SoulCycle is known for its 45-minute workout, where riders spin in a dark room and try to decompress after a long day. Celebrities including Kelly Ripa, Katie Holmes and Vanessa Hudgens have all been spotted at the studios, which have popped up across the country. Now, Business Insider revealed what it’s really like to work there and the kind of behavior the top instructors engage in — and it’s not pretty.
Keep reading to find out about the biggest revelations about the company.
1. Racist Incidents
Jennifer Brody was a studio manager at SoulCycle in Palo Alto, Calif., when she met Conor Kelly, who was a “master instructor.” After Brody left Kelly’s class, she put on different clothes and put a bandana on her head. “Whoa — Aunt Jemima!” Kelly said when he passed Brody in the hallway, seemingly referring to the pancake brand.
“That he felt OK calling me ‘Aunt Jemima’ in the middle of a studio lobby in Palo Alto was disgusting,” Brody told the outlet. Brody told instructors about Kelly’s comment but never reported it because she didn’t think “anyone would have cared.”
“SoulCycle kind of turned the cheek on a lot of stuff as long as they were making money,” Brody added.
2. The Front Row Was Reserved For The Most Attractive People
A pregnant rider alleged that an instructor named Laurie Cole moved her to the back of the room because she wasn’t attractive enough. “She was, like, ‘Oh no, no, no — I need you to come sit here,’ and put her in the back corner and moved a more fit, attractive person in front,” the former corporate staffer said. That same instructor had also “fat-shamed” other people in the past, too.
“She has taken photos of staffers who were maybe curvy and said, ‘This is not on brand for my check-in. I don’t want this at the front desk during my classes,” a former manager said.
3. Inappropriate Comments Were Made
While opening Brooklyn’s Park Slope SoulCycle, Cole was talking about the new manager, who was gay, and said, “Well, they better not hire a bunch of twinks to work there.”
“It was just so shocking to hear,” an assistant manager said about the incident. “Because I’m in the queer community, I can understand how messed up that is.” The person reported the comment but “nothing happened.”
Cole was reprimanded for her behavior and was taken off the schedule temporarily but nothing ever changed, another employee said.
4. One Instructor Asked About People’s Sexual Orientation During Training
Janet Fitzgerald, who is SoulCycle’s senior training officer, asked candidates about their sexual orientation during training, which made people feel super uncomfortable.
“She would say things like, ‘Do you want to get f**ked?’” a senior instructor said.
The instructor didn’t complain about Fitzgerald’s behavior because she wanted to get promoted. “There were no repercussions for trainers,” the employee said. “They did whatever they wanted. Ultimately they were making the company more money than you.”
5. One Class Was Called "A Sex Dungeon"
Kelly’s class was described “as a sex dungeon,” a SoulCycle rider said. “It’s all these blondes in the front row with these high ponytails and their boobs out," said the rider, adding that Kelly had a "way about him" and described the feeling as "overwhelming.”
Kelly — who is known for his fit physique — had devoted riders called the “Conz Crew,” and his classes were always sold out. One employee said when Kelly taught at the San Francisco Bay Area studio, he did some “weird sexual dance moves.”
Kelly also apparently was sexually involved with a number of his riders, the outlet reported. The employee said Kelly texted nude photos of himself to riders. “That became problematic because people’s spouses were complaining, and then it caused a lot of infighting with riders as well,” a former employee said.
Eventually, SoulCycle cut down Kelly’s schedule in Connecticut and switched him only to New York City studios.
“He did teach a great class, and it was very evident that the reason SoulCycle was keeping him on was because he was pulling in money for them,” a longtime rider said. “But in any other type of environment, no one would tolerate that.”
6. Instructors Hooked Up With Riders Behind The Scenes
In London, Mantas Zvinas would also message riders on Instagram.
“They knew the most riders who would come into Mantas’ class were skinny white girls who wanted Mantas to sleep with them,” the former staffer said. “If Zvinas paid extra attention to them outside class, they were more likely to keep coming back.”
Mike Press was also once involved with a rider, and after they broke up, he told them to never come back to his class. Press was 31, while the girl was 20 years old.
“He pressured me for probably about 10 minutes, and I was very clear that I did not want to do anything,” she said. “I was very uncomfortable, very nervous … so I did what he wanted.”
SoulCycle never reached out to the girl. Two other women came forward and showed the outlet flirty messages Press had sent them on Instagram.
7. Instructors Were Treated Like Celebs
“The instructors are our product,” one SoulCycle insider said. “Without them it doesn’t exist. And they are very demanding, and it’s a talent business, and as with any Hollywood business, the talent knows that they are valuable.”
Stacey Griffith, who used to teach Ripa and Brooke Shields, wanted a private office at the East 83rd street studio in Manhattan, which they gave to her. “She had a shoe collection in there,” the former employee said. “She would meditate there. She would bring her friends in there. I’m not really sure why she needed an office. She wasn’t doing any admin work for the company.”
Cole also demanded a private space in the Tribeca studio. “They didn’t have a sense of reality,” the staffer said. “They thought they were celebrities. The sense of entitlement was fueled by SoulCycle giving them exclusive treatment.”
Cole and Griffith would be gifted expensive jewelry and handbags for their birthday. “When you’re treated a certain way by staff and you’re treated a certain way by riders and you’re on this pedestal, literally and figuratively, that changes your expectations,” the instructor said.
8. It’s A Hostile Work Environment
When new hires were being on-boarded, they were told “not to touch what was theirs, when to speak to them, when to make eye contact, what music to play when they walked into the studio,” the employee said. “If the wrong music was playing, it would be like World War III.”
One instructor allegedly made a studio manager cry. “She reamed him out on the microphone in front of her entire class,” the employee said. “This kid was crying and had to take a walk around the block and thought about quitting because he was so ashamed and embarrassed.”
Cole grabbed one employee’s arm and yelled, “Don’t you ever leave without looking at me.”
“Her nails went so deep into my skin that I almost bled,” the former front-desk staffer said.
9. There’s No System To Track Complaints
“Information in regard to instructors was so sporadic that if I went to any one decision-maker in this company and said, ‘Let’s talk about this instructor,’ I’d have to go to five people to collect all the information about them,” one person said. “There was no single source of truth.”
SoulCycle denied to comment on specific allegations. “At SoulCycle, our priority has always been to build community centered on our core values of diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love,” a spokesperson for the company said. “When we receive complaints or allegations related to behavior within our community that does not align to 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.”