SoulCycle has come under fire again as more named employees have come forward to make allegations of racism and harassment against some of its star instructors.
Last week, a bombshell investigative report from Business Insider detailed a trove of accusations from current and former riders, studio workers and corporate employees against four of the fitness brand’s top instructors.
The instructors – identified as Conor Kelly, Laurie Cole, Mike Press, and Janet Fitzgerald – were accused of fat-shaming front desk staff, sending nude images to clients and using homophobic and racist slurs, while the company reportedly did nothing to tackle the behavior because of the instructors’ status as ‘moneymakers’.
More named former SoulCycle employees have now also spoken out to Business Insider claiming they endured racial discrimination and that the culture was rife with toxicity where top instructors could get away with inappropriate behavior.
One of the top instructors Laurie Cole, who was accused by three people of fat-shaming SoulCycle employees in last week’s report, allegedly hurled fruit across the room in a fit of rage when a staffer got her breakfast order wrong.
A number of black employees claimed they endured discrimination including microaggressions, being told to ‘fix’ their hair and were not given the same progression opportunities as their white counterparts.
DailyMail.com has reached out to SoulCycle for comment.
The company said in a statement to Business Insider: ‘At SoulCycle, our priority has always been to build a community centered on our core values of diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love.
‘When we receive complaints or allegations related to behavior within our community that does not align with our values, we take those very seriously and both investigate and address them. We are committed to continuing to make improvements and ensuring that we live up to the values that our teams and riders expect of us.’
SoulCycle has come under fire again as more named employees have come forward to make allegations of racism and harassment against some of its star instructors
Lauren Zuckerman, who worked on the front desk and as a key holder at the Tribeca studio, recalled one alleged time where she was sent to get Cole food from Whole Foods.
‘She has this specific thing she needs to have before her class, and it’s a fruit salad, and it has to have berries. Just berries. And a black iced tea,’ Zuckerman told Insider.
When Cole found a single piece of kiwi at the bottom of the fruit pot, she ‘threw it across the room and she said, ‘Whoever got this needs to be fired,’ Zuckerman said.
Zuckerman also alleged she was fat-shamed by Akin Akman, a former top instructor, for eating pizza at the studio.
‘He put me on his Instagram story, and he said something like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just walked into SoulCycle — don’t do this. This is not SoulCycle,” Zuckerman told Insider.
Stacey Griffith, an instructor to some of the stars, has been accused by both Zuckerman and an unnamed former instructor of similarly demanding behavior.
Zuckerman recounted one alleged incident to Insider where Griffith made her cry because she was so ‘stressed out’.
She said Griffith responded by saying: ‘OK, she’s not allowed to work here anymore when I’m teaching.’
Zuckerman also told Insider Griffith would throw her microphone at employees if it wasn’t working, would get front-desk staff to do her groceries and dry cleaning, and would ‘yell at us’ if there was an empty seat in one of her classes.
She claimed staff would have to jump on a bike to fill an empty seat up to three times a day to prevent being shouted at.
The former instructor, who taught in New York for six years, also told Insider Griffith was known for her ‘Hollywood’ demands.
When she raised concerns about Griffith and Cole’s behavior, Zuckerman said she was told it was part of the job, Insider reported.
Fresh allegations of inappropriate behavior have also been leveled at Conor Kelly, who last week’s investigation alleged made racist remarks and sent nude photos to multiple riders.
Cole (in right) allegedly hurled fruit across the room in a fit of rage when a staffer got her breakfast order wrong
Fresh allegations of inappropriate behavior have also been leveled at Conor Kelly, who last week’s investigation alleged made racist remarks and sent nude photos to multiple riders. One front desk staffer and one rider both claimed Kelly would often slap the butts of workers at New York’s East 83rd Street studio
One front desk staffer and one rider both told Insider this week that Kelly would often slap the butts of workers at New York’s East 83rd Street studio.
Lauren, the front desk staffer who started working at the location in 2015, claimed his behavior made staffers so uncomfortable many would request to take off the days he worked.
‘He could not give a f** at all. He would smack our asses and he would say, ‘Hey, sexy, come over here,” Lauren told Insider, adding that it was ‘horrible.’
When she raised the issue with a manager, Lauren said she was told Conor ‘brings in a lot of money’.
Lauren described a culture to Insider where, despite his behavior, she and many riders were in awe of him and he got away with his inappropriateness.
She recalled one alleged occasion where Kelly invited her to the home he shared with his parents in Greenwich, Connecticut, and told her he would drive her back to New York City after.
She told Insider they had sex and he then told her she was ‘f**ing filthy’ and made her walk to the train station at midnight to make her way home alone.
‘We had sex and it was very weird… but I wanted him to think I was cool,’ Lauren said.
‘After, he threw me in the shower and said, ‘You’re f**ing filthy.’ It made me feel terrible.’
She said his star status meant she and others felt he was untouchable.
Another New York instructor Rique Uresti has also been accused of demanding behavior by Jordan Brown, who worked as an assistant manager in New York and Chicago before being let go this year.
‘If you were between him and where he wanted to go, he would walk through you,’ Brown told Insider, explaining that the top instructor wouldn’t speak to front-desk workers.
‘He would spit his gum on the floor. He would drop his headset and microphone on the floor, which damaged the equipment.’
Uresti responded to Insider: ‘With all due respect if this is journalism for you, ild [sic] consider digging deeper.’
Laurie Cole and Stacey Griffith. Griffith, an instructor to some of the stars, has been accused by at least two former employees of ‘Hollywood’ behavior
A number of employees also alleged to Insider they experienced racial discrimination while working at SoulCycle.
One former employee claimed she suffered racial discrimination while working on the front desk at the SoulCycle studio in Manhattan’s West Village back in 2017.
Shanice Adams, who is black, claimed she was told to ‘fix’ her hair when she wore it in its natural ‘curly and puffy’ style, was told ‘I knew you were black’ when she accidentally took the bathroom keys home, and believes her work ethic was ‘overshadowed by my skin color’.
Adams recalled one alleged encounter where she was told to ‘fix’ her hair, something she said did not happen to her white colleagues.
‘I went to work with my natural hair, which is really curly and puffy, and they kept sending me to the bathroom to fix my hair,’ she told Insider.
‘They wanted me to put in a bun. They never told any of the white employees to fix their hair.’
In another alleged incident that took place on March 24 2017, Adams told Insider she helped lock up the studio that evening and accidentally took the downstairs-bathroom key home.
Adams, who said she was the first person of color in a front of house role at the West Village studio, traveled from her home in Queens the next day to return the key – despite being told she could return it on her next shift the day after.
‘I brought it back to the assistant manager, and her statement to me was: ‘I knew you were Black — give me the keys,” Adams told Business Insider.
The assistant manager, who has not been named, was promoted not long after the incident to the position of studio manager, Insider reported.
The manager has denied the incident took place, telling Insider ‘that comment did not happen. I definitely am not racist.’
Adams said she was fired after working at SoulCycle for just three months.
After her firing, she penned an email to SoulCycle’s then regional director Ariel Dobshinsky, obtained by Insider, describing how she felt ‘ostracized’ as a person of color.
New York instructor Rique Uresti (left) was accused of demanding behavior and that he wouldn’t speak to front-desk workers. Akin Akman (right), a former top instructor, was accused of fat-shaming a former employee for eating pizza at the studio
‘I felt like every tiny action was under strict scrutiny, far more than ANY of my colleagues,’ Adams wrote in the email dated April 5 2017.
She added: ‘I did my job and I did it well. You can ask any of my fellow front desk-ers.
‘When all is said and done, all I hope is that the next person of color who is allowed to grace that front desk at WVLG is dealt with in a matter that doesn’t leave them feeling ostracized.’
Adams received a response from Dobshinsky the following day saying her claims of poor treatment would be investigated but that she was fired due to ‘excessive tardiness’, reported Insider.
Another black female former employee, Ashley Mitchell, who worked as an instructor in Boston from March 2017 to March 2018, also told Insider she was treated differently to her white instructor colleagues.
She alleged she and her black coworkers were repeatedly subjected to microaggressions, that the company did not put the same focus on her development as they did on the development of its white instructors and that she was unfairly reprimanded for swearing while her white peers were allowed to get away with the same behavior.
‘Not only were there microaggressions, but there was never any effort put into our development, even when rider feedback was good,’ she said.
‘I could never transcend my time slot. I could never transcend my location.’
Mitchell told Insider she struggled to progress because she was ‘locked away’ at a studio in the Boston suburb of Dedham rather than given the opportunity to work at the popular studios closer to the city.
She told Insider she once covered a class in the affluent Back Bay neighborhood in Boston and she was a hit with the class chanting ‘Bring Ashley to Back Bay!’ but she was never given the chance to work there.
She also recounted being chastised for saying ‘Let’s f**ing go!’ in one of her glasses.
While swearing is not allowed at SoulCycle, Mitchell told Insider she regularly heard white instructors swear and play explicit music in classes but face no discipline.
‘No one is calling me the N-word, but something doesn’t feel right,’ Mitchell said.
Black employees claimed they endured microaggressions, being told to ‘fix’ their hair and were not given the same progression opportunities as white peers
Mitchell told Insider the image of inclusivity is false and beneath the surface the culture is one that is ‘exclusionary and they are bullies.’
Mitchell said she and the only other two black female instructors during her time there had all left the company by March 2018.
Aside from suffering discrimination, by the end of her time there, Mitchell said her health had also deteriorated due to the grueling schedule for new instructors which included having to pedal for almost the entire class and hold up to 18 classes a week.
‘I was exhausted. I had acne, boils on my face. I was losing a lot of weight. I wasn’t sleeping well,’ she told Insider.
‘I wasn’t eating properly, just because of the sheer volume of riding and physical activity. It was just insanity.’
Another former instructor, who is gay, alleged he was also discriminated against due to his sexuality when he worked there from 2014 to 2018.
He said he was told he was only ‘marketable’ in the gay district of San Francisco and was chastised for his choice of workout gear of crop tops and tights.
‘They told me, ‘You’re only marketable in the Castro’ – which is the gay district [in San Francisco] – ‘because of how you look,” the instructor told Insider.
‘It was always a blanket statement of, more or less, ‘You need to be more marketable and less gay.
‘It encompassed everything – music choices, what we wore, when we were teaching, how we were marketing ourselves on Instagram.’
Brown also agreed that SoulCycle expected people to fit its mold of tall, straight, male fitness models.