Celebrity fitness trainer Massy Arias has been slowly making changes on the fitness scene for the past decade. She’s steadfastly working to help her clients and social media followers achieve long-term fitness and wellness by teaching them how to live healthfully, so they can feel good, not just look good. Massy is known for commitment to her work and her vivacious personality so it’s no surprise she has a following of nearly 3 million on Instagram. But, it’s been a long and often challenging journey for Massy, who moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was 13 years old.
Now, the 31-year-old has gone from not even knowing the English language to being an ultra-successful Dominican-American entrepreneur and single mom to a young daughter, who is making a difference for real people all around the world. Perhaps, surprisingly, it all started because she herself was struggling. We recently chatted with Massy, about her journey, mental health, motherhood and embracing her Afro-Latinx roots while prioritizing a healthy lifestyle. She shares that she never expected or intended to become a fitness trainer and in fact, still snubs the term influencer despite her large following.
As a teen she says she felt like she was headed in the wrong direction. She had a difficult time adjusting to life when her family moved to Queens, New York. “It was the Latinos that were mocking me for my accent,” she explained to us about the bullying she experienced. “It was the Latinos shaming me for not being fluent [in English],” she said. But eventually, she grew to love her new home. The only problem was, by that point, her father decided that he wanted to retire and move back to the Dominican Republic. Massy basically refused to leave New York. “Latinos sometimes treat their kids as property,” she said, but even from a young age, she was fiercely independent, and decided that if her parents wouldn’t let her stay, she would file for emancipation. “I followed my gut, and my gut was here.”
She was able to emancipate herself when she was 17 and from then on she learned to carve her own path. Massy admits to falling in with the wrong crowd while trying to balance school and work. She was burned out and ended up turning to unhealthy habits to decompress including drinking, smoking, and lying to her family. “I started working and fell into a really, really toxic relationship. After years of that, I decided I needed something different.”
By her early 20s, Massy was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which caused her to essentially stop eating. “My body was destroying itself because my body was not getting what it needed,” she shares explaining that she ended up getting down to a dangerously low weight. She knew she needed to get well, so after trying everything outside of anti-depressants, including hypnotherapy and cognitive therapy, she turned to exercise. “It wasn’t until I started moving that it got better.”
Massy had a great job in retail management, and was still in school, but motivated by the changes she was seeing in herself, she would skip class and sneak off to the library to learn about physical therapy and body composition. Her passion grew, and one day she decided to start sharing what she was doing on Instagram, which was still relatively new at the time.
“I started from brand-new. When instagram started I was still in my depression,” she says. “I was opening up on this platform and just sharing my journey of getting healthy mentally. I would just post pictures. I started really learning,” she says, sharing her followers started to steadily grow. Along with new followers came an opportunity to work as a trainer for the first time, which came about from her initial Instagram account known as MankoFit. She received tons of inquiries about her workouts and nutrition and then someone asked her if they would train her in person. Massy went on to continue educating herself on all things fitness, nutrition and wellness, eventually earning her certifications in those areas of study.
She started with that one client whom she trained at Planet Fitness with a free pass, and now trains thousands of people virtually with her online fitness programs and meal plans. But her clientele doesn’t just include her followers, she’s also worked with celebrity like Jordin Sparks and Tess Holliday. She’s nabbed brand partnerships and also owns her own line of supplements, Tru Supplements and is getting ready to launch a brand-new community web app called Más Vida.The app, set to launch Oct. 11, offer members access to workouts designed by trainers who are the best in their specialties, meal plans from top nutritionists and the opportunity to connect with other subscribers.
Even now after achieving so much, Massy acknowledges ongoing challenges. “It took me eight years to make a real name for myself. About three-and-a-half years ago I did a [magazine] cover and I was the only person of color. I’ve had to break a lot of barriers in the industry,” she tells us. “It’s been very difficult to penetrate the market as an Afro-Latina in America.” But, with persistence, passion and dedication, she’s clearly persevered and now she has a whole community who recognizes her prowess.
“My personal journey is my business. What I’m selling is a product, but it’s me. It’s everything I experienced when I came into an industry that I thought was healthy, but isn’t healthy,” she says. “I wanted to create change.” And, people noticed. Massy’s vibrant, energy, big smile and the little dances she incorporates into her workout videos have become signatures that make her stand out in a sea of fit-fluencers. But, it’s her passion for helping others achieve their health goals and her commitment to always learning and growing personally and professionally, that have led to her continued success.
When asked what she thinks makes her stand out, Massy definitively says, “education and truth.”
“I don’t teach someone how to do just look good for a wedding or how to drop 20 pounds unhealthily. “I’m gonna change your lifestyle. What I’m teaching you is a way of living,” she explains. “It could be Day 1 or one day. The one mistake any beginner can make is to believe that they have to do everything right then and there. It should be a sustainable approach.”
Massy says about the philosophy she teaches her one-on-one clients as well as her program subscribers. “You’re not going to start changing 20 years in one week or one month. You have to start small and build onto those habits.”
So there it is: Massy preaches what she’s lived, and it’s clear that her authenticity and honesty are powerful, and have gotten her to where she is today. She says her goal is to continue to improve, to learn and to be the best at what she does. It sounds like that’s exactly what she wants for her followers and clients as well. “That one change can change everything and it’s a matter of taking that step.” Believe her, she knows what she’s talking about.