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Women In Wellness: Samantha Byrd and Michelle Mayfield of Studio Diva On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview with Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Byrd and Michelle Mayfield.

Samantha Byrd and Michelle Mayfield, affectionately known as Sam & Shelly, have been best friends for over 15 years. Together they developed Divas ‘N Heels, a hip hop dance class for women. Divas ‘N Heels grew tremendously over the last six years. Today, Divas ‘N Heels has become a community, drawing people from multiple states to engage in a supportive and high energy atmosphere that promotes holistic wellness! Right before the pandemic, they expanded their capacity to serve the community with the opening of their own fitness center, Studio Diva — a new home for their popular Divas ‘N Heels class and a lineup of innovative, wellness-centered classes. The dynamic duo is known for their transformative Fit Diva membership that has shown many successes within the Diva community. In addition to the studio, Sam & Shelly host The Diva Getaway, an annual wellness getaway to great places in the Caribbean. Studio Diva is the ultimate safe space for women to tap into their most confident and balanced self.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

We have shared a passion for dance and ‘a good party experience’ since we were in our pre-teens. Shortly after marrying and starting our families, we often reminisced about how much we missed our ‘dancing days’. The absence of dance from our lives resulted in feeling disconnected. These conversations helped us manifest our mission and vision for Divas ‘N Heels and ultimately Studio Diva. We invited some of our cousins and friends, we rented a studio and held our first unofficial dance class. We shared each dance class on social media — Facebook initially — and we quickly gained the attention of other women in the community. After teaching open-level dance classes for a few years, we decided to give our movement a name — “Divas ’N Heels”.

What started as an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves turned into a mission to help others rediscover their passions and confidence. Together we have created a comfortable atmosphere to help women feel confident, step out of their comfort zones, and ‘just get back to being themselves’. Every Divas ‘N Heels experience includes a safe party atmosphere, perfect lighting, and amazing, confidence inspiring choreography in heels. Our focus on empowering experiences is the reason why the Divas ‘N Heels community quickly outgrew the studio spaces we rented. Based on the increased interest and class sizes, we decided to open our own studio, Studio Diva.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story? Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Of course, we made mistakes. Fortunately for us, we learned from those mistakes and our business is better for it. For example, when we first started posting video highlights of our workouts that featured instructors only, we learned that some Diva members felt intimidated. Based on the feedback, we started sharing videos that showcased clients in various stages of their fitness journeys doing the same moves as our instructors. As a result, we gained more participation from our Diva community.

Through these experiences we learned that being authentic and staying focused on the end goal is what helps drive our success. Our goal is to make sure that every woman leaves the experience feeling her best. Throughout a group fitness class or specialty workshop like Divas ‘N Heels or our ballet and jazz intensives, we check in with our Diva community to make sure that we are meeting that goal. And if we aren’t meeting that goal, we’re not afraid to change the itinerary mid-way through a class or event. At the end of the day, it’s about providing a safe space for women to grow.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

We are making an impact by introducing more women — especially in the black community — to yoga and providing access to many fitness and holistic wellness options. As a seasoned yogi (Shelly) and dance/fitness instructors, we noticed that when we took classes there weren’t many, if any, black women taking classes in our area. Yoga is so much more than a modality; it is a self-discovery journey! There are so many essential life tools that can be gained through this practice. We created yoga and fitness class experiences and other specialty workshops that really speak to the black community and that keep our members excited about exercising!

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Movement is Medicine. It has the power to heal your body. Be sure to move at least once a day. We encourage our members to preschedule their workouts at the beginning of the week, save them in their calendar and commit to it like they commit to clocking in for work.
  2. Celebrate Often! We should celebrate all wins and successes no matter how small. Take moments to acknowledge when you’ve done a good job today, this month, and beyond. And reward yourself for it!
  3. Listen to Your Body. Recognize when rest is needed. Sometimes we do need to push ourselves because we lack motivation, but sometimes we are just tired because we have overexerted ourselves. Extend grace to yourself and give yourself permission to rest and recuperate.
  4. Love Yourself Hard. Pay attention to the words you use when you are referring to yourself because words hold so much power. If you catch yourself using harsh or negative words when referring to yourself, stop in real time and replace it with kinder and more positively impactful words.
  5. Take a Moment in the Mornings to Yourself. Before you grab your phone or make coffee, check in with yourself! Set intentions for your day and/or recite affirmations that speak to what you need to fill yourself with for that day.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Our initial goal was to create an atmosphere where women could feel confident, step out of their comfort zones, and ‘just get back to being themselves’. Since opening our studio, we our movement has expanded to reaching a younger community. We believe representation matters — especially in performing arts. It is important to us to provide visibility, access, and connection for young dancers of color in our community. To this end, we have created a dance/fitness program dedicated to them. It’s called Studio Diva Kids.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Focus on the Experience. Much of our initial business expenses were spent on cameras, equipment, speakers, and other things that we do not use. Material things can be added after your business starts bringing in revenue. Instead focus on what your customers value and deliver that!
  2. Don’t Take it Personal. When your business is your passion it’s hard not to feel offended if/when someone doesn’t fall in love with it. What you offer isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay! Those that see the value will come and support.
  3. Be Authentic. When you start any business, you will have many competitors. And at times it will be hard not to focus on what others are doing. In these moments, it is important to remember what sets you a part. Remain true to your brand and only focus on what feels right for you and your business.
  4. Be Fearless. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You might feel tempted to do what your competitors are doing. Be fearless and try something outside of the box. And if it doesn’t work — that’s okay. The important thing is you keep going and trying new things.
  5. Remember Your Why. There will be challenging times in your business journey. Fun fact — these challenges are temporary! When things aren’t going how you expected them to, remember your why. Your vision and your passion got you to this point. Trust in in that. Stay focused on your goals and do not give up.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Honestly, ALL these topics speak to us. We strive to support our Diva community in all ways — especially as it relates to mental health. We started our dance and fitness community to find ourselves. As a result, we ended up connecting and serving many women who needed a safe space to get back to being themselves. In addition to our fitness classes which includes yoga and meditation, we curate annual wellness getaways via our Divas Getaway platform. To date we’ve hosted retreats in Jamaica and Mexico. We look forward to announcing our next location getaway.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

For information and to connect with us, please visit our website at www.studiodivanj.com and follow us on Instagram @studiodivanj and @divasnheels and @thedivagetaway.

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our story. Continued success and good health to you too!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.