Three SoulCycle instructors have publicly resigned from their roles while accusing the company of 'supporting racism and bigotry' and 'using the bodies' of black women in 'performative activism'.
All three women - who have each worked for the fitness brand for more than five years - took to Instagram to call out SoulCycle for failing to promote inclusion and diversity within the company, while slamming its leadership for 'prioritizing profit over people'.
One instructor - Mary Kate Hurlbutt - accused the popular spin studio of 'passing over... qualified [Black, Indigenous and people of color] for promotions', while one black instructor - Soeuraya Wilson - claimed that SoulCycle had consistently used her images in ad campaigns in order to appear more diverse, but continued to 'support racism and bigotry' behind the scenes.
Accusations: Three longtime SoulCycle instructors - including Soeuraya Wilson (pictured) - have publicly quit the company, while accusing it of 'supporting racism and bigotry'
Following suit: One week after Soeuraya resigned, Mary Kate Hurlbutt (left) and Tina Jackson (right) revealed that they had also quit, while making similar accusations against the company
Soeuraya, who has worked for the company for six years, both in Miami and New York was the first of the three to resign, and in a searing Instagram post shared on July 15, she called out SoulCycle for 'using her image' to publicly promote diversity and inclusion, while 'continuing to support racism and bigotry' behind the scenes.
'In these times I can no longer allow my image to be used by a company that performs its activism when it is convenient for their bottom line or their seasonal campaign,' she wrote, while sharing an image of herself in one of the brand's popular spin classes.
'I can no longer allow my voice to be used by a company that does not respect that voice when it dissents. A company who chooses silence.'
The fitness pro - who has been featured in numerous campaigns for the company, including several to promote its new at-home spin bikes - went on to slam SoulCycle for 'standing alongside investors and individuals who continue to support racism and bigotry' - perhaps referring to the company's chairman, Stephen Ross, a longtime supporter of Donald Trump.
His decision to host several fundraisers for the President saw thousands of longtime SoulCycle clients boycotting the company and its classes - while the brand's CEO, Melanie Whelan, quit just months after Ross came under fire for holding events that are believed to have brought in $12 million for Trump's 2020 campaign.
Soeuraya concluded her post by slamming SoulCycle's leadership, noting that while it 'must be difficult to lead a company through a pandemic and a revolution', she believes that those in charge of the brand have 'failed' in their responsibilities to cultivate a diverse and inclusive atmosphere.
Although SoulCycle has not specifically responded to any of the resignation posts specifically, interim CEO Sunder Reddy shared an open letter to the 'Soul fam' on the same day that Mary Kate and Tina resigned in which she addressed the company's 'plan to move forward'.
'There is no place for racism, bigotry, inequality, or discrimination at SoulCycle,' she wrote. 'Our focus has, and always will be, building a community centered on our values, not politics.
'Values such as diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and love will always be core aspects of our brand and are what guide us forward.'
Upset: In an Instagram post, shared on July 15, Soeuraya, who has held classes in Miami and New York, slammed the company for 'using her image' in its performative activism
Taking a stand: 'In these times I can no longer allow my image to be used by a company that performs its activism when it is convenient for their bottom line,' Soeuraya wrote
One week after Soeuraya publicly left the company, two other longtime spin instructors followed in her footsteps, addressing their reasons for resigning in their own Instagram posts.
Sharing the resignation letter that she sent to SoulCycle bosses, Mary Kate Hurlbutt, a San Francisco-based spin instructor who has worked for the company for six years, praised Soeuraya's 'brave actions' admitting that they had 'inspired her' to walk away from the company herself.
'It is with a heavy and grateful heart that I announce my resignation from SoulCycle,' she wrote in her post. 'Last week, my talented and courageous friend [Soeuraya] announced her own departure and reading her words felt like the first full breath I’ve taken in months.
'The brave actions of a Black woman have inspired me to finally answer the call of my own soul and follow her lead.'
In her resignation letter, Mary Kate called out the company for 'prioritizing profit over people', explaining that she has 'watched... qualified [Black, Indigenous and people of color] be passed over for promotions'.
'I've been disheartened by our silence around the tangible actions SoulCycle intends to take as a company to create an actively anti-racist culture and corporate structure,' the spin instructor added.
She continued in her post caption: 'I’ve been disheartened by our lack of response to the ongoing oppression, disenfranchisement, and endangerment that Black, Indigenous, and POC, and LGTQIA+ members of our community face daily.'
Mary Kate then called out SoulCycle for failing to put 'time, energy, and resources' into 'creating a safe and inclusive environment for staff and riders', alleging in her letter to bosses that, in addition to the company's lack of focus on real diversity, it has also consistently neglected to offer support to all of its instructors.
'I've felt the fatigue of being an instructor teaching an average of 15 classes a week who has had to beg for the bare minimum physical support we need to keep churning out those classes,' she said.
Anger: 'In her resignation letter, Mary Kate (right), from San Francisco, said she has 'watched... qualified [Black, Indigenous and people of color] be passed over for promotions'
The resignation letter concluded with several calls to action, with Mary Kate laying out a number of suggestions for how SouCycle can make changes to its structure and corporate culture - including 'prioritizing access for marginalized communities and demographics' and 'pursuing new investors'.
'So long as our current shareholders continue to prioritize profit at the expense of the well-being of our staff, riders, and values - the Soul in SoulCycle will be empty and meaningless,' she said.
On the same day as Mary Kate shared her resignation letter, spin instructor Tina Jackson, from Los Angeles, also took to Instagram to reveal that she had quit her role with the company after seven years.
Although the fitness pro did not make the same targeted accusations about the fitness brand, she noted in her post that 'with the times we are living in I must stand in truth'.
'Those that know me well, know that I advocate for authenticity in every aspect of life and with the times we are living in I must stand in truth,' Tina wrote.
'Who would I be as your teacher if I didn’t walk in my own words? If I didn’t stand up for what I believe?'
The three public resignations come just five months after it was alleged that SoulCycle sales had plummeted by 30 per cent over the holidays, after customers boycotted the brand over links to Trump fundraisers.
SoulCycle experienced the steepest year-over-year decline in sales in the last week of December and the first weeks of January, Earnest Research claimed.
Action: Tina Jackson, from LA, did not make such specific accusations against the brand when she resigned, simply telling followers, 'With the times we are living in I must stand in truth'
The company which analyses web, debit and credit card transaction data also reported that in December 2019, nine per cent of SoulCycle customers had made a purchase with rival spin company Peloton in the last six months, which is three times the number from a couple of years earlier.
However a representative from SoulCycle told DailyMail.com: 'Earnest Research's data is completely false.'
SoulCycle would not comment on their exact figures but disputed the figures in the Recode article from Earnest Research matched their sales reports.
'We are disappointed in Recode's irresponsible decision to publish what we have made them aware is inaccurate and misleading data in an attempt to damage our business and inappropriately obtain and publish our confidential business information.'
The end of November also saw the CEO of SoulCycle, Melanie Whelan, suddenly quit after eight years.
It was after a summer of boycotts linked to SoulCycle chairman Ross hosting fundraisers for President Trump; for one of them tickets cost as much as $250,000.
Celebrities including Chrissy Teigen and Bill Eichner backed the boycott and customers claimed the brand's ethos 'all souls welcome' opposed Trump's stance.
In August, members of SoulCycle started cancelling their memberships after Ross, chairman of the fitness brands' parent company The Related Cos., came under fire for hosting events expected to have brought in up to $12million for the president's 2020 campaign.
In these times I can no longer allow my image to be used by a company that performs it’s activism when it is convenient for their bottom line or their seasonal campaign.
I can no longer allow my voice to be used by a company that does not respect that voice when it dissents. A company who chooses silence.
I can no longer allow my body to be used by a company that ultimately stands alongside it’s investors and individuals who continue to support racism and bigotry without true compassion for the health and wellness of the employees and riders.
I know it must be difficult to lead a company through a pandemic and a revolution.
I know this because my company and it’s leadership who I once respected have failed to lead.
Six years ago I started working for SoulCycle.
A very different one than it is today.
I became who I am today because of the people I met and the work I did here and for that I will be forever thankful.
It is with a heart full of gratitude that I choose to leave this place.
To the Soulcycle Community:
It is with the greatest honor that I have decided to not return to Soulcycle. I have spent the last 7 years of my life cultivating community, empowering others to feel alive each day, to coach you to say yes to the call that is on your life, and to be of service in every way that I can. Those that know me well, know that I advocate for authenticity in every aspect of life and with the times we are living in I must stand in truth. Who would I be as your teacher if I didn’t walk in my own words? If I didn’t stand up for what I believe?
Teaching you has been one of life’s greatest gifts. You have taught me how to intertwine our energies, to connect deeper to our core and raise the vibration of our hearts. My gratitude overflows to the riders, the staff and the many instructors who helped me along the way. Thank you for pulling the light out of me on some of my darkest days. So here is to actually believing anything is possible, practicing faith at the ultimate level, being an artist that represents the times we are living in and Aligning with the call that is on my life. Never goodbye, but a toast to what we created these past 7 years! Lets stay connected and never stop fighting for the truth. With the deepest love....
Mary Kate Hurlbutt
6 years ago today, a little voice inside, begging me to live a more fulfilled, purpose-driven life, became too loud to ignore. It walked me straight into my SoulCycle Instructor audition. Since that day, my life has changed in ways I could have never imagined. Listening to that little voice was the best decision I’ve ever made. And listening to it now is the hardest.
It is with a heavy and grateful heart that I announce my resignation from SoulCycle. Last week, my talented and courageous friend
announced her own departure and reading her words felt like the first full breath I’ve taken in months. The brave actions of a Black woman have inspired me to finally answer the call of my own soul and follow her lead.
I can no longer lend my voice and energy to an organization that I feel is operating in misalignment with my own values. I’ve been disheartened by our lack of response to the ongoing oppression, disenfranchisement, and endangerment that Black, Indigenous, and POC, and LGTQIA+ members of our community face daily. I’ve watched as we pour time, energy, and resources into creating thoughtful operational strategies to prioritize reopening our facilities in order to generate revenue; only to also witness the historical lack of time, energy, and resources that go toward creating a safe and inclusive environment for staff and riders alike.
For transparency, I’ve included a copy of my resignation letter on the following slides. I’ll forever be grateful to the amazing leaders, mentors, & colleagues I’ve worked with during my tenure.
Though leaving is a devastating choice, it’s a privileged one to make. Some of my favorite people in the world continue to work at Soul & I fully support their decision to do so. I’m excited to see the way they usher in a new era. It’s my sincerest hope to proudly walk through the doors as a client in the future, full of love and respect as I celebrate the way company leadership answered the calls from their colleagues and clients & reimagined what Soul could be.
This community drastically changed my life for the better. I love you beyond measure. It’s not goodbye, it’s just a new way forward. Together.