’ve got no support. And things just started to work out. But, obviously, it was a very emotional journey, it hurts, and actually, I don’tknow if you can see, but every time I talk about it I get a little hot, and my eyes start tearing up, but yeah, I just hope that other people can follow their passions, as well, because it is one of the most gratifying things to be able to live what you’re meant to do, you know?

Jonathan: Absolutely. Well it’s incredibly inspiring, and I loved when you said, “My eyes start watering, I started getting warm,” because it really seems like it’s that level of passion and commitment that gets you through those tough times. And what I also admire about your story is that, correct me if I’m wrong, but there’s a lot of individuals who may go into this creative, passion-driven arena, and certainly, sometimes some dark places when you go off the beaten path, but a lot of people will deal with that via unhealthy outlets, whereas it seems like you deal with it with very healthy outlets.

Cassey: Yep, I mean, there were times when I would just lay in bed and not want to get up, because I was just like, “Well, (I mean, this is pretty dark), if I can’t live for me, or live for my parents, like what is the point of living? I didn’t do anything crazy, but it got to a point where it was just really hard to deal with myself. Pilates has always been my rock. No matter if I’m having a bad day or whatever, I go and teach my class and I see these people who want to see me, I want to help them get healthier, and we have this common goal of just having a fitter body, a healthier life, and you emerge from the one-hour class just feeling better. So, throughout all the years until now, for the past 11 years, I’ve been doing Pilates and I love it. It is something that makes me happy, I find a joy in it. It’s more than just a workout, it’s just like a yoga-type thing. I think you know what I mean.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Well, Cassey, so often, I’m sure you’ve seen this, obviously you’ve been practicing for many years, you’ve interacted and influenced millions of people, but so often poor health is the result of emotional distress. So, what do you think it was about you, that for these two years or so that you were in severe emotional distress, you pursued a healthy path? And, can other people learn to do what you did?

Cassey: Yeah, well, I think for me, it’s always about progressing to the next level, do something that makes me feel happy. I guess, internally, doing something unhealthy doesn’t make me happy, and so it’s always something where I can see myself do better, whether it’s for myself or helping somebody else. I think people should really try to do less of what they don’t like and more of what they like, and you kind of even out and just try to figure out what your path is. And I’m just very sensitive to my feelings, I think that really helped me move forward. But it’s also really important to surround yourself with, maybe, friends that also believe in you, because I had a couple of friends in college who were like, “Cassey, you really should do what you want, and bla-bla-bla.” Luckily, I was in the dorms and I wasn’t at home with my parents. It probably would have been a lot worse with them just imposing things on me, so you’ve got to really put a nice support system around you. It’s really important to have positive energy. So, I have my friends in college to thank, too, for telling me, “Just stop listening to your parents.”

Jonathan: Well, Cassey, let’s transition here to the light at the end of the tunnel, where obviously, you’ve made this journey, you’ve crossed that chasm, and you’ve experienced some delightful success. But what I want to dig into here, Cassey, is that obviously, fitness, YouTube – these are crowded places – these are crowded places, and you have worked your way through that and emerged as one of the top influencers. In fact, I believe – which website was it that ranked you as second to only Jillian Michaels in terms of your online influence? That is incredible.

Cassey: Yeah, [s/l Your Cure 09:29].

Jonathan: What do you think it was about your approach that helped you emerge?

Cassey: I think it’s really important to realize that when you start you have to have more of a deep goal than just being famous or making money, because when I started I literally was putting up my video for students at the gym who didn’t have time to work out with me on the days when I wasn’t teaching, so it was for them. And it just so happened that people across the Internet started watching it. Some people say, like, “Oh, maybe you got in early, but at the same time, if I did get in early, it still broke through to somebody when nobody was watching YouTube, too. Now there is a lot more content, and I can tell when somebody is really doing it for an alternate reason versus just helping people. So, for me, when I put up a video, it’s all about the fans. If they want a butt video, I give them a butt video. If they want a dance video, I choreograph a dance routine for them. It’s always about serving and giving back, and it’s gotten back to me, too. That’s my philosophy in life, in teaching, and everything. You just kind of give, give, give. The more you give, the more you receive.

Jonathan: You just gave me chills, because my father is an ethics professor, and he is a big fan of – I don’t if you’ve ever read any work by Viktor Frankl, but he wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. This message you’re giving echoes his psychology and philosophy that anxiety and neuroses often come from too much focus on the self, and once you focus outside of the self, specifically, helping others, and helping others find meaning – I can imagine that played a big role in your transitioning out of this dark place, and then emerging into such a brilliant light.

Cassey: Yeah, I think so! Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Just focusing on other people and what they want, somehow the universe makes it go back to you, it really does.

Jonathan: And I think, like you said, you can tell a big difference between an individual who is doing it for fame, or for their own edification or ego, or someone who is just like, “You know, my goal is to help people.” And it’s interesting, too, even, like we see this more also in the technology arena, where Mark Zuckerberg says, “Add value first…”

Cassey: Yep.

Jonathan: “And the money comes later.”

Cassey: Exactly.

Jonathan: It’s a totally new model. It’s a very new model.

Cassey: Exactly. I mean, even when I was trying to figure out my career path, my goal was really just enjoy what I do, really enjoy what I do, and the money will come later. And even like with working out, if you focus so hard on trying to lose weight, and counting all the calories, it’s going to be so stressful that nothing is going to work out. Like, focus on enjoying your workout, focus on loving your food, and your body will just sculpt its way through the love and care that you give it. So, it’s kind of like the same thing.

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. I think it was Thoreau, he gives this really cool analogy where he’s like, when people either pursue calories, or weight loss, or money, or happiness directly, it’s like trying to catch a butterfly, like you can’t even grab it, but if you just sit there calmly, and you’re at peace, the butterfly will land calmly on your shoulder.

Cassey: Yeah, I love that. Exactly. That’s it, exactly.

Jonathan: So what’s next for you? You’ve seen – you’ve been on this trajectory. What do you find now motivates you, as much as motivated you to get to where you are today?

Cassey: Honestly, what keeps me up till like 3:00 in the morning – I still work till like 3:00 in the morning, because I’m so addicted to what I do – it’s always the chance to create better and better content. And I’ve been so lucky because, like, just last week Dr. Oz invited me to be on his show and show him how to do POP Pilates, and the week before Steve Harvey called, and so there is a whole new like TV thing, which I never even thought of before. Now it’s like fitness entertainment; before it was just like, “Oh, fitness, we’re teaching – yay.” But every time a new movie comes out I love doing like a fitness-related routine to it, so when Hunger Games came out I did like this Hunger Games workout and we did like Mocking Jay Ab, and all that kind of stuff; it was so fun to produce, and everything that I do moving forward is how to make fitness more fun and more creative than the way that we’ve seen it very traditionally.

And I think the younger generation has really responded to that, because, fitness, yes, is serious, but we can’t take it that seriously, we’ve got to have fun with it, like everything else we do in life, so that it’s something that you want to do. I have a book coming out next year, it’s going to be called Hot Body Year-Round. I’m doing it with Random House. It’s basically how to stay fit and healthy throughout the seasons, how to eat in-season foods so it’s cheaper, it’s organic, it’s local, and it’s very beautiful, it’s colorful. We shot it all around the United States to really capture the seasons, so like for fall we went to Boston and did the foliage and everything, so it was really fun. And then, you know, I have my second and third DVDs coming out. I don’t know, just whatever the fans want, I can of just do it, and this active wear line I’ve been working on for so long, hopefully, will come out this season, that I’ve been telling you about, like my whole fashion design thing. So, there’s a lot of stuff going on and I need to just keep going (laughs).

Jonathan: (laughs)

Cassey: So much fun, I really am having so much fun, but I certainly need sleep, because now I’m talking really fast. When I get really excited, I talk really fast (laughs). And also, I walk really fast. If you ever walk with me, and we talk about something exciting, and we’re just like “zoom!” And like, I’m going crazy now, it’s Monday morning. I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more. I’m still excited for life.

Jonathan: No, I love it. What I love is that you celebrate fun. What I love most, personally, about your approach and your message, is this undertone of fun, because so often, health and fitness, I mean, this has actually been studied – if you tell someone this is healthy, their emotional reaction is, “Oh, ugh.” And that’s so contradictory, right? Health is that which is to celebrated, and delightful. Sickness is what we should react to with mourning. But how do you think we can help people see fitness and health with more levity, and not this stand on the scale in front of people and be criticized and feel bad? I mean, how can we make that transition?

Cassey: Well, I think it starts with, first, finding that fire within yourself, for understanding why you want to change your life. Is it that you want to live longer, or is it just that you want six-pack abs? But find something, and then go with it. Support yourself with a very healthy environment, with healthy foods, with people who have common goals. And also, I think it would be helpful if entertainment and media, which is, I think, the most influential sources of information, if they could start feeding us kind of the right information and that will make it easy and a lot more fun for people. And I think it’s just kind of a self-journey, that you’ve got to go and find something that works for you. Like, for me, I did HIIT workouts for a while, and they are really hard. They’re really hard, they are very effective, but I also love cardio dance workouts, because I love dancing; it’s fun for me, it works for me. And I think we’ve just got to find what works for us and that keeps us coming back. So, I think it’s like a self-journey that you’ve got to find on your own, too.

Jonathan: I can certainly celebrate this – finding what works for you – and I’m sure you get questions like the following often, which is like, “Should I do this, or this?” Or, “What do you think about that?” How do you help people to turn inward and say, “Well, try them both, and the one that makes you feel better? Do that one!” (laughs)

Cassey: Exactly. And I think sometimes it takes somebody who is an expert, or a personal trainer, just to tell you to do it, and then you’ll try. A lot of people are scared, and I understand. You don’t know if this is good for you, or this or that, but at the same time, it’s just what works for your body, and our bodies are so different. Like, my body may react differently to body-building than somebody else’s does, and to different foods. So, I think people have just got to try it, and don’t be scared to try it, and if you can do it with friends, even better, I think.

Jonathan: And have fun. Don’t spend so much time debating on Internet chat rooms, but spend more time just having a good time, it sounds like.

Cassey: Yeah, and if you fail, whatever, it’s part of life, and you get stronger. It’s all about resilience.

Jonathan: I love it. Well, Cassey, where can folks go to learn more about you and experience more of this radiant positivity?

Cassey: Well, I guess you can find me on YouTube, so youtube.com/blogilates. I have over 220 videos on everything from 10-minute butt workouts to like a five-minute abs express. There’s everything on there, cardio, too, but I also have a wealth of resources on blogilates.com, which is my blog, and I update that weekly, sometimes daily, with new information and all sorts of workouts plans, and a whole calendar that people can follow for free that tells exactly what videos to do every day, in a very planned-out manner, and I change the workout every four weeks so they can keep from plateauing. And it’s all free, because I think that everyone should have access to being healthy and being fit.

Jonathan: I love that. Well, for any individual who struggles to spell blogilates, if they search for Cassey Ho, I’m sure they’ll find all the information, as well.

Cassey: That is correct, Jonathan.

Jonathan: I love it, Cassey. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, and for being such a wonderful example of putting fun and meaning, and helping others at the center of one’s life and one’s public life, which is really, really cool, so I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Cassey: Well, thank you, and thank you for writing an amazing book. I can’t wait to finish it. You have a wealth of information there, and I really applaud you for doing all of that research. It really backs everything up that you say, and I love it. Coming from a science background, I really appreciate that.

Jonathan: Well, thank you, Cassey. And listeners, if you enjoyed this conversation, please do check out Cassey online. Obviously, there is just a massive wealth of resources she has provided. It’s Cassey Ho, and blogilates, which I don’t know how to spell, but I’m sure Google will help you spell it if you give it a try.

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Cassey Ho. In her own words:

“Hello! My name is Cassey Ho and I am a certified fitness instructor, creator of POP Pilates, the designer of oGorgeous Bags, and a lover of all things healthy. I am so happy that I get to spend my time teaching people how to live to their best potential all over the world thanks to YouTube and this blog. Here’s my story 🙂

I graduated with an honors degree in Biology from Whittier College in 2009 but decided not to pursue my parent’s predestined path for me in medicine. While in school, I started teaching Pilates as a sophomore at a small studio down the street from our campus. Right then and there, instructing became one of the most satisfying parts of my life. (I am certified by NESTA and Balanced Body University for mat and reformer.) Since then I’ve worked at numerous gyms and currently am teaching POP Pilates at Equinox West LA. You should come by and take a class! Here’s the sched.

Senior year, I launched oGorgeous when I couldn’t find a yoga bag that was stylish enough or big enough to fit my mat and gym things in. My first design was the Beverly Bowtie yoga bag, complete with tons of pockets, satin lining, gold chain straps, and a glam bow of course. Super girly, it attracted the attention of my students. Orders started to roll in and the next set of designs were drawn.

After working a bit in corporate America for a fashion retail company in buying, I realized that my passion for design and entrepreneurship could no longer be a “side thing”. It was around this time too that one of my biggest dreams came true…the Pleated Pocket Sparkle yoga bag was featured in SHAPE Magazine and on the Wendy Williams Show!

I remember running to Target after getting a text from my sister saying that her friend thought she saw my bag in the magazine. I can see myself so clearly right now flipping madly through SHAPE. My heart pounding. My fingers shaking. Was it true? When I saw the picture, I melted onto the linoleum floor and cried. It was an amazing feeling.

So I quit my job.

POP Pilates, YOUTUBE & BLOGGING

I first got interested in Pilates when I was 16 and about to enter a pageant. I was looking for a fun way to tone up when I saw an infomercial on TV with Mari Winsor showing the audience some core tightening moves…it was so intriguing. I begged my parents to buy the DVD set for me. When they said yes, I was overjoyed. I started doing Pilates religiously!  Not only did I end up winning that pageant, Mari inspired me to get certified sophomore year of college. To this date, I’ve been doing Pilates for 10 years and teaching for 6.5 years.

I came up with the idea for POP Pilates as I was teaching classes at the gym because I loved the music on the radio and I wanted to give Pilates a little boost in energy. The reaction was positive, my students loved it, and I’ve been teaching a more upbeat style of Pilates ever since!!

My first POP Pilates video was made after I graduated college and before I moved out to the East Coast…it was more of a farewell thing for my Pilates students in CA. I didn’t make very many videos back when I was working because I didn’t have time. But after I quit, I started YouTubing and blogging religiously. When things started to pick up, I moved back to CA and focused on running oGorgeous and making more workouts for my POPsters.

And guess what? I eventually got to meet Mari Winsor and thank her for inspiring me to teach Pilates. I sounded like a lunatic when I saw her at the BeFit studios in Hollywood before our taping of “Fit at Any Age.” I just had to let her know how much I appreciated her! .

Let me tell you, it’s hard work but it’s the most satisfying work in the world to me. I don’t care that I don’t sleep until 3am in the morning everyday. My job is my passion and my passion is my job. I feel so lucky to be able to encourage you to eat healthier, train harder, and live happier lives by doing what I enjoy. When I get to do Blogilates meetups in different cities, it warms my heart to know that you all are such good, positive, and inspirational people.

I never expected my blog or videos to be helpful to so many people. So thank you for continually motivating me to be a better instructor. You helped me win the Shorty Award for #SocialFitness this year (see my funny acceptance speech here), I was named the Best Healthy Living Blogger of 2012by FITNESS Magazine and am the #2 most influential online personality by Sharecare…only second to Jillian Michaels.

My life consists of lots of working out, eating clean, cooking clean, teaching fitness classes, designing for my store ShopBlogilates.com, writing, filming, editing, picture-taking, modeling, and producing. Oh and tweeting. Lots of tweeting. (Follow me @Blogilates)

I also competed in a fitness Bikini competition once. You may find that interesting so here’s a link if you wanna see how it went! Here’s basically what my meal plan looked like if you want to get started: 90 Day Challenge.

I love my POPsters and the Blogilates Community!!! Thanks for inspiring me to be the best I can be daily. You make me who I am and I love you for it.

K, well follow me on facebook and twitter and let’s keep the convo going!!!!

Much love,

Cassey”