All photos by: Kristin L. Gray Photography
You grew up in Hawaii! We're jealous. How did your island upbringing inform the person you've become, and the career you chose?
Hawaii is one of the most magical places in the world. Everywhere you turn, you are surrounded by vibrant colors, native Hawaiian music and the drama of nature. My mother danced hula, my father was a boxer. So, I think the combination of athleticism and theatre was innate. I always say I came out of the womb dancing….with boxing gloves.
Did you always know you wanted to choreograph, dance, and exercise for a living?
Though times were tough and I couldn’t afford proper training, I obsessively studied Madonna’s music videos over and over, doing paddle turns and hitch kicks on the beach to “Cherish”. Madonna was ultimately my first dance teacher. Then, in high school, there was a free after school dance program that I immersed myself in. I knew I needed to be in NYC to make my dreams a reality and the morning after high school graduation, I took a one way ticket to Newark with 35 bucks in my pocket, nowhere to live (I slept on my friend Matt's NYU dorm floor), and auditioned every day to be in a Broadway show. And I guess the rest is history.
We're sure there are many positives but if you had to choose, what is your favorite thing about your job?
I’ve been fortunate to experience nearly surreal moments in my career. Rehearsing “West Side Story” on Broadway with Arthur Laurents, training Faye Dunaway in my apartment the first time I met her twelve years ago, staging a performance at the White House for the Obamas, dancing with Madonna on live TV…but the most gratifying of all is the global Torch’d community who not only supported each other during the pandemic, but also helped me raise over $1.2 million for No Kid Hungry.
We love your Torch'd classes! And were heartbroken when the pandemic hit and going to a workout class was one of a great many things we could no longer do. But we were so delighted when you started offering daily, FREE classes on IG. That was so generous of you! How did that come about?
It felt like a no-brainer to me. The world was in such uncertain chaos, people losing their jobs, people getting sick, and children not being fed. I thought, why not offer what I do every day and see what we can do to help this major issue. I grew up on food stamps, so any blessing that I receive oftentimes feels tainted to me unless I give back in some way. I never dreamed that we could do so much in such a small amount of time. My initial goal was $10K and we surpassed that in less than a day. We hit the million dollar mark about six months in. My Boots Babies are the best. Bar none.
Was it difficult/strange to return to in-person teaching when things began opening up again?
I’ve been training my clients on FaceTime or Zoom for years before Covid. So, training from home didn’t feel that foreign to me. There is, however, a certain magic to being in a room with a hundred people, sweating to pulsating dance music. I love the unique beauty of both experiences.
Your classes are so fun, and your vibe so positive and infectious. Is this your default setting or do you have to work at being this way?
Thank you!!! I think I’m just generally a festive person. I have a campy sense of humor and find people who take themselves too seriously unnerving. Life is tough enough. Why not have a laugh, have a splash, get a tight ass and call it a day, ya know?
You've raised a staggering over $1 million dollars for No Kid Hungry, and the classes you're offering out east this summer are benefiting seven (yes reader, we said seven) other charities that focus on helping youth. It's incredible! Can you tell us a bit about why these youth organizations are so close to your heart?
No matter what I achieve in my career, or what magazine or television show features me, or what new fabulous Gucci cardigan I wear, I can never forget the little boy I was. I know what it’s like to feel helpless, to have an overwhelming feeling of lack, to feel unsafe, to be bullied in your home. So, it’s my duty and my privilege to do whatever I can to raise awareness and funds for kids who were like I was. My Torch’d classes and my Torch’d Shoppe in Wainscott are benefitting the iconic Children’s Museum of the East End, Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, i-tri, Project MOST, The Retreat, and Southampton Youth Association. These organizations tackle everything from child abuse prevention and intervention, shelter, after school programs, food pantries, career development and early childhood education.
Speaking of things close to your heart, your dog Davis is such a cutie. How long have you had him? And tell us honestly, do you go anywhere without him?
My baby!!! Davis (named after Bette), was a gift from my friend and client, Cathy Buxton, who saw me struggling when my first babes, Oliver Pickles and Duckie Waddles, passed away. He’s a quarantine baby, so he grew up literally at my side twenty four seven. He’s my little me. I actually decline events or dinner parties if I can’t bring him. He’s a regular at Chateau Marmont, Pastis, Le Bernardin, Sant Ambroeus, Sunset Beach and Moby's…and has a better closet than I do.
You seem to be quite a busy individual. How do you unwind at the end of the day? End of the week? You're obviously in great physical shape, but how do you keep your mind just as healthy as your body?
Wow…that’s a conversation for my therapist. Haha. I definitely am a workaholic, but I am very blessed to have people in my life who keep me sane and grounded. I have a circle of best girlfriends, a very patient boyfriend (Jeffrey aka Jeffrita), an energizer bunny of a manager (Michael Catalano aka Freddy) a fabulous masseuse (Stacey Assael), a meditation guru (Donna D’Cruz), a phenomenal facialist (Edyta Jarosz, who actually uses ONDA Beauty products on me per my request) and an incredible Kabbalah teacher Ruth Rosenberg who all keep me grounded and slap me back to reality if I get too big for my britches. My text threads with Kelly Ripa are a comedy act in itself…if not the actual script to Mommie Dearest. And finally, I get the most amazing facials at ONDA Beauty Sag Harbor from Katherine Sequeira. She is a genius.