Fitness Coach Irv Hyppolite Speaks on Health in the Black Community, ‘The Inner U’ Fitness Boot Camp, His Project with New Balance and More.

You don’t hear people speak about health and fitness often in the black community. As of lately, we hear a lot of conversations about uplifting and empowering black entrepreneurs and black businesses but not so much about the health aspect. Although the conversation itself is rare, it doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or a topic to shy away from. Health, in general, is an issue for many cultures and has been for decades and fitness coach/motivational speaker Irv Hyppolite is using this as the driving force behind his passion.

I had the chance to catch up with Irv to talk about his fitness upbringing, his views on health in the black community, how he started The Inner U boot camp, his link up with New Balance and much more in our interview below.

How did you to get into fitness and being an instructor?

Well, when I was 18/19 I started to take working out seriously. I knew pretty early on that people treat you better, and respect you differently when you show that you respect yourself enough to be the best version of you… as far as being an instructor/fitness coach, I hired a trainer(now my mentor) to get me ready for arena football and working with him for a summer made realize how incredible one’s mind has to be to change someone else mentally and physically, so I wanted to learn the craft and he taught me how to do it.

2 – What were some of your main sources of inspiration to get into fitness?

Terrell Owens ( I know that’s weird) but I grew up watching how he took care of his body and worked out harder than any other player on his team. I aspired to be that unapologetic and driven lol. Also, my uncle..he had weights in his basement all my life and was the most driven person I’ve ever met but and then got hit with type 2 diabetes … I do this for him.

3 – In your opinion, do you think that fitness is a cultural lifestyle? In other words, why do you think black communities lack good health?

Good question, I think it is a cultural lifestyle but I think we don’t give it the respect it deserves, we could dig into the system of how they (barely )educate black communities on health, the Popeyes on every corner, or even how the media target’s minorities but on the surface level… I think the lack of good health comes from us not seeing a fair representation of healthy eating, the gym being a 365 and not just a vacation-ready thing. After Billy Blanks, we got Shawn T, and neither of them did anything then who else?

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4 – How would you describe the state of black health in today’s world?

It’s on the right track but still far from the zenith. Right now it’s so gimmicky that you have to really dig to find quality information in it. Also, POC didn’t give health/fitness the attention it needed till Instagram and hashtags made it trendy then vanity kicked in. 10 years ago you would look at me funny for carrying a gallon of water with my book bag… now people understand “YOU NEED WATER” lo. Also, it’s also not popular in media outlets that are NOT fitness related, yet it’s a lifestyle and you still see a lot of blogs/sites with that section who don’t cover fitness enough.

5 – You started a workout boot camp called The Inner U. How did you go about starting that? What was that creative process like?

That’s my baby lol, I started inner U back in 2016. The goal was to create a space for POC, that made working out fun and affordable, while addressing cultural issues, and celebrating empowerment… it’s bigger than me at this point,

6 – Aside from getting people in shape, what are some of your main goals when it comes to The Inner U?

Great question, it’s impact has helped so many people with their weight goals but more-so mentally. We’ve  donated money to charities, hold clothing drives, touch on social topics, and even celebrate things like women’s history month, stress awareness month, and etc. the main goal for me is to provide something that people will take home after those 60mins, a new lease on life that can’t be erased with space or time.

7 – You pride your boot camps on mixing fitness, hip-hop, and culture into one. Explain what that means.

Yea, so I craft the hip-hop playlist to fit the class, whether it’s a women’s only playlist, black history month playlist or even a Houston playlist during the time they were hit with a devastating hurricane. All these things are part of us and it shows that while we’re working out there’s a bigger picture here and we’re going to do our part to honor that.

8 – Social media plays a huge role in helping market and advertise a brand. How else does a fitness instructor get their name out there to help contribute to their brand but to also show the legitimacy of your brand?

Make people happy lol. Word of mouth is the biggest factor for me. If you create a product that has morals, stands for something, and shows promise in the success rate of people who come getting in the best shape of their lives, you can move the needle because people want to share that experience with others, and who doesn’t want to be in better shape? It’s almost a no-brainer. The class is sold out 85% of the time, and it’s new faces every week… that means people are getting the message across.

9 – You recently teamed up with New Balance on a project. How did you link up with the brand and what is the project based on?

S/o to the guys at New Balance, a rep from NB reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in working with them on a winter series project. She was familiar with my work and felt that a partnership would make sense. The project is basically a signed deal to bring Inner U Bootcamp to the flagship store seasonally and free of charge for y’all. They gave me the space to create and control the narrative of my brand while aligning with me to give the public the ultimate New Balance x Inner U experience.

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10 – What are some of your personal goals and/or aspirations for fitness? For the black community?

My goals are to make sure every month I give back to “us.” I have a platform and I believe, big or small, it means nothing if you’re not changing the lives of people with it, you’re not doing enough. I aspire to create “generational HEALTH” and that basically means create a better today so we can give our kids these gems and they can pass it on to their kids after. That’s how we beat obesity, diabetes, and all the other complications we’re leading the league in.

11 – What’s next for Irv Hyppolite for the second quarter of 2018?  

A lot lol. We want to test out The Inner U in a couple other cities, start production on my online training program, and release a couple more pieces from my apparel line “DCSR”…. and that’s just the top layer.

Esther-Lauren Speaks on Growing Up in Paris, The Creative Process Behind Her Babes in Color Clothing Line, Entrepreneurship and More.

Building your name from the ground up is difficult. Starting your own brand and sticking with it is even more of a challenging task. There are a few traits that play a role in accomplishing both but one of the main traits is consistency. Esther-Lauren is the epitome of someone who embodies the word consistent. With a Parisian background as well as immigrant parents, Esther was able to find her passion in fashion design as well as styling. The young creative used social media as a way to build a foundation for herself and since then has created all things women love such as clothing, accessories, shoes and more.

I had the chance to catch up with Esther-Lauren to talk about her design and styling world, life growing up in Paris, the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur and more.

1 – What was the experience like growing up in Paris, one of the capitals of the fashion industry?

I moved here when I was still young but my mother’s Parisian sense of style definitely followed me into America. Her old wardrobe influences a lot of what I wear. Berets, blazer, pressed button downs and slicked ponytails with minimal makeup was her go to look. On a normal basis, that’s what you’ll most likely find me wearing.

2 – With Paris contributing to your love for fashion, what else would you say added to those inspirations growing up?

I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood so I would say my style growing up was a mix between urban and European influences. I would throw on bright colors and chunky jewelry with cardigans and ballet flats. I loved taking whatever was trendy at the time and adding my own twist to it.

3 – When did you realize you wanted to be a stylist?

To be honest, I never had any intention of being a stylist. I would just post pictures of my outfits on Instagram and people kept messaging me style questions. I would offer free advice all the time to strangers that would ask me for help putting together an outfit. People started offering me money to style them and that’s when I decided to offer it as an official service.

4 – Aside from doing stylist work, you also design your own clothing. What made you want to get into design?

I started designing clothing when I was about 5 years old. I was bored with my dolls’ clothes so I would make my own pieces for them. For as long as I can remember I always told my parents I wanted to be either a doctor or fashion designer. Like most immigrant parents, they supported the healthcare route which is why I wasn’t able to develop my skills until recently.

5 – What was the very first piece you ever designed? What was the inspiration behind creating it?

The first major piece I ever designed was an outfit for myself to wear at the African Student Union fashion show at Stony Brook University. I needed to wear an African print outfit, but I wanted to incorporate elements of modern day styles to it. I combined African fabric with a solid color fabric and magic was created. Till this day, people still ask me to make them that dress.

6 – Which profession do you enjoy more, design or styling? Why?

Design. I get a high from creating and wearing my own pieces. I love making clothes that fit me perfectly and compliment my features. I hope to get to a place where I can design full time.

7 – Social media has contributed to a lot of your success as far as building your name and brand. In your opinion, how important has social media become for entrepreneurs such as yourself?

Social media is super important. When people tell me they have a business, blog, podcast, or anything similar but aren’t on social media I automatically think they aren’t serious about their work. Social media provides a free platform to reach people from all over the world every single day. It also puts a face to your business which makes people feel more secure in giving you their money.

8 – What are some pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?

Let’s start with the bad news. The work is a lot and not always rewarding. You’ll put so much into something that you’re sure will blow up in one day and it doesn’t. I’ve sacrificed sleep, friendships, time, and so much money to create my own brand. If I told you how much I spent on Babes in Color alone your jaw would drop. It’s also frustrating because sometimes the people you call family and friends are supportive up until it’s time to actually buy something. That can make be super discouraging. The pros make it all worth it. It feels good being your own boss and being completely involved and hands on. I’ve always had a rebellious attitude so working for myself is a dream. Seeing people wear your clothes never gets old. I get so many questions from young girls about how to start your own business and brand that it makes me want to cry. I love having the knowledge to help other women accomplish their goals.

9 – You recently launched your own clothing and shoe line called Babes in Color. What inspirations did you use to put the line together? What was the creative process like?

My inspiration was black women. I wanted a line that represented us. My logo designer and I met at an event and bonded over the fact that there aren’t enough cartoon images of authentic, natural black women. I wanted the face of my brand to be a black girl with kinky hair available in several different shades so all black women could feel included. If you follow me on Instagram then you know I’m a huge fan of color so I wanted my brand to be as bright and colorful as my everyday style is.

10 – Fashion designers and stylist constantly get inspirations based on a wide variety of things when it comes to either designing a piece or putting together an outfit for someone. Where do you currently get your inspirations from?

Color. I love color. You’ll rarely see me in black. I start by figuring out what color I feel like wearing and work around that. Monochromatic looks have been my thing lately. I just love slaying one color from head to toe. I’m also really inspired by fabrics. If I feel like being sexy then my piece will probably be made of satin. If I’m in the mood to be edgy I’m picking up leather for sure. If I’m the mood to be girly then fur and super soft cotton are my go to. I try to work with the mood of the person I am styling but I also love pushing people out of their comfort zone.

11 – You pride yourself on being a black woman in a world where women aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve. In your opinion, why do you think that is?

Black women are the prototype. We are pop culture. The amount of things we have influenced is impeccable. I will never be ashamed of being on the creator side of creativity. I’m proud. Our ability to make lemonade out of the lemons life constantly hands us is my favorite thing about us. I’m so glad to be entering a position where I can potentially make life easier for other black women.

12 – From the designer side, what would you say is your biggest goal you’re looking to achieve? What is the biggest goal for styling?

My biggest goal for my brand is to be in a position to help others, particularly women of color. As my brand grows I want to hire more women of color and give back to charities that help women of color. Everything I do is for women of color. I want to use my position to elevate all of us. As for styling, I would love an opportunity to work with a celebrity or style a magazine shoot or music video.

13 – Who in the fashion industry now, designer or stylist, do you admire? Why?

I get this question a lot and the truth is I’m more inspired by other bloggers and influencers than I am by major designers. I find a lot of their content to be more refreshing and inspiring. I also have noticed that at times they end influencing the content of a lot of major brands. Some of my favorite influencers and stylists are Kahlana Barfield Brown, Ann Wynn, Alaia Ryan and Kelsey Ashley. I keep up with these girls daily and they definitely influence my style.

14 – What are some key tips for those living the entrepreneur life?

Be patient. I am still learning this. Good things take time. I struggle a lot with patience and my desire to rush things has gotten me in trouble more than once. I would also say don’t be afraid to spend money. I think a lot of people get scared about spending a lot of money on the business if they aren’t sure when they’ll get it back. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself how can you ask others to invest in you? You have to spend money to make money.

15 – What big plans does Esther-Lauren have for 2018?

I have some new designs coming out for Babes in Color which I’m really excited about. I’m also expanding the charity aspect of my brand to help as many people as possible. A portion of the proceeds from Babes will go to various women’s shelters in NYC but I still feel like I can be doing more. That’s all I can share for now but I will say stay tuned for some big surprises.