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Meet Selena Watkins of Socanomics in Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Selena Watkins.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up as a dancer. Ballet class is one of my first memories. I trained heavily in West African dance and continued my classical training into a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Rutgers University while double majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Before graduating, I had begun teaching fitness and dance classes. Most times, they were heavily influenced by the Soca & Dancehall music I listened to regularly or the African dance movement in my repertoire.

Many of the gyms I went on to teach at after graduating eventually allowed me to create my own class method. What I created before I even had a name, was Socanomics. I brought a whole entire afro-Caribbean flare to the non-urban spaces I was in.

As a first Generation West-Indian American (my parents are from Antigua) and growing up in New York, it was a part of my DNA to bring sincere vibes and culture to the fitness platform. For me, it’s what was missing from dance fitness. Old School aerobics, honestly felt corny, so what made me commit to teaching fitness, was making it fun for myself.

In 2009, I got my first fitness certification through the AFAA as a Group Fitness Instructor and later on, through NASM as a Personal Trainer.

In 2013, I registered my trademark and filed Socanomics as an official business, but I for years still wasn’t sure what my exact lane was or where my path would lead. I just knew that I had something valuable to teach and a business of my own.

I’m the first in my immediate family to own my own business, so it felt good to have the family so proud of the moves I was making, even though it was all so new to me.

It also felt like what I created was inclusive – something everyone could do, and not have to be an experienced professional dancer like me.

I didn’t want to teach dancers, per say. I just wanted to dance with the average person who enjoyed music and movement as much as I did.

While creating Socanomics, I was also dancing for the NBA Brooklyn Nets, working in urban contemporary (R&B) radio at 98.7 Kiss FM, personal training at Crunch, becoming a SoulCycle instructor, taking professional dance classes at Broadway Dance Center and participating in pageants. I actually tried Miss New York USA before I realize I looked nothing like those girls. The year after that, I entered and won Miss Black New York and then Miss Black USA. What at the time seemed like I was all over the place, truly, was really me sharpening my tools, my voice and my vision. I can confidently say that the combination of my gifts and interests have become my asset, my strength and my ammo.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. Some years I had to file a loss because like most small businesses, your first decade requires a lot of capital, investment and sometimes not enough profit return to break even.

That didn’t break my spirit at all. It just led my focus in many directions. I continued my career as a professional dancer and as a fitness instructor at some of the top gyms and boutiques in New York City, including Crunch, SoulCycle and RiseByWe.

What I learned from each, was tremendous in preparing me as a business owner, motivator, fitness leader, entertainer and fearless innovator.

When I decided to move my personal life to California, it meant that the business came with me. Growing a following from the ground up on the West Coast was a whole new start, with new challenges.

It has helped me to think more expansively on my plans to grow the business, do teaching tours and certify instructors globally.

Please tell us about Socanomics.
Socanomics is a unique & uplifting, full-body, sweat-inducing, cardio party that seamlessly combines dance, fitness and the energy of Caribbean Carnival into a fun & energetic Soca workout!

It is rooted in culture and transforms a normal workout into an epic “fete” and effective way of exercising.

I can honestly say that Socanomics is the perfect atmosphere for letting loose because the welcoming philosophy eliminates pressure. It is completely designed for all level movers so that participants can release the idea that they have to be a dance expert to join the class.

The fitness focus is on cardio, core strength and a mind-body connection that ideally translates into mental and physical freedom.

We focus a lot on “whining” and infusing big aerobic dance movement.  So it builds endurance, increases metabolism, activates your core, tightens and tone your legs, enhances your rhythm and burn up to 500 calories. Socanomics is also very bold if you can’t already tell. It is the type of dance workout that is sexy and liberating. The whining and sexiness isn’t raunchy though. It is about celebration.

What I’m most proud of about Socanomics is that I’ve been able to get in touch with so many Soca lovers across the globe – and this is still just the beginning. To find so many people who love to move and want to support this movement is really inspiring for me. It’s what keeps me pushing higher.

What separates Socanomics from other workouts like it in the fitness industry is that it is based on Afro-Caribbean culture, movements from the African Diaspora, the energy of Caribbean Carnival and Soca music in particular. It’s very specific and there is nothing like it.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
You know, I love music so much that I have a song for almost every memory. Music is just so nostalgic. I’ll give you two memories instead of one, because I’m a rebel.

I don’t remember how old I was, but my parents took my siblings and I to a summer barbecue for the karate dojo we all attended.

I remember taking a nap in the car at the beginning of the barbecue and waking up when it was damn near over.

The memory is so vivid because I’m still hurt that no one woke me up to go play, but also because Mary J. Blige was the soundtrack for that memory. I grew up in Yonkers in the ’90s, so that whole summer “You Remind Me” and “Reminisce” were blasting on our radio airwaves.

The other memory is of my first summer back home in Antigua. The summer of 1995 I believe. My tanty’s house was right on the beach in English Harbour. My cousins, siblings and I never had shoes on, which led to one of us stepping in donkey poop more than once. I vividly remember opening my eyes in the sea because no one warned me – saltwater was different. We ate more mangoes than someone should ever consume and we listening to the only cassette we had with us, on repeat – Notorious B.I.G “One More Chance.”

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Image Credit:
Wes Klain, Zuri Saddai, Chandra Harris

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