Today we’d like to introduce you to Chnyere Minott.
So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Well, let’s see, where do I begin?
I always had this burning idea to bring the culture of Caribbean Carnival and our festive dance culture, in general, to the workout. Especially after being exposed to the many subtle differences in Caribbean music and dances which I observed living on campus as an undergraduate student at UWI, Mona Campus.
You see, I am from the Caribbean myself, specifically Jamaica, and have participated in many carnivals in my island home. I remember my first carnival: What stood out to me, was how liberating it was, the unity, everybody coming together as one, irrespective of socio-economic differences, color of skin or beliefs. And I thought this is beautiful, this is EUPHORIA and I wanted to bring this same feel to a workout where people feel they can feel like they are in the Caribbean but getting a serious workout at the same time. And the Caribbean has a rich, infectious and intense dance culture rooted from the motherland, so I knew that the movements and our dances would make way for a great workout; I also knew at the time our dance styles were seen as too risqué for the gyms as our movements are very sexual in nature, but it’s a cultural thing. But I was NOT going to hold anything back. I made my mind up I was going to start a fitness revolution (I called it the Bachannal fitness revolution) and I was gonna help change the way people are looking at our dances and our dance culture by creating a path of enlightenment and understanding –so people understand the depth behind every wine, jook and booty shake that we do! And realize that it is indeed a beautiful thing to do and the healing powers of dance collective consciousness when it is done in a total free-spirited way, in an atmosphere with no judgment or fear which is equivalent to a Caribbean Carnival Experience.
And so, Island Groove was born in 1996. I started it at the LA FITNESS in Sherman Oaks. I will always be grateful for the students that petitioned for me to teach my creation, Island Groove because at the time they wanted me to teach hip hop and when I got the opportunity to teach I saw that as my chance to introduce my creation. And management at the gym did not take my vision seriously at first, they wanted me to teach hip hop and I remember when I told the students that, a petition was started with over 100 names signed for me to teach Island Groove and the power of the people’s voice won. My class was still posted as hip hop on their schedule, but everyone knew the real deal– they were getting Island Groove and the class just got popular and more popular to the point where all the TOP gyms around at the time wanted Island Groove on their schedule. And I was teaching all over the place.
All this time, I was just so happy to share my culture through my workout and I was content with just that, but when a gym called “Bodies in Motion” –which was THE GYM back then hired me and gave me full scope to teach my class under its correct name, that’s when the real growth occurred. I will never forget the fitness coordinator at the time Misty the founder of “Spirit Groove”, really loved my class and she really helped in pushing Island Groove. That was when I got my first media coverage on Fox 11 and got selected to be a part of the IDEA WORLD FITNESS CONVENTION, which features only the TOP workouts around the world.
It wasn’t really until then that I started seeing the bigger picture with what I created and realizing that I created something truly special: developing a class which pretty much invited everyone who attended to find their “inner jumbie” –that raw organic version of yourself–that just wants to BE and UNLEASH! It was a way of tackling fitness–from a psychological perspective: free the mind and spirit and the body will automatically follow, leading to a HAPPIER N HEALTHIER YOU. Which is why the slogan of Island Groove is “SET YOUR SPIRIT FREE!” I have seen so much of this over the last 21 years of teaching Island Groove: students bodies changing without them even realizing it because they are too busy “getting on bad” (as we would say in the Caribbean) in the “islands” in class; students loving themselves more; students coming out of depression; students learning Caribbean culture and actually wanting to go the islands and actually going.
So, after years of teaching in the gyms, I decided I wanted to branch out on my own and started teaching independently and really develop and trademark my brand. And so, I started oozing my ways out of the gyms slowly to do just that and eventually started teaching Island Groove full time. And with that step came more success with more media attention over the years from KTLA CHANNEL 5, FOX 11, NBC. Some of my most memorable accomplishments and there are several since I branched out on my own was being a part of the NIKE FITNESS TOUR, and receiving awards of recognition from the CA State Assembly and Senate for my service to the community. My most recent is my Island Vibez Radio Show which is a spin-off from Island Groove, as it features the infectious music from all over the Caribbean and focuses on Caribbean culture, in general. I am very proud of this as I remember always wanting to do it from the days when I was teaching in the gyms.
NOW, I am still teaching exclusively at Dance line LA and with special workshops done throughout the year. However, my main focus is to bring the Island Groove experience to people all over by setting up an online class. So, that is in the works.
When I look back at the 21 years -I have to say my number one pride and joy achievement is the countless lives I have touched through this medium, and the fact that I never compromised with my vision, I held nothing back, I kept it fully authentic, the way you see it in the “islands” is the way we doing it, and I did not care who didn’t like it. I believed it would sell and I believed in my heart people would love it and LOOK TODAY– look at the type of classes are taking over the dance fitness arena all these beautiful Caribbean dance-based workouts. I am really happy about that!
I am a daughter of Caribbean Soil, a very proud one let me add and part of my purpose here on earth is to be an ambassador for my culture but more so to impact and change lives while doing so! Caribbean people are some of the happiest people in the world and its because we are rich in SPIRIT! And I believe what has kept me ticking through all these years is not so much my dance skills as there are way better dancers than me or my knowledge of Caribbean Dance Culture, but more so my ability to awake the SPIRIT within, what I call the “jumbie spirit” (which means the organic self that just wants to BE) for you to find true “bacchanal bliss” –self-freedom.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It was not a smooth road.
One of the struggles for me was I had amazing lucrative opportunities to take Island Groove globally, however, it would mean I would give up creative control and risk my vision put out in a way that is not true to what I actually created. There were people that saw a gold mine with my product and thank GOD it never worked out, thank God, I had the wisdom to walk away because I stood by my creation with all its wildness and all, I was not going to water anything down, when I know in my heart, it would be appreciated by many. And it has been and more so today with the emergence of all these Caribbean dance-based workouts.
Another struggle was I spent years, thinking I needed a PR person or a manager to make Island Groove successful because I didn’t believe I had it in me to do so myself. I felt like I was just the creative force and was very fearful of the business aspects. But the moment I realized that you cannot depend on no one, especially if you don’t have the funds to hire who you want, you have to learn to manage yourself and your brand.
My advice to women just starting off on their journey is that FEAR is always going to knocking at your door and you are going to be scared because you don’t want to fail, but what has helped me get over that hump much quicker now is when I remember– there is no such thing as FAILURE, OR LOSING, it’s either you gonna WIN or you gonna LEARN so just go for it!! And stay open to suggestions and constructive criticisms from others, but NEVER let anything or anyone misrepresents your brand. I believe you have to continually reinvent yourself and stay creative as times and trends change as the world is very competitive. Just do so with integrity and love.
I believe HARDWORK (You got to be willing to put in the work) along with the principles of integrity, gratitude, love, and humility at the core of anything you do, you will always come out on TOP. It may not seem that way at first, with everyone clawing for a piece of the pie, we live in a viciously competitive world and you do have to be somewhat aggressive to get ahead but remain steadfast in what is right, never lose sight of that, always do the right thing, pray and meditate on every step you take, make sure it feels good and pure within and and you will eventually get to where you want to be.
What should we know about ISLAND GROOVE? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I specialize in CARIBBEAN DANCE FITNESS AND PERFORMANCES!
I work at UCLA in the day as an Admin Specialist and in the evenings, I teach Island Groove.
I am known as the Carnival queen or Soca Queen, buy more so known as that teacher with the “INSANE ENERGY.”
I believe what sets me apart from others is the gift to tap into people ‘s SPIRIT, their inner jumbie and help them discover their truth, help release any inner shackles chaining their souls and help them to truly set their spirits free!
My class has been referred to as the TAEBO of dance fitness because of its intensity and I have been referred to as the female equivalent of Richard Simmons by many. I am nowhere near huge as he was, but it’s quite the compliment.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Have a plan, a strategy of where you want to go, of what you want to do, what you want to accomplish… see it in your mind and then, write it all down and then, go forth step by step with GOD as your anchor. Nothing is going overnight, it is going to take discipline and focus, your circle may get smaller along the way but as long as you surround yourself with positive uplifting sources and minds and people who genuinely want the best for you, the bumps through the journey will not feel so harsh! AND NEVER GIVE UP!!!
- Website: www.cislandgroove.com
- Phone: 323-628-2471
- Instagram: @cislandgroove
- Facebook: Island Groove
- Twitter: @carnivalqueenja
- Other: @chinislandvibez (For my Island Vibez Radio Show)
Michael Higgins, Jessica Lewis