If you’ve ever cracked a genuine smile three sets deep into a grueling ab workout, it’s almost certainly because pilates guru Cassey Ho was cheerful enough to make you forget she told you to do it.
Cassey has posted workouts and blogged under the Blogilates brand for 12 years (which is like 48 in internet years). As CEO, she turned free YouTube pilates classes into a health and fitness empire, expanded into gyms, built an app, created a thriving activewear brand, and more.
The Brew caught up with Cassey to ask some icebreaker questions and learn the secrets of how she’s held onto her digital crown.
You started with a blog and YouTube videos in 2009, and today you’re juggling millions of followers across those platforms but also Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and more. How do you translate your brand across so many places?
It is craziness, to be completely honest. I started on YouTube—that was short form content back in the day. Then Facebook came about and that was how you connected and had community. There was something interesting that happened with Instagram because people got so used to having content delivered to them that blog traffic was being compromised, so what I ended up doing was blogging on Instagram; my captions are typically really long. I still blog on Blogilates.com, but now it’s almost a database where you can find videos, workout calendars, challenges, things like that. But on the day-to-day, if there’s something I want to share, 100% I’m doing it on Instagram.
And now, of course, TikTok. When I first started, it was fall 2019 and I was like what is this? But the more you try it out, the more you begin to understand. And there was this quirky, innocent vibe when it first started. Then when the pandemic hit, we had a lot more people go on, a lot of older people. It entered this realm of drama and people accusing each other of misinformation, and basically TikTok went through the ups and downs of what YouTube went through in a very short amount of time. TikTok today is no longer what it was when a lot of people started, and I’ve had to alter my content to cater to that because that user base is always changing.
Do you create for different platforms with a different audience in mind?
It’s like talking to different siblings; they just need to be talked to differently if you want a certain result. How I’m going to talk to someone on TikTok is different to how I’m going to talk to them on Facebook.
Instagram users are eating up Reels because I think there is a sect that is not willing to go on TikTok. So that’s one place where I am able to use the same content on both platforms.
You’ve been working in a very public eye for 12 years. How have you learned to grow and evolve as a person and a creator while keeping the brand and audience along for the ride?
When I first started, I was trying to keep fans and make them happy, but there comes a point when the fans are telling you who to be instead of you leading them. And I got stuck in a place where I began to get super scared of upsetting people.
In 2019, I decided to go on my 90-day journey, not just for physical reasons, but also for mental reasons, emotional reasons. I had been grouped into being one of the leaders of the body positivity movement, and because one of the things I was going to do in my journey was to lose body fat, all of a sudden the people who were following me for body positivity felt left behind. They felt alienated and like my brand and who I was weren’t the same thing.
But the thing is, I am my brand and I was evolving, so this is what Blogilates is going to be. Discovering myself, finding my confidence and my strength again, and in all-natural ways—eating healthy and working out.
It created a lot of controversy, and I got some of the nastiest messages. But as painful as that was, it would have been more painful to stay stuck making other people happy but me dying inside. I lost fans, but I gained new ones who are able to be happy for the new me. And my confidence has leaked into all areas of the business: I’m designing better, we’re releasing more collections, my videos are better.
How similar does your audience today feel—which includes a casual 5.5 million YouTube followers, 2m on Instagram, 2.4m on TikTok, and 1.2m on Facebook—to the one you had years ago?
I definitely have a base that grew with me from 2009. Those people know everything about me and weird little things like I don’t eat chocolate or I hate butterflies. I’m very grateful that I have people who stayed with me, but also I’m able to remain relevant by making new types of content on new channels. When I went on TikTok, I gained a lot of younger subscribers.
When the pandemic happened, you’d already been recording videos at home and distributing online for years. So has Covid changed Blogilates’ mission at all?
Truthfully, the business and the mission never changed; the mission has always been to help people find joy in fitness and make it approachable. When the pandemic hit, it gave us an opportunity to continue doing that, but on a wider scale.
The silver lining for the entire home fitness industry was that it blew up, and luckily for us, it’s something I had been doing since 2009. I was able to help more people not just content-wise, but also with our physical products. People use videos and then need equipment to work out.
The pandemic has birthed many new creators, including aspiring fitness and health influencers. As a user, what are red flags to look out for?
I could name a new fitness myth going around every week. A few months ago, it was “lay on a towel and you’ll get abs,” now it’s “put your arms up and move your knees up and down and you’ll get a six pack.” And this video has 1.7 million hearts.
With any platform, you have people saying things with lots of confidence. You have people who want to buy into the shortcut; it’s like any industry that’s selling hope. It’s really sad that people, mostly women, are falling into these traps because everyone wants an easy answer. I wish people would do their research, but even that is not 100% accurate because sometimes research is paid for by billion-dollar companies trying to prove something.
For me, it’s been seeing what works for me and what doesn’t. When I eat gluten, I bloat; when I eat dairy, I get pimples. And I know that’s true for me and it might not be for someone else. If you see someone being like “this is the one way, this is the only way,” that is not true. We have different genetics and different things are going to work for different people.
Time for some icebreakers. You only get to use two condiments for the rest of your life. What are they?
Sriracha and Everything but the Elote Seasoning from Trader Joe’s.
Best concert you’ve attended?
2CELLOS. They are these two Eastern European guys who play the cello, but really hardcore and it’s so fun. They play classical music with this rocker twist.
If you could live in the setting of any book or movie, what would it be?
I have a thing for historical dramas and I love, love, love the dresses and costumes from the Renaissance. So I would like to experience that…then again, during those times it was a lot of assassinations and guillotining. But I would like to experience a good day in court.
What question do you wish people asked you more?
Would you like to have dessert? I’m always asking people, and they’re like, “no, we’re full.”
This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.