Jessamyn Stanley was training to become a food stylist when she started photographing herself practising yoga. “It was just another thing to take pictures of,” says the now-certified yoga teacher and unexpected influencer.
Her journey began in 2012, when she dived headfirst into the practice at home rather than at yoga classes, which she found expensive and discouraging since the majority of participants and teachers were slim and bendy—unlike her. Her Instagram account, @mynameisjessamyn, has since amassed 295 K followers for her mastery of difficult poses (handstand, scorpion and crow) and advocacy of body positivity. She also released her first book, Every Body Yoga, in April. In it, she writes: “I wrote this book for every fat person…. I wrote it for every person who has called themselves ugly and every person who can’t accept their beauty. I wrote it for every person who is self-conscious about their body.” (We raise our collective hands.)
Stanley’s success means she gets to travel to teach classes and speak at conferences to help people find their own beauty. But there is a downside to her Insta fame. “You end up portraying yoga as this kind of lifestyle to seek,” she says. “The whole point of practising yoga is that you are trying to get rid of that—even on the most basic level—through the words you use and in the ways that you tread around on the Earth.” Exposing her flesh in twisty poses inspires followers as much as it incites detractors. “Say what you would like to say,” she says. “This is the realization that I’ve come to after being bullied for my weight my entire life. After a certain point you have to recognize that these people are sad and they want you to be sad, too.” Losing her cool is not her vibe; she lets it be. “I don’t delete, I don’t block, I don’t care.”
Fit Fam: These influencers are seriously racking up the likes
Kayla Itsnes (@kayla_itsnes) Followers: 6.8 million
The Australian personal trainer joined Instagram in 2012 and started posting before-and-after shots of clients who took her Bikini Body program. Now, through her Sweat with Kayla app, which proposes meal and exercise plans, she reaches a community of over 10 million people.
Ballet Beautiful (@balletbeautiful) Followers: 540 K
Former ballerina Mary Helen Bowers became newsworthy for training Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, and she’s been training celeb clients with her Ballet Beautiful program, including Julia Restoin Roitfeld and Victoria’s Secret Angels, ever since.
Jen Selter (@jenselter) Followers: 11.1 million
Claim to fame: Her butt (no, really). Selter’s Instagram photos are largely focused on her strong, rotund bottom. She has a six-week training program on the app Fitplan, which promises to build your booty and tone your abs.
Cassey Ho (@blogilates) Followers: 1.3 million
Pilates guru Cassey Ho is known for her Blogilates YouTube channel as well as for founding the PIIT28 program (Pilates Intense Interval Training) and workout gear brand POPFLEX Active.
Hannah Bronfman (@hannahbronfman) Followers: 357 K
The DJ and fitness gal launched hbfit.com, where she shares health and fitness advice. Guaranteed to be seen on her feed? Matcha lattes, killer gym selfies and fitness vids.
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