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It’s a term devotees of SoulCycle’s Stacey Griffith are well aware of, as it practically pops up within seconds when her classes become available online. Known as Stacey G, she is among the most in-demand instructors at SoulCycle, and getting in is tough — imagine that hot restaurant, or Studio 54 in its Seventies heyday, though this exercise is definitely sweatier. Griffith’s coaching style is considered unique, as is the number of entertainment and fashion types who take her class, including Madonna, Chelsea Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Linda Wells, Nicole Kidman and Hilary Swank.
This story first appeared in the July 14, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Stacey is an immensely unselfish motivator who is unique, tireless and truly joyful,” says Brooke Shields. “She makes you want to be the best ‘you.’” Molly Sims calls her “my Beyoncé. She gets me going, she gets me moving, she gets me motivated.”
Sitting in her office on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Griffith, who exudes a tough tomboy vibe, chokes up when she talks about her following.
“When you find what you love to do, you never ever go to work,” she says. “There is a new song, or a new person coming in. It’s always so exciting.”
And of her fans, “They are getting this feeling of excitement and joy and love, and workout, inspiration, motivation and coaching. All of that, and the spiritual aspect, is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that I think every person searches for in their lives.”
Griffith started spinning with friends in California in the early Nineties. Then in her early 20s and heavily into the Los Angeles party scene, she would stay up nights, while friends “would literally go from the club to the shower to the car to the spin studio. I couldn’t understand what the hype was. I just wanted to sleep in on Saturday mornings, but they were all obsessed so I decided one morning to go with them. From the second I took my first spin class, I was totally hooked — on the music, the vibe, the experience.”
It eventually led to a career as a spin instructor, although it took a while for Griffith to catch on. “I was fired from almost every spin studio I worked for,” she recalls. “From 1996 until I met Julie and Elizabeth [Rice and Cutler, SoulCycle founders], every group fitness director would come up to me and say, ‘Look, I don’t understand what you’re doing on that bike but that’s not spinning. You can’t do that here.’ So I would keep teacher-hopping to each studio that would just give me a shot to be myself, and probably Crunch Fitness was the first in 1996. I was at Crunch for 10 years, teaching my style — very dance-y, very cardio, very party.”
When Cutler approached her about auditioning for an opportunity in New York, she jumped at the chance and started with SoulCycle when it opened in 2006. Its candle-lit studios and spiritual, introverted approach appealed to her from the get-go. “Finally,” she remembers, “someone was open to nurturing my balance of spiritual, a little crazy, a little deep, and a little dance-y, and really, since Julie and Elizabeth and SoulCycle, it has taken a whole new next-level approach to what an actual indoor cycling class is.”
Instead of teaching from the bike, Griffith coaches from the floor, directly interacting with the class, sometimes even dropping to the ground and putting her sole to the wheel of a cycler to gauge their speed. She is as much instructing as she is performing, while photographer girlfriend Debby Hymowitz demonstrates the moves on the instructor bike.
“I was a DJ,” Griffith says. “I was a stand-up comic. I was a flash-in-the-pan actress, and I am a horrible actress. I always say these people are enter-trained, not entertained.”
As Kelly Ripa puts it, “Not only is Stacey an educated fitness instructor, she’s so entertaining it’s more like fitness theater.”
On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon in Bridgehampton, when most people would sit on the beach or poolside, Griffith packed a studio. Musicwise, she kicked off with Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” followed by some moaning Barry White, peppy Madonna and David Guetta’s “Play Hard.” The crowd demonstrated such verve that it was ripe for a “Saturday Night Live” skit — the one with heads exploding with excitement.
In an age when everyone with a following is looking to brand themselves, Griffith plays down such aspirations.
“The thing that makes it not really on my bucket list, so to speak, is because Julie and Elizabeth have done such an amazing job branding SoulCycle, and I really feel I am an integral part of that wheel,” she says.
She did, however, hint at a potential sneaker project, which would come as no surprise. Her office features a cool wall installation of more than 100 pairs from the likes of Lanvin, Céline, Givenchy, Missoni, New Balance and Adidas. Fashion, in fact, plays an integral role in her persona. Favorite labels include Rag & Bone, Vince, Helmut Lang and Lucien Pellat-Finet. To the interview, she wore a blue Ralph Lauren men’s shirt with cut-off sleeves, white Saint Laurent jeans and Céline Vans. She also loves Hermès and J. Crew. She has a close rapport with J. Crew Group chairman and chief executive officer Millard “Mickey” Drexler, who is also one of her regular spinners. Drexler “soul cycles” six days a week and has even been given the nickname “Godfather of SoulCycle,” a badge he carries with pride.
“It’s well beyond an exercise class,” he says. “She has great stage presence. You kind of forget how hard you are working on the bicycle.”
Griffith has also informed Drexler sartorially. “She is a very good J. Crew men’s customer and understands how to wear men’s clothes in a very Stacey-like way,” he explains. “She started wearing men’s Ludlow suits early on, and we are now doing the women’s Ludlow. We are doing a custom Ludlow men’s suit in an off-white Italian linen fabric for Stacey, and will now also do the same linen suit in our collection.”
As for Griffith, such adoration just fuels her motivation. “I really just want people to watch what they eat, and, every single time they are on the bike, to channel their inner warrior and take time for themselves,” she says. “In that moment, when I have them for those 45 minutes, I give them the space to manifest their own destiny.”