Tunde Oyeneyin, SPEAK

Tunde Oyeneyin, SPEAK

“I think the beauty of uncertainty is infinite possibility. When you don’t know what’s next, anything can be next.” Wildly popular Peloton instructor and host of the Fitness Flipped Podcast Tunde Oyeneyin joins Zibby to celebrate the pub day for her debut memoir, Speak. Tunde shares how she knew from her very first cycling class that it was going to change her life, as well as how that vision merged with her lifelong love of teaching. The two also talk about what Speak is an acronym for, why Tunde still shows up and gives her classes her all even when she doesn’t feel her best, and the impact she hopes her vulnerability will have on readers.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Tunde. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

Tunde Oyeneyin: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Zibby: Congratulations. Also, I saw your interview with Brooke Shields last night. You said that was your first publicity. I was like, she’s just starting to do this. How fun.

Tunde: It was the first in-person thing I think I’ve even done in I couldn’t tell you how long. It was the first time that I had sat down and spoke with anyone about the book. Brooke, she had her sections highlighted and marked and was quoting passages of the book. It was surreal to see someone outside of my team, so my publishers and my manager, to see someone else read it. The fact that Brooke Shields knows that I’m alive and then knows my words, pretty surreal moment, for sure.

Zibby: I am not Brooke Shields, but I will tell you I did the same thing. I dogeared so many of these pages. I watched. I was like, I did that too, Brooke. What are you talking about? I don’t have a highlighter, but I did have so many sections that resonated in so many ways. I can quote some sections later if you want. First of all, why don’t you tell listeners — I will have already read your bio at this point, but why this memoir? Why now in your career? It’s an amazing story. You have had an amazing journey, an amazing life story, so much loss. I could not believe as I kept going through the book, one thing after another. My heart was just breaking for you. Tell me about your decision to write this, when you decided, and then what it was like even going through the process of writing it.

Tunde: I said in the third grade that I wanted to write a book, so I’ve known my entire life that I wanted to write a book. That was before I experienced all the lessons that were coming. It felt like the right time. I knew it was the right time because the last two years has put so many people, so many of us in this space of supreme uncertainty, doubt, where we’re questioning what’s important to us, where we realized, truly, even more so, how short life is, how we can’t predict what’s to come. I think the beauty of uncertainty is infinite possibility. When you don’t know what’s next, anything can be next. Through my stories of loss and tragedy, all the body image stuff, and how I’ve moved into this space of joy and resilience, I hope that that meets you, the reader, I hope that it meets you exactly where you are within whatever you’re going through. I think that ultimately, as humans, we are more alike than we are different. We’re all very, very different, but I think that we are more alike than we are different. I think that we all long for love and hope. I hope that my story inspires someone to trust their gut and move from where they are to exactly where they want to be.

Zibby: You inspired me, so that was good. I was like, could I be a Peloton instructor? No, I’m kidding. The way you even talk about how you’re reaching people, everything is a means to an end. Every platform is just a way for you to share what you’ve learned, which is so profound because you can’t go through all of this without taking something away. You have a line in the book about, love doesn’t really ever go away. It morphs into different ways. You never really lose how you feel about the people who you’ve lost, or something like that. It just so resonated with me. I’ve lost a lot of people too. In fact, I have a memoir coming out this summer. I’m like, oh, I’ve got the body image issues. I’ve got the failure. I’ve got the loss. I feel like your story, there’s so many pieces that I know so many people will be able to relate to and feel inspired by.

Tunde: Thank you. I wanted to write a book that was real. Specifically, you just spoke to the body image stuff just now. I think that people see me on this platform as an instructor, on this massive platform, I should say, as a person of fitness, a fitness professional, and you think, okay, that person just loves their body. They’re confident. Yeah, I’m very confident. Then some days, I’m not. Some days, I compare myself too. Then sometimes, that little gremlin, that little voice of the fifteen-year-old girl that was overweight, who never made it on a sports team ever, she creeps back in. I hear that voice. I just wanted to write a book that was real.

Zibby: I didn’t know, obviously — well, not obviously. I didn’t know that you had tried to become an instructor and gotten so, so, so close and then gotten rejected and then got asked again by Cody to come back and try out again. You pulled yourself together and went back after flying out to New York and doing the whole thing. Talk about that experience and what you felt like was inside you, almost. What made you willing to say, okay, I’m going to just do it again? I got this. I’m not going to let the first rejection push me down. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get back up and try again.

Tunde: I was a makeup artist for fifteen years. I was in New York from LA. I was in New York for a cosmetic gig. While I was there, I tried a cycling class for the first time. I had never taken an in-studio cycling class. I had heard Kelly Ripa talking about it all the time. Finally, I said I’d try it. After that class, I had — I walked out of the class. I had this divine download. I was walking. My walking turned to a skip. My skip turned into a hop. Then I feel this wave of blue energy come over my body. Within a moment, I knew that I would be cycling for the rest of my life. I knew that I would be teaching it. I knew that I’d be teaching on the world’s biggest platform able to impact tens of thousands of millions of people every single day. I didn’t know what Peloton was at the time. I’d never heard of it. I remind you that this was after my very first time. Imposter syndrome. Then I feel so confident in that. I feel so certain. I get back to LA. Imposter syndrome sets in. Who would ever take my class? Who would ever find me motivating? Who would be inspired by anything I had to say? These are all the things that I told myself. Then I start working at a mom-and-pop shop. Cody Rigsby from Peloton — I now know what Peloton is by this time — DMs me, asks me to come audition. I audition. I finish the audition. He tells me it was the best audition he’d ever seen. A month goes by. I get an email. I wake up to an email that says, “We regret to inform you…”

I didn’t get the job. I went through this space of darkness. I know loss very well. I lost my little brother when he was nineteen. Then three years after that, my dad passed away. Then three years after that, my mom passed away. This felt like another loss, not because something didn’t go my way. It felt like another loss because I was so certain about this vision that I trusted that I’d seen. I was in this space of darkness where just getting up and going to work became more difficult. I thought that I’d seen what I was supposed to be doing or I was going to be doing, rather, next. The data that I’ve taken from my life to this moment is that things always work out for me. Things always work out for me. Everything is happening for me. Nothing is happening to me. Everything is happening for me. Nothing is happening to me. I trusted that if I didn’t get the job, I wasn’t supposed to get the job. I trusted that if I didn’t the job, that there was going to be a reason for me not getting the job. I also, in my gut, just felt like the relationship wasn’t over. I had friends who knew that I was auditioning, my sister friends. Anytime a Peloton commercial would come on, they would change the channel because they were so mad at Peloton. I just couldn’t be mad at Peloton with them because I didn’t trust that that relationship was done. Then eight months pass. Cody calls me back, asks me, “Will you come audition?” I did. Obviously, it’s no secret I got the job the second time around.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I just love that. I love that sense of perseverance, that strong knowledge. I just saw this movie. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. Now I can’t even remember what it’s called. It’s about Kurt Warner, the football star. It’s the same sort of thing. He had this vision. He knew he was meant to be this football star. Everything got in his way. Even watching, I’m like, I don’t think he’s going to make it. Then in the end, he makes it. He becomes an MVP. It’s so unlikely. I felt like there were so many similarities in the story where you’re going along with it and you’re like — not that it was as unlikely here because you could see all the vision and the persistence. You were so close. He was not close at all. There’s something deep down. No matter what life is telling you, it’s like the universe is saying something different than life in front of you. You have to just believe in that. I just feel like that came through so strongly in your story and is pretty awesome.

Tunde: I think that so many of us have experiences like my blue-light vision. It may not come in the form of a blue light or a hop or a skip, but we have these wildly intuitive moments where we’re able to connect and hear the information that’s trying to be provided or given to us. I think that society, the world, life, growing up, teaches you to block that intuitive feeling. When I was kid in kindergarten, I said that I wanted to be a teacher. My dad said, “No, you don’t. You won’t make enough money.” I told myself, okay. The funny joke there is that in the cosmetic world, I was an educator for fifteen years. Now I’m a teacher and a coach every single day by virtue of a bike. I felt that thing. It was a knowing. I think as children, you’re open to receiving it and accepting it more. Then life goes on. You get — I’m saying this in air quotes. You get “realistic.” I was lucky enough that I saw that vision for what it was. I’m lucky enough that I didn’t call it a daydream. I’m lucky enough that I didn’t say, oh, I’m just tired. I’m hallucinating. I was in a hot, dark cycling room. No, I saw it for what it was. I believed it. Is that your dog back there?

Zibby: Yes, sorry. She’s upside down. She likes to lay on her back.

Tunde: My dog does the upside-down thing too. How cute.

Zibby: I know, I love that you dedicated — in your acknowledgments, you have a whole section to Cesar, your love for your dog. How you talked about how you know, at some point, your dog is going to pass away, I think about that all the time. I’m like, this is what’s going to happen. Dogs don’t live as long. I remind myself. Yet I still can’t seem to — I’m like, I will not be ready no matter when it happens. Anyway, but thank you. One passage of the book I was really struck with, too, was when you were talking about your friend who was in an abusive relationship and how you, with the Uber driver, were outside trying to get her away from her, not husband then, but soon-to-be husband who basically was in a rage and gone crazy. You were there trying to help. You tried to help even after. Yet she kept going back to him. She wasn’t ready. I felt like that was another really important lesson. No matter all the teaching you do and no matter what you can bring to other people, people have to be ready for that change, whether it’s leaving a terrible relationship or committing to exercise or whatever it is that you’re trying to impart, even how to do makeup or be ready for that. Tell me about that and if there were times maybe you didn’t feel quite so ready.

Tunde: I’ll start by saying, Speak, the title, Speak is an acronym: surrender, power, empathy, authenticity, and knowledge. As I break down all of the many stories, I relate them to these words as elements and how these words have shown up as elements in my life. In that chapter, I’m really talking about the empathy that I had with myself, how I was able to then use that lesson to empathize with someone else. I was in a relationship that wasn’t abusive, but it was destructive, not normal. I should’ve gotten out of my relationship sooner, heed the advice of the friends around me that were telling me what I couldn’t see, but I wasn’t ready to get out of the relationship or end the relationship until I was ready to end the relationship. Then you fast-forward to the story that I tell about my friend in the book. Initially, I couldn’t see why she would stay. It wasn’t until I truly saw myself in her that I realized why she would stay. Then I learned about myself in that moment too. I took her experience as well and me now being the person around her trying to shake her, I took that as a lesson as well. The people around you sometimes see you in a way that you can’t see yourself.

Zibby: It’s very true. Now that this book is coming out — you already reference in the book, your celebrity. Now when you go on the street and you’re walking your dog or you’re fighting with somebody on the phone, you want to explain it to people, like, no, no, this is who I’m on the phone with. How do you feel about this? This book will only further catapult your star, if you will, and the private experiences that you’re now bringing to the world. How do you feel? Are you ready for that? How are you thinking about that?

Tunde: That’s a really great question. I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer in that anytime that someone — even the fact you’re quoting moments from the book, I’m like, wow, she read the book. Like I was saying yesterday with Brooke Shields, I’m thinking to myself — she said something about my dad before we started taping. I’m thinking, how did she know that about my dad? It’s all happening right now in real life in real time. I’m finding that out. I’ll get back to you in a month. I wouldn’t have put the information out there, I wouldn’t have been so vulnerable in my stories if I wasn’t okay with going there. My hope is that people read this book and they gift it to a friend. You see your friend going through something, and you pass them this book as encouragement, as a guide. For me, if that means I’m kind of putting some of my business out there to uplift and move someone through something, then it’s worth it for me.

Zibby: What kind of books do you like to read?

Tunde: I’m such a self-help sap. I like books and shows that leave me feeling enriched. I say, hmm. I do that a lot when I’m moving something through me. Hmm. Food too. I love things that make me think. Not necessarily even just self-help books, but I love books that challenge something. I love anything that makes me think about what I’ve known to be true maybe a little bit differently or dissect a little bit differently.

Zibby: I love that. Right after book, I read this book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole. I felt like these two together, they’re great complements. It is more of a self-help book. There’s even a quiz of why you like stories that make you feel. Are you an old soul? All this stuff. I was like, oh, I fall into that, but Tunde falls into that.

Tunde: Wow, that’s good.

Zibby: Check it out. Not that I’m meant to be recommending books on this podcast to you. I just felt like it also speaks to what I feel like is so profound in your story, what you learn and what you do with it and how you sort of shed your DNA and become other people as you go through these losses and how there’s such beauty in that as well. I know that sounds hokey, perhaps, but it’s very, very true. In terms of your Peloton world, do you ever get sick of riding? Do you ever have a day where you’re like, I don’t want to do this? I don’t feel good. I want to stay in bed. Do you ever? I always wonder that about instructors. What if they don’t feel like working? Maybe it’s just me because I never feel like working out these days.

Tunde: In short, yes. Yeah, of course. I’m a human being. There are days that I do not want to work out, and my job requires me to work out. I’m a human being. There are days that I do not want to go to work just like anybody else does not want to go to work, but/and I always leave on a high. I won’t want to work out, whether I’m at home or in front of a camera. Then you do and you’re like, I’m so happy I did that. You feel so much better. There are days where I don’t want to go to work. I go to work, and the class is fun and great or whatever. I sweat. It’s good. Then I get home, and I read a message in a DM from someone who says that something I said really hit them. I try to show up the way that I am. Sometimes when I’m going through whatever it is that I’m going through, a story or an experience or a quote or words that I might share on the bike might relate to what I’m going through. Then someone hears that, and it meets them where they are. Then you say, okay, I’m happy I went today. It’s healing. When I don’t feel good physically, mentally even more so, it’s healing. Movement is medicine. It’s healing.

Zibby: I love that. One of the things I loved is how the ending was not wrapped up with a bow. You’re like, this is where I am in my life today. This is not the end of my story. This is here. There’s so much more to come. This might not be settled, and that or whatever. This is now. I’m going to go with it. I love that. I just love it. I feel like some books make you feel like they’ve figured it all out, and that’s it. Then that leaves the reader almost feeling like, I’m closing the book, and I still haven’t figured it out. Now what? Tell me about the ending and how you thought about that, if there was any debate on how to end the book.

Tunde: The stories don’t come in chronological order. The intention there was, when you meet a friend and you become friends with somebody, you don’t sit and tell them your story from start to finish. First, you just start talking. You gain their trust a little. Then you gain it more. Then you go there. The events are all kind of scattered. It isn’t really until we move towards the last chapter that you meet me in real time. It was more so a matter of just meeting me in real time. Real time isn’t tied up, to your point, in this perfect bow because there’s still, not just so much to come, but there’s so much that’s just still. There’s so much that’s still and happening and evolving and changing in real time. I started as a fifteen-year-old girl; then quickly, a twentysomething; and then back to nineteen. Then we ended it at thirty-six where I am right here right now.

Zibby: If you could go back and talk to your younger brother, is there anything you wish you had said or that you would say today if he was listening in?

Tunde: I love you. I love you. I love you. We’ll miss you. I’m sorry. I would tell him I’m sorry that his story was so short. That was so short.

Zibby: I’m sorry too. Tunde, this is so nice. Thank you for sharing all of your stuff with the world and all of your gifts and your desire deep down to make people better, whether it’s how they look and feel in the makeup chair or sitting on the bike or reading your words. It’s in the angel category of goodness. I think it’s great to recognize when we see that type of person in our midst, and especially when you can put it into such a great book, which was also just a great book for books’ sake. Thank you. Thanks for chatting with me.

Tunde: Thank you so much. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks, everybody.

Zibby: Buh-bye. Best of luck.

Tunde: Thank you. Buh-bye. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Zibby: Bye. Of course. Good luck. Buh-bye.

Tunde Oyeneyin, SPEAK

SPEAK by Tunde Oyeneyin

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