The fitness influencer, personal trainer, and author known for her online presence and determination has built an online presence with over half a million followers. In the hopes of supporting you in being your best self, the fitness guru’s USP is more than a tagline.
Alice Gee | 13/12/22
Bags packed, ready to leave for a well-deserved holiday on an afternoon flight, Courtney Black appears on my screen. The fitness influencer, personal trainer, and author known for her online presence and determination has built an online presence with over half a million followers. In the hopes of supporting you in being your best self, the fitness guru’s USP is more than a tagline. Her USP is her. Courtney’s passion for helping others embrace a positive fitness mindset and healthy lifestyle has impacted many people’s lives. In trying to help others, Courtney has an even more critical trait needed when understanding others. Courtney can portray empathy, having battled with eating disorders and unhealthy relationships with food and exercise. Having found a stable place, I ask curiously about her upbringing and the making of Courtney Black.
AG: What was the atmosphere like growing up?
CB: Originally, we lived in Whipping until I was about three before moving to Stephney green. Living with my mum, dad, and sister in London, we always had quite a good family dynamic in the beginning. My dad used to work away quite a bit. But it was when I was about 13 that I started realising that my mum and dad weren’t getting on. I began to notice that she was always upset and crying. I think I was too young to realise what was happening: my dad had a massive drug addiction. I became aware my mum was trying to hide it from me. One day I remember I just came out and said look, I don’t know what to do or say, but if you need to leave and it’s going to make you happy, then you need to. I think it was a huge relief.
At the time, I was best friends with my dad. I was a daddy’s girl more than a mummy’s girl, even though I spent the whole time with my mum. When they split up, it was like my dad didn’t care for me anymore. He still loves me, I’m sure, but he ultimately left me. I’ve not spoken to him since. People often ask whether I get upset about it. But in all honesty, I don’t anymore. If you don’t want to make an effort with me, don’t. You’re were the adult, and I was the child at the end of the day.
AG: It seems your mum is really important to you, an anchor of support.
CB: What’s nice is my mum is my best friend. I mean, everything I do is for my mum. Growing up, I used to dance. She drove me up and down the country to dance in competitions. I didn’t have any friends growing up, to be honest. My mum was the only one until I was about 17/18. That’s when I started making friends. Otherwise, it was just my mum and me. My routine was I’d go to school, mum would pick me up, and we’d go dancing. I didn’t have many friends because I spent most of my childhood focusing on academics. I would do my homework during lunch, then come home and play Sims.
AG: Nostalgic! I was obsessed with it. I spent half my teenage years on the game.
CB: I think I now know more about myself from being primarily on my own.
AG: It’s such an incredible skill to have, knowing yourself. It can be good for independence. Some people don’t find that within their lifetime. How did you cope growing up seeing your parents weren’t in a good place and your dad’s addiction?
CB: I don’t think it affected me that much. The hardest bit is that I didn’t believe it would ever evolve into my dad not wanting to have a relationship. Ultimately, because my mum is my best mate, I just wanted my mum to be happy.
AG: I admire you wanting your mum to be happy as your priority. Was your passion for dancing something you’d hoped to pursue?
CB: I’ve always been quite the performer. I’ve always loved to be the center of attention. I still love it now. Everyone asks don’t you get nervous, but for me, that’s when I thrive. I’ve always loved dancing, and I’ve always loved performing. I used to do Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Latin. So ever since I was young, I’ve been part of stage schools. I think that’s where I found myself. I could put all my confidence into something rather than wasting it.
AG: Have you carried on dancing?
CB: I stopped dancing when I was 17. It was getting a bit much. At the time, I was either going to spend time with my friends or spend all the time dancing. I knew I had to be honest with myself. I was never going to be that professional. I wasn’t that good. I’m a realist. This is the thing with me, I either need to be the best at something, or I don’t want to do it. Sometimes you’ve just got to be honest with yourself.
AG: That’s incredibly honest! What led you to start your community and find where you felt you belonged and how did that passion that helped create your company?
CB: I used to be an accountant. I have always wanted to be in the banking world. At one point, I even thought I would be a maths teacher. Mrs. Black, who knows? In the end, I found that most people are miserable in the office. There’s no air. I hated doing what I was doing and deliriously looking at a screen; honestly, I had no passion for it. The game changer was after experiencing an eating disorder. I started gaining knowledge in fitness and falling in love with educating myself. Don’t get me wrong; it’s taken years and years to get to where I am, but what I went through helped me grow a business. Initially, I started as a personal trainer and started making PDF plans. I then thought about monetizing this even further to a larger scale for it to be my job. It led to so many more avenues. I want to wake up with a passion every day. Don’t get me wrong; businesses have ups and downs. But every day, I wake up, I’m passionate, and I enjoy what I do. Even if my business started making nothing, I would still love what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.
AG: It’s pretty inspiring for people to hear how something you struggled with became a passion. Was there a moment when you realised you were struggling with an eating disorder?
CB: In all honesty, I don’t know. I’d love to be able to say when my eating disorder started. I know it was around the time when I was dancing. They used to say they wanted you to have Latin legs, which essentially means legs that look like they’re going to snap. So the thinner your legs, the better. So I always had it in my head that I wanted to have these Latin dancers’ bodies and fit in all the dresses. It stretched from investigating all my foods to putting washing liquid on food so I wouldn’t eat it. It consumed my life. And how can I forget starting the Special K Diet as a teenager?
AG: Ahh, the Special K Diet, a teenage gateway. Do you find inspiration in the company when trying to stay on the right path with body confidence?
CB: I try and take inspiration from those who rely on me. Whenever I have a terrible thought, I think, how can I be telling all these people not to do this when I’m doing it myself? I’m someone who practices what I preach. It’s often the reason I go quiet on social media sometimes because I’m not going to come on here and lie and say that I’m feeling great or tell people to do this or that if I’m having a bad day, and I’m feeling shitty about myself. I think it’s good to be open and transparent. I need to practice what I preach. So I tell myself reaffirming statements. Every time I say it, it’s solidified in my brain. My work is a massive relief for me. It keeps me sane, it keeps me driven, and it makes exercise fun.
AG: It’s that transparency that we often don’t see enough, especially regarding eating disorders.
CB: I’ve always tried to be transparent when my mental health is terrible. Just before lockdown, I had all these fillers in my face, and I would never have done a live workout. Unlike now, I mean earlier, for example, I was laying on the floor like a sweaty mess, with my stomach rolling in front of the camera. I would never have done that years ago because I would have been insecure about what other people were thinking and what if they ended up on a gossip website. But now I don’t care.
AG: It must be nice to hear from people about how your outlook is helping them.
CB: It’s why I love running the boot camps, as with the camera on, I don’t get to see people’s emotions. So being able to meet people and hearing their stories are amazing.
AG: How did writing your book become part of your gratitude?
CB: I had never thought about writing a book. Writing English is my worst fear. So I did get a ghostwriter to help me with it. I would have needed help to write the whole thing myself. We took the time and wrote in sessions which took me bloody ages. I didn’t even realise how long books take to write, let alone recipe books. I’ve always put myself down for not being academic in English. But I’ve got to remember my strengths. So I never thought that I’d be capable of doing anything like that. I knew that my first book would only be able to help people a little bit because it was a workout plan. But to hear how my story has helped so many people is incredible. Being able to help others is why I created my app. I knew my app was the best way forward rather than buying a plan from me. I then started writing the cookbooks and fell in love with them. I love the fact that people can experiment with so much food. It’s incredible to say I’ve got four books and two bestsellers, but other things are more important.
AG: What’s next for you at the beginning of next year?
CB: Bootcamps! The first will be in Glasgow, followed by Manchester, Liverpool, Southampton, and London. I’m also running my January challenge. I want to plug the app in every way possible and to give people a free month.
AG: What is your January challenge for those who don’t know?
CB: It’s 28 days of five workouts a week, which is quite intense. But that comes with two rest days, and I always tell people that if you need an extra one or can’t fit five workouts in, do four. All you need are dumbbells. It’s adaptable to everyone’s lifestyle. I also encourage people to film themselves at the end of their workout and say how they feel, how many times they stopped, did you feel strong. Did you feel weak? And could you do it? And then I ask them to do the same at the end of the challenge. I want you to see how much you’ve improved mentally.
AG: You’ve done so much to help others, but how have you found the support for yourself and tools that help?
CB: I had therapy last year, and I remember being told to write a list of 100 things I liked about myself. It took a week, but I did it. I can’t believe I was reading posts when I had these mad panic attacks and was getting so overwhelmed. I remember being desperate for help. Reaching out to this therapist helped. And I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
Writer - Alice Gee