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Personal Development
summer 2022

Stand Tall

Star Peloton Instructor Tunde Oyeneyin Wants People to Push For Their Best Life
Written by: Laura Valencia

As an ambassador for Revlon and one of the most popular Peloton instructors around, Tunde Oyeneyin is comfortable being the center of attention—often with thousands of pairs of eyes on her as she leads one of her high-energy virtual cycle classes that draw riders from all over the world. But it wasn’t always that way.

“I hid because I didn’t want people to see me,” she recalls of her years as an overweight child. “I had low self-esteem, low confidence and I never wanted anybody to recognize that I was in the room because if they did, I felt like they would see me and that they could see that I was heavier.”

The one-time wallflower is blooming these days. The celebrity trainer has an enthusiastic tribe of stationary cyclists who love the way she inspires them while making them sweat. In addition to being the face of cycling and cosmetics, she is a Nike athlete, a motivational speaker and an author. Her book Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, released May 3, has been described as “a memoir-manifesto-guide to life.”

She hopes it may inspire others to follow her example and pursue their dreams. Coming out of two years of coronavirus pandemic uncertainty, more people might be ready to take a risk and go for it in the way she encourages, she believes. “We’ve all been forced outside of our comfort zones, we’ve all been forced to create new normals,” she says. “This time has made it even more known that life is short, anything can happen, and so we have to really maximize the time that we have while we’re here so that we’re able to live a life in purpose on purpose and have purpose.”

Learning confidence
Oyeneyin’s rise illustrates her take-a-leap-of-faith message. The first time she took a cycling class she knew that was what she wanted to do as a job, prompting her to walk away from a secure position as a cosmetics trainer. She got certified, found a spot at a mom-and-pop fitness studio and soon found herself part of the Peloton team.

Making that sort of switch requires some confidence, but Oyeneyin says it’s something that can be learned. “Confidence is a skill, it’s not a trait,” she says. “I was born with brown eyes; they are a trait. Confidence is a skill, like playing basketball—you work on it, you build it. It’s a muscle.”

Additionally, she just trusts that everything will work out in the end. “I tell myself whatever happens—let’s say I’m doing a motivational speaking event or teaching a class that really needs something with a strong message—I trust that everything I’m going to say is going to be the right thing to say. And even if it’s wrong, it was the right thing to say, because that wrong thing was the right thing that needed to be said in that right moment.”

Oyeneyin first began to come out of her childhood shell as she slimmed down but becoming her fully authentic self was a continuing journey, even with the success she started to enjoy. She speaks of the past ways she “minimized” herself as a Black woman, so as not to stand out too much.

“I’ve worn my hair in specific hairstyles to look more like everybody else that I was working with,” she says. “I laugh pretty loud; I’ve minimized the way that I laugh when I’m in a board room or in a meeting. I dressed differently if I knew that the meeting was with more men than women. I’ve definitely altered myself to be accepted in the space.”

But not anymore. “I am no longer that way,” she says, speaking of the “best feeling” when you show up as you really are. “Boom! It’s so freeing, it’s so liberating to be your full self. Odds are the person that you are pretending to be, that person doesn’t even like themselves anyways, so why are you pretending to be like somebody that doesn’t even like themselves?”

If the space you’re in doesn’t accept you for who you are, she goes on, find a new space. “And then when you find a seat at the table, don’t just sit down. Look around and pull out another chair for the person that’s walking in right behind you, because you’re not alone.”

Celebrating differences
Oyeneyin traces her ability to relate easily to others back to childhood. Growing up in a primarily white neighborhood, she went to two different churches. One was white, where they said “Ah-men.” The other was African, where they said “A-men.”

“I was never taught that one was right or one was wrong,” she says. “I just knew that they were different. And I take elements of that into every day.” When she sees someone of a different ethnicity, gender or culture, “I don’t look at things as one person’s doing something wrong and one person’s doing something right. I think people are doing things different and, wow, it’s so beautiful to see how other people do it.”

While Oyeneyin acknowledges the importance of having good friends she also cautions that you need to be careful about who you let into the deepest part of you. “The people that we are closest to sometimes block us the most because they have such easy access to us, because we trust them so much, and we let them into our thoughts and our emotions and our feelings,” she observes. “And unknowingly, because they are trying to protect us, they sometimes steer us out of this ‘aha’ moment, this vision like I had [to become a Peloton instructor].”

Oyeneyin recalls talking about wanting to be a teacher as a child and being told not to pursue that career because it wasn’t well-paying. “The funny joke now is that I was a teacher in cosmetics for 15 years and now I’m a teacher every single day on a bike,” she notes. “As a kid, I knew I was being called to teach.” Though it seemed for a time she had let herself be steered away from that childhood vision, “I look back at life and I’m like, ‘No, you did exactly what you said you were going to do.’”

One of Oyeneyin’s other lessons is to look for the good even in the hard times. The beauty of uncertainty is the infinite possibilities it opens up, she believes. She holds to the conviction that “everything that’s happening is happening for me and nothing is happening to me,” she explains, acknowledging having experienced loss and tragedy.

I think once you’re able to fully surrender into the unknown, when you’re really able to allow yourself to be comfortable, not knowing, you open up space for what’s next.

“When you don’t know what’s next, anything can be next because you have no blinders on you, nothing stepping in saying that this is how this has to go.” She remembers her Peloton teammate Robin Arzón’s words, that “you’ve survived 100% of your bad days.” “The universe always shows me that I am protected and I’m favored, and so I trust in that.”

From an interview with Laura Valencia