I first heard of Miz Shawna as a top instructor at Pop Physique, an LA based barre class. Eventually, she decided to go her own way and started her own class, All F’d Up, held at a dance space in Glassell Park. Her class is a proprietary blend of dance, funk, barre moves, floor work, and silliness. It’s a class that works for both ungainly middle aged women and fifteen year olds, and, unlike most barre classes, there are men, too. It’s a safe place to dance, and a welcome respite from the tiresome pursuit of perfection I’ve found in other classes across the city. Plus, it kicks my butt every time.
Q: First, the personal: where are you from, and how does your personal background influence your approach to exercise?
A: Well, I grew up in El Paso, Tx. I had a difficult childhood in a very strict household, so I like to break rules of what is considered traditional.
Q: How did you develop your fabulous personal style, which permeates your classes in such a wonderful way?
A: Aww, why thank you! My mom had a great eye for different types of clothing pieces and I’d go to school, kids would compliment me and say they liked my style. My mom would sew and alter things for me, which made them unique. Kids started copying me and I hated it, because I wanted to be different, I didn’t want to dress like everyone else. As I got older my mother got really strict with clothes and started following all the fashion rules (insert teenage eye roll), like don’t mix browns with blacks. Don’t mix patterns. Your bra straps can’t be seen. She didn’t like me shopping at goodwill or that I was wearing all of my grandpa’s old clothes. It crushed me because I LOVED finding weird random items and flaunting them like I was the coolest kid on the block. You’d think she’d be thrilled that I was saving her money. I had to wear regular clothes more often to calm her down after this shift. It took some inner work to get my confidence and fashion sense back. My inner child is my stylist today, she rules!
Q: What’s your professional background?
A: I’ve been hostess, pizza maker, barista and retail shop girl who cried a lot. But, my first big job was working for Walt Disney World. I was a character and dancer there for 3 ½ years. Which was my first experience with realizing that dreams really CAN come true. When I was young I made so many recreations of Disney Channel commercials, skits and dances. Orlando was like my “Hollywood”, to my 11 yr. old self. I really had the time of my life there, after reaching all my goals there I got inspired to move to LA. I became curious about doing comedy and did that for a few years. I was teaching children dance as well, and found I had a real passion for it. My boyfriend showed me a flyer of a new fitness studio in Silverlake, which was the original Pop Physique. He encouraged me to become an instructor there, I honestly thought, “I could never do that!” Proved myself wrong. 7 years later, I learned tremendous lessons about the body and its complexities and not only became one of the most popular master instructors, but also a trainer for new teachers. I completely surprised myself! That is where I discovered my undeniable gift of teaching fitness.
Q: How did you envision your All F’d Up class? Was it a slow process that happened over time, or did you have an epiphany?
A: When I left my job, I had NO IDEA what I was going to do but knew I needed to stay in fitness. I was kind of job searching, taking classes and observing the fitness world from a new perspective. What I felt was lacking was genuine awareness of the body and motivation from teachers. I was sensing this seriousness in classes, not only the teachers, but clients too. I’m the type of person who likes to interact in class when things are hard, I make eye contact or laugh to myself like, is anyone else feeling this? I’m big on empathy. I knew I wanted to create a supportive space where everyone knows they are supported. I love encouraging people through the pain in class. Change happens when you stay in the uncomfortable a little longer than your brain would like, which builds inner and outer strength. Because working out can be hard, I had a vision of dance breaks, so people could experience joy and unleash their playful side. So, at first I started with those ideas, and things keep evolving.
Q: All F’d Up feels, unlike many fitness classes in Los Angeles, to be an extremely safe and free place. For instance, I’m the worst dancer on earth (with an injury that makes it even worse), and yet I’m able to dance, albeit horribly, in your class with no self-consciousness. What made you decide to go for fun, spontaneity, and acceptance over competition, perfection, and seriousness?
A: This is my favorite question so far! Well, I think I’ve kind of answered most of this, but I will say A:) You are not the worst dancer on earth, I think you are great. B:) I think it feels safe and free because it is! Being an adult is SO serious; I want people to be liberated by not taking their workout so seriously. You don’t have to do a plank or whatever perfectly. It’s about showing up consistently and doing the work. Like, when I have a kid’s dance recital, we work so hard on the dance, but at the end of the day they are kids, there are mistakes or mishaps and usually the audience laughs because they are tiny little human’s being so free with all their imperfections. Somehow when we get older the stakes seem higher and there is an expectation to do EVERY thing right or we will feel judged. Which in turn creates anxiety and keeps us from doing things we love or that are good for us, like exercise. I prefer everyone to make an ass out of themselves in my class and I’m right there with everyone.
Q: Who are your fitness/dance/personal influences?
A: I instantly think of Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. When I was younger I had the VHS of Cindy Crawford, Alyssa Milano’s “Teen Steam”, and Abs and Buns of Steel. I’ve been a fitness/dance nerd forevs! 80’s and 90’s pop culture still inspires me today. Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Prince, and David Bowie were my idols growing up. Mickey Mouse Club and MTV were my best friends. I would memorize all the dances and perform regularly for classmates before and after school. Pee-Wee Herman was a fave too, he was just weird and my mom didn’t like him, so it made me more intrigued, ha. Movies like Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun, Footloose and Center Stage still give me life. My Little Pony-Friendship is Magic. OMG! Like, this show reinvigorated my obsession with Ponies and Unicorns. The writing is really good and I highly recommend it to everyone, no matter what your age.
Q: Where did you find George? (George is the inflatable unicorn mascot at every class)
A: Oh this is a great story! I was in San Francisco for my last job and my friend Jordan and I had a morning off so we went on a walk. We stumble upon a tech event and I saw a group of characters dressed up as animals. Like, a bunny and fox I think. I went over because they seemed like my kind of people. They had inflatable animals, I saw a guy holding a unicorn, I asked them to take a picture. Then I said, “Oh, I love your Unicorn!” The guy was very friendly said said, “You are very awesome. You deserve this Unicorn.” I had my very own Unicorn! It was so random and so magical, which is my life in a nutshell.
Q: As an exercise junkie, I’ve taken a wide variety of classes, and I’m in good shape. Yet, your class makes me sore (and made my Teflon coated 15 year old daughter sore as well). What makes your method so different from, say, a typical barre class?
A: Haha, I love you and your daughter, it brings me so much joy seeing you workout together. With teaching barre, there’s not much room for playfulness, it’s pretty repetitive and methodical. Like, you are literally on a mat the entire hour. I think I felt restricted so I added dancing to keep the heart rate up, which somehow make’s everything feel so much harder. I understand the body and explain how to activate the muscles that you probably didn’t know you had. I pride myself on being able to teach all levels. It takes a very experienced instructor to really lead a class and keeps clients safe. I want all bodies, shapes and sizes to take class and transform themselves into magical Unicorns. My clients range from never ever working out in their life to fitness junkies like yourself!
Q: Do you have a growth plan, or are you letting it develop organically?
A: I would love to create and add different styles of classes. I want to be able to teach as many people as I can, because I really do believe I have something special to offer that no one else has. I think the growth will happen organically, but for now I have to focus on having a consistent Unicorn tribe!