Ayanna wants you to Socacize your life
LIFE IS A masquerade for Toronto-based fitness instructor Ayanna Lee-Rivears. And if her wish was granted, Barbadians would also live like revellers every day.
In fact, the founder of a workout programme called Socacize is already spreading her enthusiasm for physical fitness and a positive mindset around the world. With 110 instructors across Canada, United States and the Caribbean, Socacize has become a household name for many.
The next mission for the Trinidadian-born go-getter is to have revellers shake up the streets of Barbados on Kadooment Day.
Recently, Lee-Rivears partnered with the Kontact band and performed a demo of her full-body workout session during their band launch last Saturday. EASY caught up with the 35-year-old in a cosy lounge area at Coral Mist Beach Hotel in Worthing, Christ Church. Lee-Rivears, who wore a fitted purple dress that revealed her toned physique, spoke about her goal to make people feel “sexy, sultry and strong”.
“We want people to feel like they’re playing mas all the time. And it doesn’t have to be in a costume on the road. It could be [incorporated in anything from] going to a job interview to simply waking up every morning. You want to get up in the morning and feel good about yourself. You want to live your life like a masquerader.
“If you really think about it, masqueraders prepare themselves for the road. They want to look good, they want to feel good and their attitude is to enjoy themselves. So that’s our goal,” she said, occasionally slipping into her native accent.
During her brief stay on the island, Lee-Rivears gave a small group a “tease” of what the high-energy classes are like.
“The Kontact band sponsored me to come down here to promote health and fitness within their band. We’re getting their revellers ready for the road through Socacize in July.
“I’ve noticed the need to have a programme like this in Barbados because there’re people here that just need to stay active. And I know when they go to a fete or party they know how to move so why not include that as part of your lifestyle?” she said.
The avid dancer said rhythms of zouk, reggae, calypso, soca, dancehall, chutney and drum music make Socasize routines fun. She noted that her workout had four sections: Bacchanal Warm-up, Cardio Soca Jam, Wine and Tone and Groovy Stretch.
While proud of her success, Lee-Rivears said she never imagined she would start “wining for a living” but would not have it any other way.
“Even growing up in Trinidad I would always be wining, but I never thought that I would’ve been running my own programme or company to this extent. I never thought that I would’ve been in Barbados promoting the Socacize brand,” she said with a chuckle.
“I always believed that there’s more to life than just going to work and coming home and then getting up to work the next day. I always wanted to provide more to the public through what I know. I also wanted to make the dance moves simple while showing people our culture.
“[For example in Canada] a lot of people really didn’t know what soca meant at the beginning. It took a lot of education like telling them about the difference between calypso and soca. Once you hear the music, it just makes you want to wine or move. They love it, they embrace it, and they want to learn how to wine. When I say ‘wine’ they used to think I meant the alcoholic beverage; now they understand what it is,” Lee-Rivears added.
At the age of eight, Lee-Rivears left her hometown of Malick, Barataria, to live in Toronto, Canada, with her parents, Roderick and Ann-Marie Lawrence. Three years later, she began dancing with a group called Caribbean Folk Performers and her love for Afro-Caribbean dance movements evolved.
“We used to perform aggressively but then a lot of the [Caribbean folk] performers got older. They still wanted to stay active so I actually started a keep-fit class. And then my aunt [Cheryl Findley], who is the artistic director of the group, encouraged me to start the programme called Socacize,” she explained.
She said she believed that through dancing her members, or “revellers” as she calls them, could be liberated and empowered. The interaction with her “revellers” has also been mutually beneficial.
“It’s been my full-time job for the past nine years. It makes me feel good to know that I motivated them, and have them say ‘Thank you, I’m going to start working out because of you’. It makes me feel really good if one person could say that to me during Socacize, and I know that I’ve empowered them.
“I like to have fun. When I say fun I mean I like to make people feel uncomfortable. Socacize is not like your traditional workout, so I like to encourage people . . . to back it up, feel up yourself, embrace yourself. It’s your body, you got to feel good about it,” she said.
Lee-Rivears noted that fitness was more than a number on a scale – it is a “vibe”. With that, she said her personal fitness goal is to “walk with confidence and feel good and strong every day”. The ambitious businesswoman said she has dedicated her life to motivating others and hopes to have Socacize instructors on the island.