Inot ELLE.com’s Office Hours monthly series, we ask people in positions of power to tell us about their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we spoke with Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin, who tried (and failed) to join every sports team at school. become a full-fledged Nike athlete. “To grow, I was overweight and I had this idea that an athlete was supposed to look a certain way,” she says. “I let that empty space ruin my confidence. NOTTo be not only an athlete, but also a coach, is quite surreal. It’s more than a full circle.” During his brief downtime from his busy live and on-demand workout schedule, Oyeneyin also wrote a book, Speakon her way to self love. Below, the fitness expert explains how she got into cycling, partnering with Nike and using her platform for a good cause.
My first job
When I was 15, I was the assistant manager of a restaurant called Fuzzy’s Pizza in Katy, Texas. I worked as a single mother with four children. I have always been an incredibly hard worker. I remember my friends were partying and I was at work. I was the one who showed up later with five boxes of pizza.
How My Nigerian Heritage Has Shaped Who I Am
My work ethic, of course. My parents are both immigrants who came to this country to work. And my gratitude – I’ll never stop thinking that all of this, everything that’s going on, is so cool. It is so cool.
What I would say to my younger self
Robin Arzon, our Vice President of Fitness at Peloton, jokes that she was “allergic to fitness, “ and I think I had the same bug. I tried just about every sport and never made the team. I was the last chosen. Growing up, I was overweight and had this idea that an athlete was supposed to look a certain way. I let that empty space ruin my confidence. Not only to be an athlete, but also to be a coach, is quite surreal. It’s more than a full circle. I think the darkest hours are the greatest times of growth. I always say the beauty of uncertainty is infinite possibility. Before I started at Peloton, I was a makeup artist for 16 years, and I hated. That’s what brought me here. When you don’t know what the next step is, that’s fine, because then anything can be the next step.
When I realized cycling would be my career
Everyone was talking about the bike – “it’s a dark room and there’s music on and you clip and strap yourself to the bike” – and I just thought that was the weirdest thing. I remember the bullying of not knowing how to hang on. But I took my first lesson six years ago on a whim, and after that I was certain I would be cycling for the rest of my life. Not only did I know I would ride a bike, I knew I would teach it, and I knew I would teach it on the biggest platform in the world, without even knowing what Peloton was. I had this vision, this flash in what was to come, and I believed it was real. Because I was in this place of so many doubts, I opened up to this premonition. I have to admit, I judged myself a bit at the start of the course – by the time I sat down in the seat, I was $40 deep and thought, “It better be good.”
The biggest misconception about my job
What you see is often not what you get. I can tune in for a 30 or 20 minute live class, but that 20 minute class isn’t the only thing I teach for the day. So while my live, member-facing class is 20 minutes long, I taught maybe five or six classes that day that will be circulating on-demand later. It’s a range, but I’m definitely riding many.
Use my platform to make the world a better place
To put it simply, I present myself as myself. I’m pretty sure I said “fuck” during my Peloton audition. I remember thinking, If these people hire me, they literally hire me and all of me. This has proven true in the times I’ve led a Speak Up Ride or taken a stand for Black Lives Matter. The company hired me because they want me to be me, and they continue to show that, and so I continue to use my platform as a space to advocate for good and as an opportunity for people who look like seeing themselves in me. I get messages every day from black women and mothers of black daughters who say, “It means something to see you in this space.” For me, it’s a lot of power and a lot of responsibility. I feel a divine purpose to show up and walk into it with all that I am at my best.
Why I teamed up with Nike
It’s the best brand in the world, and the first brand I’ve ever been linked to. As a kid, I didn’t feel like an athlete, and I saw Nike ads with people in my community who looked like me, and I was attracted to them. I remember feeling like the brand was so ambitious, so cool, so strong and yet so approachable. Nike taught me that if you have a body, you’re an athlete, and it changed the way I think about myself and my mindset. I realized that I am an athlete if I believe that I am an athlete.
How I approach change in my sector
My goal is to be able to talk about our common passion for fitness. I want to talk to the girl who thinks she’s not an athlete. I want to talk to the girl who thinks she’s not worthy, that she’s not good enough to be on the team. I want to tell her she can. I want to meet anyone, wherever they are on their journey, and through my story and through my experience, to be able to share with them that their mind is their strongest muscle and they can do anything that he believes himself capable and capable of doing or being.
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Celebrities who love Peloton
It’s crazy amazing to see who takes lessons. Al Roker is a big Peloton fan, Tiffany Haddish is very much my class, Common appears and I know Venus Williams is a big Pelotoner.
Top tips for beginners
Do it! I’m not even trying to be cliche and insert the Nike slogan, but literally, really, and truly do it. It’s the only way to do one thing – any big decision you’ve ever made in life, any change you’ve ever made in life, you’ve done it. So do it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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