“The REAL Latoya Snell”

“The REAL Latoya Snell”

Latoya Shauntay Snell is no holds barred about fitness, family, and F-bombs

Latoya Shauntay Snell is a runner, blogger, chef, and content creator with a smile that can light up a room. But don’t get it wrong or twisted, Shauntay will tell it like it is. She’ll keep it all the way 100 and speak her mind on a wide range of topics from running all the way to activism and the issues in our communities.

This month we get to chat with Shauntay Snell as we discuss a wide range of topics from running to Running Fat Chef.

MSM: Welcome to Mid Strike. Please give our readers an intro into who Shauntay Snell is.

Shauntay: First and foremost, thank you so much for this interview. My name is Latoya Shauntay Snell and I am a sponsored multi-sport athlete, content creator, motivational speaker, writer, a decade long chef, and the voice behind Running Fat Chef — a food and fitness blog that documents the highs, lows, and uncertainties of being in the fitness and culinary space. I am a mother to a high-energy but mellow-tempered teenager and a wife to a fellow veteran photographer that I’ve been deeply in love with for 20 years.

My extroverted ways scream loud and unapologetic but I am very deliberate these days as I find my space and voice in the public eye. Although I’m not a stranger to advocacy work, being in the fitness and wellness community shifted my gears a bit from only speaking about human rights issues like Black and brown issues and health care to taking up space as a body politics activist and speaking up as an LGBTQ+ athlete despite my heteronormative appearing relationship.

It’s not always easy being me. I am the hardest critic of myself, but I’m not here to borrow anyone’s garbage dialogue. The world is already tough enough on us…who needs to inherit toxicity after the year we just pressed through?

MSM: I read that you have a relationship with F bombs so let’s open those up for this interview (LOL), For our readers give us some insight into your fitness journey. How long have you been active? Did everything start with running?

Shauntay: I started off my fitness journey in 2013 despite my love for boxing since I was seven or eight years old. Like many, I ventured into this lifestyle by proxy of weight loss. Although it is considered a dirty term to many due to weight-loss culture, I am not ashamed to admit that this is what lured me into the fitness and wellness space. In my first year, I lost over 100 lbs by doing calisthenics, taking on a spiritual and physical yoga practice, and cycling for the first few months. Running was something that I didn’t pursue until months later.

I viewed running as a lot of things but I didn’t see myself as a runner by any means. To me, it was something people did to torture themselves for another sport. And frankly, nobody could’ve convinced me that I’d be a sponsored athlete. I ran for ice cream trucks, playing games like tag, or for survival. Like many that aren’t exposed to stories outside of track and field, I once believed that endurance running was afforded to white people. Once in a blue, I’d smile when I saw a Black or brown person reach the top ten during the New York City Marathon. When you don’t see a version of yourself accurately represented in mainstream media without an incentive to seek out more people in a certain sport, you believe what’s commonly presented to you.

On a lighter note, I definitely have an obscene relationship with the F word but I promise it goes beyond the word fuck. I love food, fitness, finesse, and being forthcoming and frank. They’re some of the best F words that I’ve ever known and love — but fuck is by far, my favorite words when used properly. You can thank Samuel L. Jackson and my father for that.

MSM: As you saw yourself transitioning into becoming a runner for you what was the (it) moment when you said to yourself “you know what I like this”.

Shauntay: In October 2013, I decided to knock off a bucket list item that sparked my interest thanks to a 16+ year MySpace friendship. My friend Robert signed up for a half marathon in the UK and I viewed it as a one-time effort. Unbeknownst to me, I’d meet up with the Bed-Stuy Black Girls Run chapter that convinced me that I have much more than one effort in me. I didn’t see myself staying with this sport until a group of women showed me love and helped me get out of my own way to afford myself space to be in this sport.

MSM: What are some of your race stats, some of the ones that stand out the most to you. From what I’ve read, 21 total marathons and 5 ultras. Whew!

Shauntay: I’ve completed over 25 marathons, five ultras, around eight obstacle course races, and participated in over 200 events. I think it’s important to mention my seven or eight DNFs (Did Not Finish). [Those are] something that countless people love throwing around in my face as if I should feel shame in those attempts.

My most memorable race to date is the 2018 Javelina Jundred 100K. I came in dead freaking last and it scared me down to my core. I’m a true New York City girl that’s terrified of most things in nature, particularly bugs and wild animals. For some reason, I thought this race would be a great idea after being influenced by my dear ultra runner buddy Mirna Valerio. I read her first chapter prior to the release of her book and I promptly texted her that she was “fucking nuts.” She insisted that we should run it together. I wasn’t convinced that I’d do it until I was being scouted out by HOKA ONE ONE in 2018.

I am not accustomed to outsiders believing in me but after much convincing and being introduced to Coach Megan Roche, I knew I ran out of excuses to not run this event. I worried about costs, equipment, a proper training plan, and being able to balance my home life. HOKA ONE ONE took most of these burdens off my hands. With the support of my husband and son, I threw myself into training.

Coach Roche constantly reminded me to not worry about what place I came in but to focus on finishing. When I started seeing people drop off, the real race began. You don’t know what your body and mind are capable of doing until you put it to the test. It took me over 28 hours to complete that event and I went home with two blood blisters, a few black and blue toe nails and somehow mustered up the courage to complete the New York City Marathon six days later. What I didn’t know is how I’d be humbled beyond belief in 2019 attempting a longer distance for the 100 miler and not being able to go beyond the first loop. What I love and hate about this sport is the unpredictability of when it will not be your day. Regardless of what place I come in or if I don’t cross, I treat all of these events as a win. Some people get so spooked from the idea of toeing the line that they never try.

MSM: Two words I LOVE to say are ‘proper representation’ in the run community. Running comes in all shapes and sizes. Do you find that it’s hard for you to get full respect in this world as a fellow runner and a plus-sized runner? A good friend of mine said it best a few years ago: “We’re all starting and finishing the same race AND we’re getting the same medal”.

“When I show up as “the only Black or plus size person” at an ultra event, I feel right at home. It used to scare me but now I treat it as my one woman party. Once I dispelled the belief that people are laughing at me and took away this worry that others don’t want me here, most of my concerns dissipated”.

Shauntay Snell

Shauntay: It is definitely hard to gain full respect in this world as an athlete that doesn’t desire to fulfill the quota to those that desire to make someone like me – a Black, unapologetic and plus size runner with disabilities – a monolith.

As a plus-size person, I don’t think you can truly win in the public eye because it doesn’t matter what you do nor how you show up, people want to condemn you for your body weight. I’ve read contradictory statements like “she clearly doesn’t train” and “why doesn’t she sign up for shorter distances” from people that encourage plus-size people to be active. When I show up as “the only Black or plus-size person” at an ultra event, I feel right at home. It used to scare me but now I treat it as my one-woman party. Once I dispelled the belief that people are laughing at me and took away this worry that others don’t want me here, most of my concerns dissipated.

On a personal level, I truly don’t give a damn about who thinks I belong except for me. I am torn by the thought that those who encounter barriers like me haven’t come to that personal resolve. Admittedly, it does get exhausting reading or hearing negative commentary about how people feel about your presence but this is partially why I continue showing up and remaining vocal.

Narratives don’t tend to shift because of a one time event; we have to continue showing up. To paraphrase a statement from Daniel White – the Blackalacian – “fuck your table.” I don’t beg for seats or tables to things that I built. My body was designed to move and the work that I put in will be respected whether a person approves of it or not. I am not here to wait for the world’s approval on their definition of who I am; I hope others carry that same energy — showing up without a consent form is how you gain proper representation. And contrary to the illusion, I’m far from the only Black, fat woman at a race. This thought comforts me. I don’t desire to be the only – I want to be one of many.

MSM: What have been some of your largest successes and struggles on your fitness journey? With your struggles how did you work through to overcome them?

Shauntay: I am still figuring out what are my largest fitness successes to date. I truly believe that I’ve only tapped into a small percentage of my full potential. Thus far, I managed to do a crap ton of running in less than a decade in this sport. In the same year that I learned how to ride a bike, I did my first century ride not even 24 hours after I ran 20 miles in the blistering heat.

Last year, I celebrated my 35th birthday by doing a 100K on my indoor trainer, followed up by a 13.1 run/walk two days later, and completing this effort by doing a 100-mile indoor cycling adventure that raised over $20,000 in funds for three Black organizations simply by talking about it on social media. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to combat my fear of flying and heights. And if that didn’t scare me, I thought it was a great idea to go tandem paragliding from Mount Planpraz in Chamonix, France. Two years ago, I shocked myself by signing up for a powerlifting meet with eight weeks of training and came in first place in my division.

I try to treat successes as a daily act because I am not always great at celebrating myself.

My biggest hurdles stem from feeling like my own body heckles me on a daily basis. In 2015, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa after I allowed a friend that wasn’t a personal trainer talk me into a 1200 calorie diet while training for my first marathon because he convinced me it would help me “look like an athlete.” My relationship with food has been a battle since. I get nervous when I lose a great deal of weight quickly because I know what it feels like to almost lose your life to something that you thought was helping you. That experience taught me to treat my body with respect and to not focus on the number on the scale. I became mentally and physically stronger once I received the diagnosis.

Outside of my eating disorder diagnosis, I have several invisible diagnoses including stage four endometriosis, sciatica, disc issues, and gastrointestinal issues. It is hard to not compare myself to yesterday’s efforts. With these conditions, one day you can run fast and other days, you are not able to shower or clean yourself adequately. I am thankful for my support system and a great therapist that constantly reminds me that I’m not a failure if I ask for help. The struggle is still there because I am super independent and have a few trust issues from anyone that’s not in my immediate circle. Just like training for a marathon, it requires you to keep showing up.

MSM: You’re honest, I think that’s a great trait a person can have. The problem with honesty is that’s a trait that many can’t carry, usually because of one simple thing: folks cannot handle raw, pure, blunt honesty. Do you feel as if you need to censor yourself at times as I’m sure you’re very pure?

Shauntay: There’s a thin line between honesty and being an asshole; personal perception, tone, and the receiver determine how that is interpreted. I am not inclined to think that people have a hard time handling raw or blunt honesty. Intention from both parties is often what governs how a person will respond. Sometimes it’s not our place to pass off a comment or assessment of a situation because it either doesn’t involve us or it’s not our business. When people try to lecture me about my weight, I establish boundaries on what and whom I’m willing to have those conversations with because it’s my choice to be receptive of that information. My personal experience of being told bad advice taught me not to take everything as facts nor think everyone is qualified to offer this unsolicited information.

Through being in the public eye, I’ve learned how to read the room more than usual. If your audience responds to certain words and not others, find a middle ground that allows you to convey your message without compromising who you are. I refuse to diminish my light or censor myself to make people happy but it’s not my goal to be a conversational bully. Sometimes it requires great grit to walk away from a situation without any explanation or to abandon an abusive dialogue.

I’ve been there too many times with online trolls and assholes whose sole intention is to gaslight me; I am not the jackass whisperer. I always remind myself to know why I showed up, what are my main points that I’m trying to get across, and to not allow emotions to dictate a conversation that might turn into a debate. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate or emotional until your emotions cloud your word choice to a place that you cannot pull back — especially on the Internet. People love screen-shotting and only using partial quotes to suit their narrative. You have to know who you are before you walk into the room because others will try to define you when you make a strong statement. I’m meticulous and very deliberate in only saying what I’m willing to stand next to in obnoxiously bold print. I’m not always perfect in my tact but if I’m wrong, I’m not so stubborn that I cannot admit to it.

MSM: You’re also outspoken and very vocal when it comes to online bullying which is insane just for me to sit and write because essentially we should all be treated equally and fairly with support of our fellow runners. For me this resonates even more so as a runner that used to be in the back of the pack. All runners should be treated with respect. Do you feel the online jabs have gotten worse over the years?

Shauntay: All runners definitely deserve respect. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a discussion but the running community has an elitist mindset problem — and it’s not stemming from a bunch of elite runners. I think as social media gains popularity, keyboard warriors will feel extra liberated exercising their fingers to send out shitty keystroke jabs at people they may never meet. Online harassment is certainly getting worse over the years for people in general. Most folks don’t have that energy to tell someone in person what they feel emboldened to say behind a computer screen.

On a personal level, I’ve met some of my online hecklers and most of them were painfully quiet in person. I still laugh about one heckler that trolled almost every article that publications wrote about me comparing me to possibly the only other fat Black ultrarunner that she knew. She would write “Why can’t y’all feature better plus-size athletes like Mirna Valerio?” Before COVID-19, she ran up to me at an NYRR race excited to talk with “The Mirnavator.” I experienced this mistake on more than one occasion and I learned how to find kind ways to let people down with light humor to reduce embarrassment. When she said her name, I stood back and chuckled. I told her that she had the wrong Black athlete and unfortunately this one is the one with the “filthy sailor mouth that’s not suitable to be anyone’s role model” before I told her to have a nice day. Most of these folks are only as powerful as the likes and hearts next to their comments.

I don’t believe in handling these situations the same way for everyone. Some people aren’t worthy of your words while others might need a swift “go fuck yourself” as a response before you block them. I don’t owe anyone an explanation. If I feel moved to either continue the uncivil discourse or explore the deeper reason why a person took their time to send me a spiteful comment, I remind myself to always protect my energy. My time is money, my peace is a gift, and their words don’t cash shit into my bank account. Speak up when you need to do it and reclaim your time when it becomes evident that you’re going nowhere in that dialogue.

“It’s not always easy being me; I am the hardest critic of myself that I’ve ever met but I’m not here to borrow anyone’s garbage dialogue. The world is already tough enough on us…who needs to inherit toxicity after the year we just pressed through”?

Shauntay Snell

MSM: Essentially this has transformed you into being a voice for the community of runners who don’t naturally look like how an “athlete” is supposed to look. Did you ever think you would become an inspiration to not only runners but an entire community?

Shauntay: I think an athlete looks like their reflection. If you are an athlete without certain limbs but put in the work, you’re an athlete. If you have more body fat on your body than the person standing next to you but commit to the regimen, you’re an athlete. If you’re an athlete that took six months off and decided to return after a hiatus, you are STILL an athlete. We have to get out of this mindset that a certain athlete has to look, sound or do things exactly the same. From a woman’s perspective, most sports were not designed with me in mind. Women participating in most sports is still a relatively new thing. Trans people fight every single day to be taken seriously in sports. A multitude of people that aren’t White thrive in their respective sports but are told that they don’t “look like an athlete” because of systemic racism. Because of this, I’ll continue to add on prefixes to my athletic descriptions like Black, fat, and queer athlete.

I never aspired to be an inspiration to any group because it is sometimes a burden. It is easy for people to place you onto a tall shelf that they can no longer reach and then blame you for being dusty. I went into this sport to wow myself and make me feel proud of my reflection. For a long time, I wasn’t happy with myself because I allowed others to define who I was and where I was supposed to be. Knowing yourself and your worth makes you the most dangerous person in the room. I didn’t initially warm up to the idea of being an inspiration to many but as I gain confidence in my voice and leadership skills, I welcome it while reminding myself that I am capable of making mistakes like anyone else.

MSM: Mental awareness is something our culture really doesn’t often talk about, specifically when it comes to our mental well-being. I read where you mentioned, “I’m a recovering self-defeatist.” For our readers, how did you work through that, and most of all, for others that may be struggling with the same things, what advice would you offer to help others working through the issue of being a self-defeatist?

Shauntay: I am a constant work in progress and sometimes get tripped up on trying to be a perfectionist on everything that I touch. I still view myself as a recovering self-defeatist because I used to sabotage great opportunities that were presented to me because I feared letting people down. I have a hard time surrendering to the unknown sometimes but when I let myself do it a few times, I realized the hardest hurdle to get past is your own imagination.

My latest favorite phrase is “unfuck yourself.” People like me obsess over the planning process so much that we never get started. Sometimes you have to do it afraid and make a shit ton of mistakes along the way. Life is not supposed to be an entire to-do list. Live outside of the comforts, of your grid lines, and explore some things without a precise plan. To anyone that’s encountering this same hardship, I cannot tell you how to completely get rid of this feeling or act but I can say that it is a daily process. If your mental or physical hurdles didn’t surface overnight, your healing will most likely not do the same thing. You are always worth fighting for and you are more than deserving of great things.

MSM: Continuing on the conversation of mental awareness, you seem to be a very big voice for this community. What are some of the other things you are doing to create change and action and discuss these issues within our communities?

Shauntay: Lately I’ve been encouraging people to establish boundaries. Some people view them as a selfish act when it is really it’s an essential act to keep you alive. Without boundaries, we may live our entire lives for others and know nothing about true happiness or who you are to yourself.

Another thing that I’ve been deliberately doing on my social media is normalizing certain things that go wrong in our lives and openly talking about things that people whisper. My inbox is loaded with comments from fellow athletes that vent about hormonal imbalances from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), endometriosis, or feeling less alone because I talked about a therapy session. I don’t want people to ever feel like they’re going through a hardship alone.

Sometimes I look at what some consider as TMI conversations as my form of activist work. Speaking up and defining your voice is a radical act. It is so easy to follow everyone’s actions even when you don’t agree with it. I think it’s pertinent to lead by example; I have a son that’s watching my actions everyday.

MSM: What is Shauntay Snells inspiration? What are some of the things that keep you going daily? 

Shauntay: Sunrises and sunsets are my daily inspiration. I tend to write out a love letter or a mantra on sticky notes every other day to remind myself that I am capable of taking on the unpredictability of the day. I am inspired by coffee, connecting with great people, incredible flavors that come from hours of cooking in my kitchen and being surrounded by love. In my spare time, I will either cuddle up with a dope memoir or geek out watching documentaries about history, science, sports – boxing in particular – or food. Since the fitness and wellness space became a career, I made it a point to find other outlets to keep me feeling invigorated. I don’t want to wake up and hate the fitness and wellness space because I work in it. Too much of anything can be toxic.

MSM: Switching up the pace a bit. Did you really skydive out of a plane? My stomach tingles just thinking about that. Another person we interviewed did the same thing and compared it to life. When you want to do something in life sometimes you just have to jump. What life lesson would you compare your skydive to? Lastly is there something I’m missing when it comes to skydiving?

Shauntay: Yep, I went skydiving in August 2014 because I wanted to face my fear of heights, small spaces, and flying in airplanes. I forced myself to buy the photo and video package because I saw a bunch of YouTube videos of people passing out before they landed.

Skydiving is something that I only needed to experience once despite being tempted to do it again. Similar to the freefall, life mocks this same feeling in your gut when you take on scary things. It feels like forever but in reality, once you rip that bandaid off from that thing you wanted to do, it’s only seconds that separates you from possibly the most satisfying thing that you’ll ever do. When you pull the cords of your parachute and grab hold of the handles, you quickly realize how much you do and don’t have control over in your life.

Sometimes you have to let up a bit just to move further.

Other times you have to look down and admire how small things are when you are far away from an object; life is pretty much the same act. We grab onto what feels safe and take chances to explore the things that scare us when we’re ready. At times we have full control but surrendering to the wind to allow it to guide you the way that life is trying to steer you might not be a bad idea either. Whatever you do, take in all of the scenery because just like that your ride is over. I want to be able to look back at this adventure and say it was all worth it.

MSM: Running Fat Chef is another venture of yours which is pretty awesome, cheffing up some cool looking meals in the kitchen. Is being a chef something that you’ve had experience with in the past?

Shauntay: Prior to culinary school, I experimented with making alcohol infused and marshmallow fondant from my house. After posting up an image of my food and cakes, my best friend helped finance me through the program.

I graduated from Star Career Academy of New York and spoke at my graduation ceremony. This school is currently closed and most people never heard of it. Oftentimes people remember this school from the commercials that played in between the Jerry Springer show and I’m not talking about the one that Lil Romeo was in (I wish I was joking). I was under the instruction of eight chefs, two of which were TV chefs, and I lucked up with a few opportunities to learn food styling, plating, and worked on a few sets.

I used my photography background to freelance for a few notable culinary leaders such as Chef Joseph Johnson from Just Eats with Chef JJ and Chef Elle Simone Scott from America’s Test Kitchen. Most of my experience comes from corporate dining, catering and restaurant work. It’s a brutal atmosphere and can feel like a daily marathon. I would put in anywhere from 40 – 70 hours weekly, rarely see weekends off and at times, be away from my family. I miss the beautiful dishes and chaos that the environment provided me but not the hours away from my family

MSM: Any chances in the future we’ll ever catch you being a head chef at an event. Would be pretty dope if it was a running event.

Shauntay: It is my goal to have the opportunity to be a head chef at a few events. At the moment, I am creating courses on my online platform for Running Fat Chef. In 2020, I was in the works of creating a menu for an in-person running event but we all know how that year went and as we move through 2020, I don’t see it happening until 2022 or later.

MSM: What are some of your favorite dishes?

Shauntay: If I have salmon in front of me. I will sear and glaze it without an afterthought. I always beg people to please keep the skin on my salmon pieces. There’s so much flavor in that crispy skin. I am a huge fan of Thai and Mediterranean dishes. I am known to make kale chips on the fly and canned biscuits still scare the hell out of me. My favorite vegetarian dish is Indian spiced greens with toasted chickpeas. If I have hours to spare, I will braise practically any meat or poultry dish because I am infatuated with building complex flavors with simple ingredients. If I cannot pronounce it, I probably want no parts of it.

MSM: As a runner or anything fitness, balance is something that we all struggle with life almost ALWAYS tends to throw a curveball when we least expect it. How do you manage to stay balanced in life mentally and physically especially as a parent?

Shauntay: I don’t think I always have that balance thing intact, especially as a parent. Being an entrepreneur, content creator and public figure is hard. Trying to adjust to the demands of being a parent to a hormonal teenager and carving out time for my spouse is trying at times. My son is currently homeschooled due to this pandemic. My husband and I are nervous about allowing him to complete his eighth-grade year at his middle school. His auto-immune condition taught us early on that we have to roll with the changes as they come. Most days, my son and I make it a point to have a “coffee break” and lunchtime together at 11am Monday through Thursday. I don’t schedule meetings, Zoom calls, or answer emails at this time because it’s important that he knows that I always consider him a priority. My son and I are pretty close. I’m thankful that he’s not embarrassed to be around his sometimes immature mom that trolls his game chats with random singing or unexpected TMI commentary when he forgets to turn off the Zoom chat.

Lately I’ve been trying to improve my work schedule and assign myself an actual day off work. Drawbacks of being your own boss means that you are constantly on call. No task is too big or small for me to handle. I answer my own emails, mail out my own clothing orders, respond to media inquiries after my publicist screens them and run my own social media accounts. This pandemic hasn’t made life easier as a small business owner and freelancer. I don’t enjoy 12 – 14 hour days but it happens more than I care to admit. Thankfully my family and friends know how to shake me off of the computer or social media to have a life.

MSM: Proper representation is one of my favorite remarks in this publication, you’ll almost always hear me say it once or twice per issue. The city of NY is so diverse yet is no where close to being represented by the run brand that is currently in charge of the largest block party in the world, the NYC Marathon. That brand is represented by those that have a view of Central Park. This is not only the issue with NYRR but also with run publications, usually due to the fact that we are not represented properly at the top of these brands. I recently saw where you parted ways with Runner’s World magazine. Were these for the reasons above? Did you feel your voice was heard with the time you were with them?

Shauntay: Unfortunately, the running community has a lot of problems with properly representing different groups, particularly marginalized communities. It is exceptionally tone deaf and can be seen in the marketing for major publications, running events and even within our own running spaces.

I was exceptionally disappointed to see how New York Road Runners treated its staff during the pandemic. When I heard about Rebuild NYRR Instagram, I was mortified but not surprised to read all of these horrific statements. Even in 2021, many running institutions, brands, and publications still suggest to the public that the running space is for cis White men. Any person that wants to combat that statement needs to question their favorite running gear companies about the stats for minorities in leadership roles.

I left Runner’s World not too long ago after four months of private conversations questioning their intentions behind the revamped Runners Alliance program. When I was invited to be an ambassador, I was wildly skeptical of taking on the role. In May 2020, I refused to make a cover of myself like many of my counterparts because I felt like they knew how to reach me. Clearly, Runner’s World took this literally because I received a copy of my face as the November 2020 cover without any notification. I searched through emails wondering if I agreed somewhere that I’d be on the cover. No such thing existed. Instead, I was greeted with an email after I inquired about the cover to send in a one-minute testimonial expressing my initial reaction to being on the cover. All I could formulate was the word “hopeful” without saying the words “pissed.”

I’m no stranger to how publications work. My husband and I are freelance photographers and have been in this industry for over ten years. I wasn’t sure how to feel about being placed on a cover without being asked. Or to see that only four ambassadors – all of color – were placed on the cover but they excluded the fifth athlete ambassador because of “costs.” It was hard to look past the weeks of hard work, answering emails and phone calls, rearranging my schedule for a photoshoot to announce the relaunch of a program that was supposed to make space for marginalized people as we advocated for runners’ safety yet none of us knew we’d be on a cover. It was downright exploitative and I felt robbed of that experience. I am still conflicted with my feelings about being on the cover. I want to be proud because I want other Black, plus size, queer, or athletes with disabilities to know that they belong here; we are deserving of being on billboards, magazine covers, and much more. But I do not want to set the standard in any of these companies thinking that we are not supposed to be fairly compensated or notified that we are going to be used as their marketing technique when they are doing mediocre work.

Our stories are not the media’s crackerjack prize at the bottom of the box. It is shameful when publications get it wrong. It requires vulnerability to share hard stories about being targeted by racist, sexist, fatphobic, and xenophobic remarks. Hearst [Magazines] and Runner’s World were completely tone-deaf and performative. Even after I tried looking past the magazine cover and simply asking for transparency, Runner’s World continued to fail me with fair rates of compensation for seminars. At one point, I was asked to be a panelist three days before an event. It is sad to admit that I would have settled for basic things like monitoring their comment section when marginalized people are targeted on their social media accounts. In hindsight, I have to laugh about not even being offered an online subscription to read articles without restriction on their website.

I don’t regret the experience despite the many people that asked why I bother agreeing to the program with so many doubts. I wanted to explore every option and give them the benefit of the doubt before writing them off. Every person is capable of redemption but I don’t see them revamping their performative ways any time soon. I hope they prove me wrong but I will not hold my breath.

MSM: What does the future hold for Shauntay? What can our readers be on the lookout for.

Shauntay: In the next five years I want to continue speaking up about necessary improvements in the fitness space and beyond. I hope to become a multi-published author in the near future and looking forward to doing more speaking engagements about subjects that I’m passionate about in food, fitness, wellness spaces. I am in the works of doing more podcasts and possibly hosting one of my own. In the meantime, I invite people to watch and join in on my new adventure in the triathlete world. I’ll be signing up for more marathon and ultra-marathon events. I’ll be powerlifting during my off seasons, cooking on Instagram stories, and using F-bombs whenever I deem them necessary.

MSM: Any last words that you would like to share? 

Shauntay: There’s a heavy chance that your greatest accomplishment is waiting for you to explore it. Instead of waiting for the world to give you permission to do it, seize the moment.

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Photos by W. Eric Snell, Sr.

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