While most of us know on a basic level pretty girls sweat, for a long time Black women were excluded from both the cohort of girls considered pretty and those who engage in physical activity. Thankfully, despite many studies over the years that have sought to tell us we’re not only the least attractive segment of the population but also the least active, Black women who’ve had the privilege to put their health first have been creating safe spaces for the rest of us to step up our wellness game and Aeshia DeVore Branch is one of them.
Inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, Branch decided to carry on the torch lit by our former First Lady, hosting wellness events in New York City and Atlanta, most notably her annual event PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT (PGS). For the past three years MadameNoire has been a part of PGS and this year, ahead of the September 14th fest, we decided to speak straight to the source about her motivation for starting PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT and how she’s changing the narrative around Black women and physical fitness.
MadameNoire (MN): What led you to create PGS?
Aeshia DeVore Branch: (ADB): I’m a former television producer who caught wind of our forever First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign in 2011. When I learned about the alarming statistics associated with childhood obesity, I was inspired to help raise awareness. After a chance meeting with singer Keri Hilson backstage at a concert, we reflected on how staying active in sports as teens changed our lives. So we agreed to host a wellness event together in New York City for 100 teen girls to help them discover fun ways to get empowered through fitness too. The event’s success led to a demand for merchandise, social media-worthy wellness events, and a health leadership program on college campuses. My dream team and I have been making fitness fun, accessible, and affordable for the predominant health leaders of the world – women — ever since.
MN: Who is PGS for?
ADB: Girls of all ages have benefited from the magic of our Sweat Sisterhood. Trained college students serve as health leaders on 26 campuses nationwide by hosting weekly workouts for their peers. These game-changers also build partnerships with local high schools and elementary schools to mentor students through fitness while inspiring them to pursue higher education. Our inspiring content, conversation-starting apparel, and transformational wellness events connect with women 18-45 to help them reach their goals.
MN: Take us through the day of the event, what can attendees expect?
ADB: If you’ve made fitness fun with us before, you already know how we get down. But if this is your first time joining the Sweat Sisterhood, here’s what to expect: while sampling the coolest health experiences in town, imagine being surrounded by positive people and surprise guests that motivate you on social media! As you transform your mind, body, and Soul with yoga, strength training, and a dance workout, you realize that you’re sweating with purpose since a portion of your ticket benefits local 501(c)3 nonprofits that empower girls through sports and fitness. Before, during, and after your sweat sesh, you hydrate with free beverages at our sip stations and network with a Sweat Sister who’s making moves as an entrepreneur. After swapping email addresses, you use your VIP wristband to enjoy a complimentary stretch massage, fruit-infused water, light bites, and a champagne garden post workout.
The party continues outside when you link up with your college roommate to shop for stylish gear in the vendor village and sample vegan soul food in the savor garden. The beautiful decor, custom backdrops, and photobooth have you pulling out your smartphone to capture a special moment that is Instagram-worthy. The music is giving you life. As female DJs set the stage to party with a purpose, you find yourself swag surfin’ and backin’ that thang up! What a day you’ve had uniting with women to get fit, give back, and raise awareness for childhood obesity. As you exit the event, in a soul train line (of course!), your gift bag awaits filled with goodies you love! Learn more at https://prettygirlssweat.com/pgsf
MN: PGS is super star-studded! How have you been able to draw such big-name celebrities and fitness influencers to your event and to be a part of the sweat sisterhood?’
ADB: PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT’s powerful brand name stands for a big idea, and it has emotional appeal. At a time when the fitness world began exploding online, we built brand authenticity and trust, changed the face of fitness, and erased the negative stigma that sweat holds. As a result, my relationships, our team’s professionalism, and PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT’s mission-based focus to combat childhood obesity attracted celebrity and influencer support. What we do well is making fitness fun by helping women meet new friends while incorporating philanthropy into Hip-Hop culture. And influencers gravitate towards that.
MN: In what ways do you see Black women winning when it comes to fitness and our health? In what areas do you think we have more work to do?
ADB: People often assumed that Black women aren’t taking care of themselves, and that’s not completely true. We just aren’t comfortable working out in the spaces they frequent. Black women are winning at wellness by creating and participating in movements (such us Pretty Girls Sweat, Omnoire, Black Girls Run, GirlTrek, and many others) that speak to their needs. The main hurdle we as Black women have to jump over is prioritizing our hair over our health. Exercise = sweat and sweat = hair frizzing up into its usual curly state. lf more of us embraced natural and protective hairstyles; we’d have more time, money, and feel good about our hair. We also need to make self-care a non-negotiable part of our routine.
MN: Tell us about Sweat Makes Cents and the Pretty Girls Sweat Show
ADB: SWEAT MAKES CENTS (SMC) is our 501(C)3 non-profit that unites and activates female college students to solve the childhood obesity crisis in their communities for future generations! SMC is also the name of our annual fundraiser and childhood obesity awareness campaign. Each year, participants complete 100 jumping jacks in an interesting location, post a short video of themselves in action on social media with a *signature song as the soundtrack, make a $0.10 donation for every jumping jack they complete and challenge friends, family, and followers to do the same. For example, a participant’s 100 jumping jacks raises $10 (tax deductible) for our charity! SWEAT MAKES CENTS uses the money to fund childhood obesity prevention programs nationwide, train female health leaders on college campuses, and award student scholarships. It’s our largest fundraiser of the year. If you want to get fit and give back with us, click here.
The PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT Show highlights women — like the CEOs of Hint Water, The Lip Bar, and POUND — who are balancing demanding careers with a healthy lifestyle and hurdling over personal and professional obstacles to reach their goals. Each week, I have a sister-to-sister chat with an inspiring go-getter and listeners learn how good things come to those who Sweat. Available now where all good podcasts are played.
MN: What is your wellness mantra?
ADB: Pretty girls sweat, of course! Daily, I’m reminded that success in every area of my life takes work. There’s beauty in trying your best every single day, even if its tough.
MN: How do you see PGS expanding in the future?
ADB: Our goal is to train health leaders on 250 campuses so we’re working on a college tour. If you’re interested in making HERstory with us, find out how you or your daughter can start a team at your university here. Guys have been trying to get in on the action so we’re developing a co-ed Hip Hop party series. And we’re researching the development of an app, wellness co-working spaces, and basketball training facilities.