Losing 45 pounds in three months is a goal only few can dream of attaining but for Crystal Wall, wife of southern rapper Paul Wall, that dream became reality following a move back to her hometown Houston, Texas, where she took the plunge towards a healthier lifestyle following her husband’s gastric sleeve surgery.
“Losing my first 45 pounds made me want to be stronger and get to know my body a little bit more because I had achieved something that I never thought I could achieve,” Wall tells her sweat. “When you think about what you’re putting in your body and the difference that it makes, that’s when you start seeing real results. You’d be surprised what you can actually accomplish once you put your mind to it.”
Trading in Houston hotspot Frenchy’s Fried Chicken and cornbread for organic meals, Wall dropped 75 pounds in a year and slipped down to her pre-pregnancy weight of 125 pounds after joining Zumba classes. After realizing cardio was a much more effective – and enjoyable – workout than tapping personal trainers and “jumping jacks, burpees and heavy lifting,” she decided to create a workout movement for ladies who experienced the same weight-loss struggles she did by combining her two favorite pastimes: Zumba and “twerk music”.
In October 2013, Wall opened MixFitz Studios in Houston, Texas where she hosts dance classes that incorporate full-body exercises while having “good, clean, ratchet fun” in a welcoming environment without the added pressure and embarrassment one might experience exercising at a local gym.
her sweat. recently spoke with Crystal Wall about how teaching dance fitness and health and fitness entertainment media company Feel Rich, Inc. helped her turn her life around.
her sweat.: How did you first develop a passion for fitness?
Crystal Wall: Growing up, I’ve always been a dancer and I come from a really big family so dancing was always my thing and something I did really well, naturally. I was never a fitness buff. The only time I would work out is if I gained weight. I would go to the gym and get on the elliptical machine just to burn 600 calories or take self-defense classes but other than that, I would never work out.
In 2009, when Paul [Wall] had his gastric sleeve surgery, we learned a lot. He couldn’t eat what he ate before [the surgery] and could only eat a fourth of his usual meals so we had to change up our eating habits and lifestyle. So when he had his surgery, I had to learn how to recook everything that we were used to eating to make it more vegetable-based and tummy-friendly. In 2011, we moved back to Houston from California and the thing about California is everyone is super active and eating organic foods. I got really depressed and gained all my weight back because I was back in this stage of not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. My kids were older and were going to school and I was used to being a stay-at-home mom. Now that the kids were in school, I couldn’t use that as an excuse as to why I’m chubby.
[Feel Rich Inc. CEO] Shawn Ullman came over to interview Paul on the effects of eating healthy and how the hip-hop community eating healthier affects the ‘hood and artists’ fanbases. I spoke on behalf of Paul and a couple of weeks later, Shawn was really impressed with what I discussed and asked me if I wanted to blog for them so I agreed. He wanted me to blog about health, fitness and eating right. At the time, I had gained all my weight back so I wasn’t in that state of mind of getting fit so I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to blog about being fit and living a healthy lifestyle, I can’t just be a chubby blogger telling people how to get fit and I’m still eating fried chicken and cornbread every day.”
You can’t tell people how to eat right and not be about it so I really had to change up everything about the way that we ate. We started juicing, I started taking Zumba classes three times a week and worked out with a trainer and I ended up dropping 75 pounds in one year and got down to my pre-baby weight of 125 pounds.
You hated working out before you turned to Zumba and opened a dance studio. Talk about flipping your mentality to embracing exercise.
I learned to embrace it after I lost my first 45 pounds. I embraced dance fitness right away just because dancing is me all day. Dancing made me really excited about getting fit and seeing that there’s a different side of fitness that’s more than just jumping jacks, burpees and heavy lifting. When I would think of working out, I would think of a trainer behind me like, “C’mon, girl! Go!” not a supportive group of people that are like, “Shake that thang! That’s right!” Once I got into group fitness classes, it made me think of fitness in a whole other light. Then, after I lost of my first 45 pounds – I lost it in three months – I was getting to know and appreciate my new body that was healthy and trash-free. All the things the past me would hate doing, the new me was all for it. My father died of lung cancer, my grandmother died from complications with her diabetes, my aunt had a heart attack; I’m used to losing people in my family due to diseases so when I started with Feel Rich, that’s when I really learned the benefits of certain foods for your body.
When did you launch MixFitz Studios?
I started teaching fitness classes in 2011 and all around town in 2012 at any gym that would have me. I didn’t care if it was for free. It was about showing people what I had learned and helping them the way it helped me. In October of 2013, I opened MixFitz studios because I was working out at the House of Dereon and just grew out of the place completely. The classes went from being one class per week that barely had 10 people in it to classes that had 65 people in it every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I knew that when I got my own spot, I wanted it to be a place for people like me who don’t necessarily fit in at the average gym environment and people who want a supportive environment. We didn’t fit into the Zumba community. My classes are a mashup of all types of music and different types of movement. We have nurses, doctors, school teachers, all kinds of ladies but they’re in there with the same mindset of just getting fit and having fun so I knew I wanted that environment for MixFitz. It’s like our big playhouse. Our motto is “leave it on the floor.” We want them to let loose and not think about a thing.
What was your mission when you created MixFitz?
I wanted to create a place where women could feel comfortable enough to let their guard down and get fit. I wanted to show women in the community that there’s alternative ways to become healthy.
How does your MixFitz Studios differ from other studios?
We’re like a family but we also practice good clean ratchet fun. We’re twerking, we’re turning up, any dances that the kids do – we’re dabbing on them, hitting the folks. It’s like a big sorority house of women who support each other. A lot of people compare [MixFitz] to church. You go in and you feel whole again.
What do you love most about Zumba? Are there other workouts you enjoy?
I teach the MF TurnUP, which doesn’t compare to Zumba because we’re doing different things. They’re not stripper-kicking in Zumba or anything that Beyoncé would do. I do yoga a lot – it makes me feel strong – or I’ll run outside with my kids.
Describe the typical MixFitz workout playlist. Is it heavily influenced by southern artists?
We’re from the south so we’re dancing to Beyoncé, New Orleans bounce, some Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Pimp C, we do a lot of Drake and we just recently added Migos and Mary J. Blige [to the playlist]. We have to throw on some Michael Jackson too. A lot of other Zumba classes will put on New Orleans bounce music and still do Zumba moves but if I put on New Orleans bounce music, we ‘gon be popping it like we’re in New Orleans. [Laughs]
For the days where you can’t peel yourself out of bed to work out, how do you mentally push yourself to get it done?
Well lucky for me, I’m at the studio four times a week so I may get my workout done before class or even during class.
As wife to Paul Wall, who has also lost weight, are there certain workouts or meal plans that you two follow to keep each other in check?
We try to work out together but it becomes super competitive because he likes to be the trainer and I’m like, “I know what I’m doing – I’m good.” We try to eat as clean as possible, we don’t necessarily stick to a meal plan. We hardly ever eat fried foods unless it’s a Friday but other than that we’ll do fish and chicken, and we bake everything. We like Cajun food but I put my own twist on it so if I want dirty rice, I’ll make dirty brown rice. We try to incorporate my vegetables and salads into our meals.
Does he ever do yoga with you?
He’ll do yoga with me at home. Actually, for my birthday, I got him to do yoga with me at an actual yoga class.
As a busy mom, describe your typical day and the meals you eat.
My typical day starts by getting the kids up around five o’ clock in the morning for school. I don’t really eat in the morning, just coffee and maybe oatmeal – on a good morning – with a boiled egg. For lunch and for my snack, I’ll do a boiled egg, salad or sandwich from Subway since it’s next door to the studio. For dinner, I’ll do something baked like blackened fish.
What’s your typical cheat meal and how do you bounce back from it?
My whole 2016 was a cheat day. I’m still catching up from 2016 but I have several cheat meals. My cheat meals are fried catfish and Frenchy’s Fried Chicken.
How do you encourage your kids to eat healthy?
When they were little, it was easy but now that they’re older, I have to guilt-trip them and scare them a little bit. Now I tell them about diabetes and high blood pressure.
Describe the experience of performing a fitness concert at the Super Bowl earlier this year.
That was everything I always wanted; it was amazing. Five thousand people actually stayed to watch the fitness concert like grown men and people dancing as if Beyoncé was on stage. It opened the eyes of people in Houston to show them there are other ways to get fit other than what they think. It was a blast and my [MixFitz] ladies haven’t been the same since.
How did you partner with Feel Rich, and meet co-founders Shawn Ullman and Quincy Jones Jr?
I met them when they began filming the Feel Rich documentary here in Houston. I didn’t think the documentary would be for me, that it would have this effect and would change my life in a short amount of time.
They started filming this documentary back in 2011 and they have me in the documentary at almost 200 pounds. In the documentary, they have the full transition of me being an overweight, stay-at-home mom, to me blogging and losing my weight to me teaching my first class to now. Feel Rich gave me purpose.
What does the Feel Rich motto “Health is the new wealth” personally mean to you?
Health is the new wealth means a lot to me because in the industry that we’re in and the communities that we grow up in, I don’t think people think about their health; they think about the Jordans, the nice cars. Without health, you ain’t shit. Being healthy and completely whole is priceless. If you got health, you’re living. What’s the point of having money if you can’t live your life?
Feel Rich is dropping a documentary on Netflix later this year. What do you hope viewers will takeaway about health and fitness?
I hope the people that view the documentary get an understanding, especially those in the ‘hood. One thing they discuss in the documentary is the shortage of grocery stores in the ‘hood; there’s corner stores but there’s no garden or no place for people to get organic foods. There’s no one talking to people in the ‘hood about the benefits of eating vegetables so I’m really excited for people to see that part. Kids in the hood are going to look at the documentary totally different. This documentary gives me hope that [the message] will trickle down to other areas and people in the hood are going to look at it like, “I can change my life, I don’t have to have diabetes.” The documentary will just make people look at their health differently and I think when they see Jermaine Dupri is a vegan and Common is a vegetarian, that will inspire people of color to want to try. I also feel like women are going to walk away empowered knowing that if Crystal and the other women in the documentary did it, then they can do it, too.