This June we’re highlighting Deja in our ‘Instructor Spotlight’ series. An absolute pleasure just to be around, Deja encompasses everything you would want to see in an instructor, teammate, and friend. When she’s not on the podium, she’s working at Converse HQ, training for her next figure competition, or supporting people to express themselves – no matter how they choose to identify. Catch ANY of her classes from June 17 – June 23 with a special $15 drop-in credit available directly on our website HERE.

Hey Deja! Thanks for joining us today. Word on the street is you spent the majority of your childhood in Europe. Could you tell us about where you grew up and how you ended up in Boston?

Very random – but I grew up in Germany! My father was in the military and somehow we spent 10 years there in total, also while living in other parts of the US. Right out of college, I worked for Target Corporation for 5 years in Minneapolis (so much fun!) and then made the move to Nike, Inc under their Converse brand in Boston and haven’t looked back since!

Working for Converse must be very cool! Tell us a little more about your role there.

I work in merchandising at Converse within our direct to consumer division. I oversee the allocation function for all North America stores, managing an amazing and highly talented team of analysts. Our job essentially is to ensure when you walk into any of our locations, the sneaker you’re looking for, in season is at the store in your size, while you are there. That makes it sound easy but it’s a complex web of analytics, planning, supply chain and reaction.

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

I’m pretty simple–I love to cook when I can but also definitely into a great dinner or cocktail out of the house as well. Otherwise, sleep is definitely one of my favorite activities – in addition to fitness, of course. 🙂

Tell us a little about your fitness journey.

It started back in 2010! While I’ve been “naturally fit” all my life, I learned the hard way that there is so much more in the importance of fitness aside from what you can see, and urgently had to re-evaluate how I took care of myself. I started tightening up the way I eat and slowly got into group fitness (which I fell in love with) and eventually started teaching in 2014 – step and kickboxing where my JAM as an instructor in Minneapolis. Upon moving to Boston I started teaching HIIT + bootcamp classes, and eventually found B/SPOKE. Around this time, I started to compete as a figure competitor within bodybuilding at the local level and eventually moved onto the national level.

Sounds like you stay busy both in and out of the office – and studio! With all that you have going on, do you have any tips on self care?

Find small things that make you happy and make a recurring appointment out of it and prioritize it. It could be a hair cut, a run, a meal, an activity, anything – just make a point to make it happen and let it refill your cup.

You’ve been very involved in coordinating various Pride initiatives for B/SPOKE – including our float in Boston’s Pride Parade last year! Could you tell us about how this passion came to fruition?

My passion for Pride began when I was in college at Notre Dame. Notre Dame shaped me into the individual I am today – and I appreciate my growth and development there. However the experience was extremely different for many diverse individuals – especially those identifying as LGBT on campus, and I found this to be extremely jarring. For example: students were not allowed to officially organize a club or organization that identified as, and supported an LGBT community. Additionally, if a staff member or student discriminated against you on the basis of being gay, lesbian, trans, non-confirming, etc. – you were not protected. CRAZY! Lastly, I spent all 4 years seeing my closest friends unable to come out during their college years. They drove through such great lengths to find others who identified an accepted them for who they were. I only graduated in 2009, and while Notre Dame has since changed its stance, there are MANY institutions, schools and jurisdictions where these issues are still faced. I mean, while the stonewall riots were 50 years ago, gay marriage was only first legally recognized in the United States in 2004 – by the state of Massachusetts.

Wow – that sounds like a difficult environment to be in at such transformative years in one’s life. Ten years later – what does pride mean to you now?

For me, pride is about celebrating our need and support of expressing who we are, as we are without question. But also, it reminds me that while great progress has been made, we don’t have a lot of history behind us in that regard, and there are many different layers and issues many still continue to face today that continue to need our advocation and attention – many of which intersect and parallel with those who also identify as women and/or people of color.

Very inspiring. What is a piece of advice that you would give to someone in need of support?

“You are the absolute authority on how you feel.” In a world of ambiguity, it’s easy to waver and question ourselves in our interactions and situations – I do it all the time. Despite that, how a situation or person made you feel is always going to be a hard truth, and you are empowered to own it and express it. You can always debate the intention in a situation but the impact to you is always something only you can know and communicate – and it is far more important than the intention in any situation. Don’t second guess yourself here – you are absolutely right in this regard, even if it doesn’t make sense. Own it, run with it.

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