You know you’ve made it when you see your bag design in Shape magazine.
Or so it went for Cassey Ho, founder of Blogilates, a Pilates instruction website and online community of more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, and creator of oGorgeous Bags, a yoga bag company. For Ho, these two parts of her career are very much entangled, but however you cut it, it’s clear that the story is a happy one. Between her magazine spotlight in 2010, a nationwide DVD release, and a book coming out later this year, she’s become a veritable fitness and lifestyle guru far beyond the Asian American community.
It all started out when Ho was in her last year of college, unable to find a fashionable yet functional yoga bag that could carry everything she needed. Though she began working full time in fashion buying after graduation, she continued to develop ideas for oGorgeous Bags—her own answer to the do-it-all bag problem—on the side. One day, after receiving a text message from a friend about seeing her yoga bag in Shape, Ho raced to Target during her lunch break and frantically searched the magazine racks for proof. “Once I saw my bag, I cried and melted down to the floor. It was so emotional, totally a Cinderella moment,” Ho recalls.
That honor inspired her to quit her job and book a trip to China, so that she could find a manufacturer capable of expanding oGorgeous Bags. As her bag company was getting off the ground, Ho found herself investing more time in teaching Pilates—which she also had started in college out of enjoyment—as a means of helping to pay the bills. She taught 12 times a week both in person and over videos, uploading films to YouTube and her site for students to watch on days the class didn’t meet.
It seemed only fitting that two years after her breakthrough moment in the magazine aisle of Target, her first DVD, “POP Pilates: Total Body Workout,” was picked up by that very same retailer. “Target has just been a magical place,” Ho, a former Mochi editorial staffer, smiles, recalling the first time she saw her DVD in stores. “I knew it was supposed to hit around Christmas, so my boyfriend and I were checking all of these Targets and when we finally saw it, we gasped. It was another Target moment.”
These days, Ho has pared her teaching schedule down significantly as she manages her brands, but her commitment to teaching regularly and in her own style is as strong as ever. “I always try to do it in a very personal way where it feels like we’re working out together—like two friends in a room, just you and me, and I’m not yelling at you,” Ho says. “That level of friendship is unique to other DVDs. When you wake up and you want to work out, you want to have a good time and really enjoy it.”
Pilates has been Ho’s staple workout routine for 10 years and counting. “Every time I work out, I feel happiness,” she says. “I feel joy beyond just transforming my body.” That said, Ho falls victim to days when the last thing she wants to do is go to the gym, just like anyone else. “It’s fine. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it. But if it becomes a problem, that’s a problem,” she laughs.
When even her current top three workout songs—“Timber” by Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Happy” by Pharrell, and “I Wish” by Cher Lloyd—fail to keep her pumped, she reminds herself of one thing: “When you strip away everything, even your job and family, your health is you. It’s who you are and it’s the reason you live.”
Ho’s belief that fitness is a bottom-line necessity and her love for Pilates are arguably what makes her Target DVD a top seller, and she’s currently working on channeling the same passion into a second DVD that she hopes to see on shelves next to the likes of fitness gurus Jillian Michaels and Mari Winsor once again. In the meantime, Ho’s attention is on her new book, Hot Body Year Round, which will help readers stay focused on being healthy and fit even when the seasons change and motivation runs low. The book is due out spring 2015.
“It’s just me doing what I love,” says Ho. “I wasn’t trying to get famous or rich or anything. I just wanted to teach. I still teach two times a week. I’ll never stop.”
All photos courtesy of Cassey Ho