Yes, we are going to talk about Ally Love's Wedding
Thank you to all who flagged that the link in the original email that was supposed to go to the Vogue profile went to a FB Group for people caring for elders — the subject of an upcoming piece! It's been fixed now, but what a juxtaposition of current writing interests
I’ve had a Peloton bike since this summer, and I solely bought it because I couldn’t bring myself to go back to fitness classes, and a year of skipping them had taken a toll. I knew that there was a devoted community of riders, but I had NO IDEA about the celebrity of these instructors until this series. I’m honestly grateful to find out this way because I feel like I could have easily fallen into the social media rabbit hole that appears to be Peloton.
Outside of that, this section hit me:
As invested as you might feel in a particular coach, you’re most invested in the way they coach you, which is to say, the way they coach millions of others. It’s not tailored, even if it has the illusion of being so. It’s a general mode of address, a mix of encouraging and forgiving, a deftness with signal cues, a magnetism.
Boy, this is something I’ve found fascinating, and I love the way you put it into words. Today I found myself on a ride with Ben and by the last song my eyes were closed and he was telling me I could push harder and I BELIEVED HIM. WHY?! He’s a recording. He’s talking to a camera (rather a group of them that are either choreographed or have a very clear system to indicate where he’s supposed to look next), and he doesn’t KNOW me. I’ve been doing exercise videos since the 90s and I’ve never felt pulled in like this. Conversely, there are other instructors that repel me…like Ally Love.
Thank you for following the "generalized gossip that takes up mental real estate you didn’t even realize you’d offered up for sale" so the rest of us don't have to. :D
Honestly I have never been on a Peleton and have never seen a single workout video, but the whole rise to celebrity status - especially on the scale you described - is equal parts fascinating and disgusting (which becomes an endless loop because we're all drawn to what disgusts us, right?). Removing the Peleton aspect from the equation, I'm utterly intrigued by the whole discussion of how one becomes a celebrity, how one manages (micromanages, one could say) their brand/reputation, and what can cause someone to fall. Okay, and I do love seeing a good story about hubris and how someone was so calculating to make herself so important and popular that they ultimately alienate others, including those within their own circle.
Thanks for sharing your observations and letting us into a slice of culture that due to socioeconomic reasons many of us will never get to witness first-hand.
I'm curious about how far performing a wedding (because that was a Performance) reaches into the relationship. Are there parameters or branding/influencer considerations for how Ally Love will perform being a married person? Will occasions like anniversaries become merch opportunities? It's all so slippery and gross and as a Peloton user, I just want to burn off some anxiety without all these extra layers. I want my relationship with Peloton instructors to remain transactional. They teach a class, I take a class. I don't want to care about their Instagram accounts or what they do when they are not at work, but then again, what exactly is the work of being a Peloton instructor? What is the work of any of us who maintain social media accounts related to what we do professionally? It's something I have often struggled with in my little corner of the world that is barely a glance in the public eye, and I can't fathom how someone with much more public presence navigates those boundaries and reconciles the version of themselves offered on a parasocial platter.
This whole conversation is so fascinating to me precisely because I had literally never heard of Peloton before AHP started this series--and I don't live under a rock. But it's clearly a huge phenomenon within a certain demographic, just apparently not a demographic that I'm part of. (I mean, I'm a white millennial woman with a master's degree, so I would have thought of myself as at least loosely in AHP's demographic, but apparently not.)
I've spent some time wondering why I haven't heard of this thing that's apparently very popular--is it simply a class issue? (I don't make very much money, and neither do most of my friends despite most of us being very well-educated.) Is it because I don't move in social circles that care very much about the wellness industry? Is it because I use Instagram only to look at friends' accounts and see pictures from the Vienna tourist bureau?
It just shows me how much culture has splintered, that AHP can talk about these people who I've never heard of as celebrities. I mean, I was never in the Lululemon demographic back when that was big, but I had at least heard of it. If someone described someone else as a Lululemon hot yoga type, I would know what that meant. I have no idea what a Peloton type is. I never cared about Bachelor/ette reality-star people, but I knew what the shows were and that the people on them were popular, even if I didn't know any of their names.
Is this just me getting older (but I'm only 34!) and thus being less "with it" than I used to be? Or has culture really splintered so much that entire groups of people can be "famous" to some but never heard of by others?
I feel like the way Peloton & its celebrity instructors have so quickly replaced in-person boutique fitness classes and the micro "star" instructors that you'd find in that world is like a warp-speed version of what's happened to local radio stations and even newspapers over the past few decades. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but in the early days of SoulCycle I had an instructor who I followed obsessively, because he'd play the exact brand of weird indie dance music that I didn't know I needed to work out. He was the sweetest person and we'd sometimes talk about music after class, never once talked about anything fitness related. Over time, the personalities and tastes of SoulCycle instructors seemed to get sanded down, and they all played the same grating EDM & pop playlists that were probably handed to them with corporate approval. Post-COVID, it's hard to come up with a reason why I'd ever return to an in-person spinning class when I can get the same cookie cutter experience at home. But I do wonder what happened to all those instructors who, even five years ago, had massive followings in their respective corners..
The extent to which I have devoted time trying to figure out who is friends with whom (what do you they think of Olivia? Is Kirra being included? Do they view Andy as a lovable bro?) is semi-embarrassing. I have of course have my faves (CODY) but I will admit that I am growing a little tired of all the paid partnerships and being constantly marketed to. I realize that as fitness people whose jobs are based on their bodies and being attractive that there is a limited amount of time they have to get paid, but it certainly is more than a little exhausting.
I know that Ally Love featured Black makers and vendors in her wedding, but I wonder how they felt about her going private while the wedding was happening. Didn't they donate or contribute their services hoping to get exposure? WHY DO I CARE?
Thanks for another great piece about the Peloverse, a sometimes problematic place I inhabit very happily and am fully surrender to!
I love this series so much. I, like a zillion other people, got a Peloton last year when it was too cold to run outside and I was going insane from being home all the time. As someone who runs a community-based business and also has a social media presence as a big part of my work, I was instantly fascinated by what they had created. Like, yes, the classes are fun. But why am I now feeling the need to hang out with Robin? Or, get some Cody in my day? I've been a half-assed fitness person my whole life. I've always preferred solo stuff like running vs. hauling myself to a gym, but I have felt connected at various points to certain spin instructors or yoga teachers. But not like this.
My guess is the confluence of all these factors contribute to the stickiness:
- During COVID, they didn't have a room of people they were teaching to - it's just you and them (even tho you know it's not, it feels like it is). And, they're super trained to look into the camera so you feel like they're looking directly at you.
- They share a little about their personal lives or stories about their day, so you feel like you know them just enough. Kind of like when a therapist offers you a nugget about their own life. And, let's be honest, they felt like therapists last year - or at least coaches. They may have been the only people you "connected" with outside of the ones in your home all day.
- It's reminiscent of old-school reality TV, like The Real World, with less obvious drama but *just* enough to keep you wondering (this was so good: "generalized gossip that takes up mental real estate you didn’t even realize you’d offered up for sale"). The fact they have social media handles allows for more speculation.
- The music + the exercise + the feeling of "connection" to them release all kinds of feel-good/connection stuff in the brain oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine and voila, you become attached.
I was a CrossFit person for a period of time and there are a lot of parallels, but Peloton has more of an "every person" vibe vs. the extreme "athlete" vibe of CrossFit. But I couldn't help but think that, if people could be "trained" by the CrossFit stars (who have the same influencer/famous quality within that community) there would be a similar effect. The difference is, CrossFit takes a ton of equipment. Peloton is just a bike (and a pretty one, which is probably another thing).
Thank you for continuing to scratch this itch, AHP, in such a smart, detailed way. It's so satisfying 😅.
This is so interesting. I work on trauma and media and am looking into how audiences engage Peloton as a coping mechanism for grappling with uncertainty during covid and how that is inflected by class, will be really interesting to think of celebrity alongside this! Thanks for this piece.
Christine got engaged over the wedding weekend too!
I hope this question can be answered because it has bugged me since you started this series and I became aware of just how big the social media presence of these instructors has become, but do these instructors have social media assistants that they hire or does Peloton provide someone? Because I cannot wrap my head around the amount of engineering (as an architect I hate "architecting" - sorry, AHP!) required to develop and schedule these posts while at the same time doing the work that put them in that position - you know: planning and leading workouts in addition to all the general fitness activities they need to do to stay in shape.
I do ponder Peloton celebrity more often than I would like to admit but am not on social media so I don't follow any of these people. I do think about how semi-precarious it must feel to be making a good living from teaching indoor cycling classes on video. While the new agey self-help platitudes from all of these folks are often cringey I have cried more than once on a Christine ride and when she talked about being able to buy her first home right before she turned 50 I just felt happy for her and wondered what it's like to become financially stable and famous for exercising in front of a camera while sharing just enough of yourself to get people to take your class, but not so much that you alienate them. As a 50 year old Mom she is the most relatable and I am a little sad that I went down a short rabbit hole on Ally's wedding because it resulted in being confronted by Robin's insanely toned abs despite that fact that she gave birth so recently. So much for relatability. Thanks for writing about Peloton -- while I rehab an achilles injury and thus can't run I spend more minutes with those people than most of my non-family members so I can't pretend not to wonder about what they are thinking. As the most conventionally perfect and beautiful of them all I am not surprised that Ally was able to make her wedding into a big fuss -- and as always she looks incredible.
I'm not on Facebook, but the fan communities of Peloton, especially the Black ones that have popped up are super fascinating. I'm excited to keep reading this series as a Peloton rider. I too am curious about the behind the scenes social dynamics but I'm to lazy to really dig.
Was Adrian at the wedding?
Having been a "fitness instructor" since 1985 including teaching Spin classes I have a lot of mixed feelings about Peloton. On the one hand I applaud anything that gets and keeps people exercising/moving but on the other hand they have cut MY client base considerably. But mostly, sigh, IMHO, it is just another place in life that community moved from being real life/in person with real people, to on screen with personas.
I love the way you put all my thoughts into words in the most eloquent manner! I wasn’t sure anyone else was as aware of the subtext in the Pelo community and I love to see I’m not alone. Loved your mention of Christine’s IDGAF I just turned 50 and got engaged attitude, emma cosplaying as a HGTV host, and the audacity of MISS ally love to ask her wedding goers to wear purple on Sunday! Such a fun read. You make my interests in celebrity and internet culture sound somewhat high brow. Next up, deep dive into the Kardashian Jenners…?!