With her new book, SPEAK, Tunde Oyeneyin shares the tragedies and triumphs that prepared her to be one of Peloton’s most sought-after instructors.
BY Katie Bianco
If you’ve ever taken a cycling class with Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin, you’re familiar with that inevitable moment on the bike: Your lower body is burning (and maybe your arms too if you’re taking one of her popular Intervals and Arms rides), you’re out of breath, and you’re thinking about hitting the much-maligned pause button. But then Tunde–with her bright red lipstick and that high-wattage smile–reminds you that “Your mind is your strongest muscle,” as she calls out cues to get you up that final hill or squeeze out just one more set on the weights. And, boom, breakthrough. You pedal your way to the finish line and you know–even though at this moment you just want to lie on the floor–you’ll be back on the bike with Tunde tomorrow.
Going into her third year as an instructor for one of the most popular fitness brands on the planet, Oyeneyin is firmly in celebrity territory. She has more than half a million followers on Instagram, her high-profile friends (who have also been guests on her Instagram Live talk show) include Venus Williams and Common, and when she recently announced a book tour in support of her new memoir SPEAK: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be, it set off a social media frenzy.
But Oyeneyin’s ability to inspire her legions of fans doesn’t come from a few inspirational sayings and her enviable arms. As she shares in her memoir, her success happened because she fought through tragedy and struggle. She’s shared the grief of losing her brother and both parents, life-altering events that put her on a path to help others.
“I believe that my losses serve a purpose when I’m able to connect and relate to those who are moving through their own trauma,” she shares.
And after a successful career as a makeup artist, she took a chance on fitness, charting a new path in fitness.
Today, the Nike Ambassador and Revlon spokeswoman is using her own life experiences to inspire others both on the bike and off.
As she prepared to go on the road for her SPEAK book tour, Oyeneyin shared some of her journey with Luxeicon.
Congratulations on your book! What was the writing process like for you?
It was really intimate moments with myself. I required myself to call on memories that I haven’t revisited in sometime. There was healing in that and gratitude. Gratitude for all of the opportunities I have been able to manifest.
What do you hope people will take away from the book?
SPEAK is a memoir. It’s a story about all the moments that have led me here. The setbacks, the missed opportunities, the joy, the loss, issues with my body and the triumph. I believe that we are all more alike than we are different. We all long for love and hope. My hope is that you see yourself throughout my story and that my lessons inspire you to grab the pen that writes out the next chapter of your life.
What was the biggest surprise for you in writing this book?
I was most surprised at learning through my own lessons. When you write a book you compile the big moments and the smaller moments and place them next to each other. When I looked at all the many moments as one body of work, I felt proud and grateful for how far I’ve come.
You refer to ‘soul-care’ instead of ‘self-care.’ What is the difference and what does ‘soul-care’ look like for you?
Soul-care is actions that I do for the good of my soul, like:
Take a hot bath.
Sit in silence.
Sit with music.
Walk barefoot on grass.
Listen to the ocean.
I say ‘no’ to protect my peace. Every time I say ‘no’ it creates space for a ‘hell yes’ somewhere else in my life.
How did you come up with the five pillars for SPEAK? How do you incorporate these pillars into your everyday life?
I looked at these 5 words as elements:
When I surrendered, it resulted in change. Change led to growth. When I tapped into my power, I tapped into my purpose. I grew up an overweight, insecure Black girl in Texas. It took many lessons before I was able to find empathy with myself. Authenticity is the intersection of trust and truth. Knowledge is the experience I gained from the many lessons I’ve learned throughout my lifetime.
You’re said you think of yourself as an extrovert. With that in mind, what was your pandemic experience like? Did you learn anything from that collective downtime we all went through?
I learned how much I draw on human connection. I pull and receive energy from other people. Over the last two years I’ve become more reliant on creating my own energy. The beauty in that is I can create the energy that meets me each day.
You’ve had so many noteworthy guests on your Instagram Live show. Who stands out to you the most? What lessons have you learned about resilience from your guests?
I’ve been so fortunate to have so many incredible guests. I can’t possibly choose just one. Venus Williams, Common, Allyson Felix, Cynthia Erivo, Mel Robbins and many others, whom I will forever be grateful for learning from their stories.
You’ve talked about holding your mother’s hand during her last breath. What an incredible gift to spend her last moment together. You’ve seen a lot of tragedy in your life and turned it into inspiration for others. Simply, how do you have the strength to do that?
I think resilience is innate. It lives in all of us. It’s a matter of tapping into it. I believe that my losses serve a purpose when I’m able to connect and relate to those who are moving through their own trauma.
You started as a successful makeup artist and you recently became a Revlon ambassador. How can makeup play an important role in finding confidence?
Makeup gives you the freedom to express yourself. You get to design how you choose to reveal yourself.
Whether it was a family member, a fellow instructor, or a fan you met on the street—what’s the best advice you’ve ever received about showing up as your authentic self?
As I always say, authenticity is the intersection of truth and trust. Trust yourself enough to show up as you truly are.
What’s your favorite ride you’ve ever taught? If it hasn’t already happened, what’s your dream artist series?
I love any class that will make you sweat! Hint hint: They all make you sweat! My dream artist series was Beyoncé, which already happened. I’d also put Rihanna on my dream artist series list.
You get on your bike and you motivate people every day. How do you keep that fire? What do you do on the days when you don’t feel like showing up?
As my teammate Jess Sims says, ‘I don’t have to, I get to.’
Oyeneyin will be appearing in Los Angeles at The Regent Theater on May 8. Find tickets here and stay tuned for more book tour dates to be announced.
It was an honor to witness the remembrance of my dear friend and fashion industry icon.