We looked for empowering personal stories, loud and proud herds of social media followers, savvy entrepreneurship, and savvier workouts. Our five finalists deliver—and then some. Help us decide who most deserves the title! In Women’s Health‘s fourth search for America’s top personal trainer, we pored over thousands of submissions with a truly 360-degree lens.
Photograph by Aaron Richter
About Selena Watkins:
City: New York City
Three Things That Describe Her
An afternoon power nap. “It’s like a reset button for me, especially on days when I teach and work out in the morning.”
Essential oils. “I’m a holistic nerd. I diffuse lavender at night or add oregano or peppermint oil to my water to stay relaxed.”
Gold jewelry. “My mom always had me wear it. Now it’s a staple, especially when I’m in a new environment or studio—I feel more like myself.”
Authenticity: It’s the quality you gotta have to win over millennials (studies prove it!), and it’s precisely why Selena is so awesome. She knows who she is and she owns it. She’s also incredibly passionate, without a hint of the yippy Chihuahua effect some overly energetic trainers tend to exude. She stands proud and moves effortlessly—a result of 15 years of dancing her heart out for the world to see. She didn’t actually plan on crossing over into training, but when a friend asked her to sub as the instructor for a hip-hop aerobics class, she realized she was already there. “Dance and fitness use so many of the same tools, it seemed like a disservice not to combine them,” she says. Right after college, Selena pursued as many certifications as she could get her hands on, expanding her fitness knowledge all while performing, including a three-year gig with the Brooklyn Nets dance team.
For the past eight years, she’s been teaching small group and private classes in everything from TRX to Body Pump to boot camp, and running a traveling workshop based on her own Caribbean-style dance workout called Socanomics (she’s Antiguan American). She also teaches regularly at SoulCycle, where she gets people grooving on a stationary bike. “Dance is my passion because it’s expression, empowerment, and exercise all in one. People leave feeling like they’ve learned something new—how their body moves,” she says. “But no matter what I’m teaching, I’m going to make you move until it feels not only natural, but necessary.” (For tips on how to sculpt sexy muscles, pick up Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.)
Her Fitness Philosophies
Lose your inhibitions: “Working out should be the one time you’re not afraid to turn loose. Socanomics embraces full-body rhythmic movements low to the ground, which sculpts powerful legs. But it’s also a bold type of dance, so you finish the workout feeling sensual and liberated. I try to replicate that feeling in all of my sessions by encouraging you to ditch the self-consciousness and just move.”
Create an experience: “I like to draw emotions, not just sweat, from my students. So I choose music for its BPM and its lyrics, because powerful words can help you work through whatever’s holding you back in class.”
Adjust your goals: “Many of us are motivated by looks. But a better goal is feeling comfortable in your skin. I believe that if we don’t move our bodies enough, we get out of touch with them. And it’s being in tune with your body—not a six-pack—that gives you confidence.”
Head over to TheNextFitnessStar.com to vote for Selena!