LOS ANGELES — Many of Cassey Ho’s fans know her as the bubbly fitness instructor whose series of online workout videos have attracted millions of viewers worldwide.
But lately, the 30-year-old Los Angeles-based creator of "POP Pilates" has been testing out microphones and going over scripts in her headquarters' podcast room, working on a project that Ho said will show a different side of her.
“A lot of people see me as a fitness instructor due to which obviously I am,” Ho told NBC News. “But there’s this entrepreneur behind it all that runs five different brands.”
With more than 3.8 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, “Blogilates,” Ho is now producing a podcast, dubbed “The Sheroic Podcast,” which she started in June with friend Lisa Bilyeu, co-founder of Quest Nutrition.
The program focuses on female empowerment, living your best life, and learning from real-life superheroes, or “Sheroes,” according to Ho. Early episodes include “Turning Jealousy into Admiration and Hate into Inspiration” and “Hate Your Body? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t.”
“The more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes and the less ashamed we have to be about certain things," Ho said. "I think it’s important to talk about that.”
Ho, an avid listener to podcasts, said she wanted to start one herself because she felt that they allow for longer, more in-depth conversations.
"I'm really excited I get to do that with Lisa and we both challenge each other," she said. "Sometimes we agree on everything, sometimes we don't agree. We're super raw and open about that."
The pair has worked on the show's concept together since the beginning, including emailing back and forth about possible titles.
“We are both into comics and animation and things and so Lisa was like, ‘what do you think about calling it the Sheroics or something?’ And we narrowed it down to 'The Sheroic Podcast,'” said Ho, who drew the podcast’s logo, which includes a heel and a red cape.
”You wear heels when you feel powerful and in charge and so I wanted the heel to be in it, and a cape for a hero, so I thought: why don’t we integrate both those things?” she said.
The Birth of Blogilates
Starting a new project is second nature for Ho, who said she has been an entrepreneur and marketer as early as middle school, when she would sell things that she made.
“I think the most important thing is that I work hard for everything that I want. I never ask for it,” Ho said.
After college, Ho moved from Los Angeles to Boston to work as a fashion buyer. Leaving Los Angeles meant she was also leaving her job as a fitness instructor, where in 2007 she had developed "POP Pilates," a "dance-on-the-mat-type” program.
Her students were sad to see her leave, she said, and at their request, Ho uploaded a 10-minute exercise video on her YouTube channel.
When the video racked up thousands of views in just a few days, Ho decided to quit her new job and stepped up her Pilates game, teaching 12 times a week to make ends meet at sports clubs and gyms in the area, she said.
“I was serious about going hard and going big,” Ho said.
When her class sizes began to grow and requests for more POP Pilates-related workouts continued to rise, she knew she had to keep going.
Ho’s POP Pilates empire has grown into a fitness program that has been taught at 24 Hour Fitness locations in the U.S since 2015. She also recently launched her own line of activewear called POPFLEX.
Today, Ho estimates there are 3,000 certified POP Pilates instructors that teach on any given month.
The Power of YouTube
For Ho, YouTube has also played a tremendous role in her success by helping break down barriers of entry in entertainment.
“I am Asian American; I am a girl; and I don’t have six pack abs," Ho said. "I don’t look like your typical fitness instructor that you see on DVDs or magazine covers.”
"When you allow audiences to choose who really resonates with them, you can really see what makes an impact," Ho added. “Because the audience is able to choose, that’s why Blogilates became what it is today.”
Ho said that while her YouTube channel has always seen gradual growth, the goal behind Blogilates has always been to connect more people through fitness and help forge friendships and relationships beyond the virtual space.
“Blogilates started online, but my goal is to take everything offline, or to start turning it offline because when we’re stuck on our phones all the time. Yes, we can feel like you’re part of the community when you’re online, but nothing can replace true, real life relationships, having those real conversations, seeing people,” she said.