Interview with Nathalie Huerta, founder and owner of The Perfect Sidekick, the only LGBT gym in the nation, located in Oakland, CA.
Mixed Nation: What made you passionate about starting a LGBT gym in Oakland, CA?
Nathalie: Well, the LGBT part happened because I got tired of feeling weird going to the gym. For example, if I was lifting weights, it felt like the guy next to me was sizing himself up against me. And in the bathroom, girls kept covering themselves up as if I was looking at them. So, it got to the point where I just didn’t feel comfortable and I figured I probably wasn’t the only lesbian wanting to get fit and having to deal with awkward situations like these at mainstream gyms. Deciding to open it up in the Bay Area was a no-brainer because of the large, diverse LGBT community here.
Mixed Nation: What is the hardest part about starting your own small business?
Nathalie: I think it’s no harder than getting in shape. I don’t have a trainer, but I definitely have mentors that I meet with, who show me how to do things better and then I go home and repeat that and over time, I get better. One of the hardest things is staying positive when your business is going through roller-coasters. Just because we are growing, developing, and evolving, it doesn’t mean we’re rich and we’re still at the point where we need to invest in ourselves. I would love to have open access gym hours and provide more, but that takes time and development and it never happens as quickly as you want it to and it never comes out perfect so there are always going to be people to judge you on that and you have to do what you do when you workout: tune the world out and get it done.
Mixed Nation: What is the most rewarding aspect of owning this gym?
Nathalie: As a trainer, the most rewarding part is seeing clients internalize their workouts and applying that to real life. Self-improvement and self-love is not actually working out but it’s just like working out in the sense that you have to make yourself a priority. To see clients get this principle and apply it to other areas of their life, that’s dope!
Source: The Perfect Sidekick
Mixed Nation: How is the LGBT community a mixed nation within itself?
Nathalie: Oh my gosh, where do I start? It’s a mixed nation because there’s so much diversity- there’s like a subcategory of a subcategory of a subcategory. It’s incredibly diverse, especially here in the Bay Area. And a lot of times, socializing among this extremely diverse community is centered around bars, clubs, and partying. But you know, some of us have a lot of issues, messed up coming out stories, self-acceptance issues, so some people drink a lot or have other unhealthy habits to deal. So what I think is a unique twist and what I think is the heart of TPS is that we want to foster diverse socializing but entirely focused around health & well-being, and not just from a physical point. We truly care about our clients overall well-being so if we notice you’re bummed out, we’re going to say “what’s up” and check-in with you.
Mixed Nation: How do you identify and what was the process like for you to recognize, accept that identity, and then come out?
Nathalie: I think I’m pretty fluid and there’s just some hot people, period. But I do date women primarily. I knew something was up in high school, when I would fall asleep, repeating myself, “I don’t like Leslie. I don’t like Leslie.” Leslie was my best friend at the time. Even the first girl that hit on me, when she told me she liked me, at first I was like, “nah, that’s not my thing”, but that’s when the idea really got into my head and I started reflecting and then realizing how I had had crushes on some friends back in middle school.
Then once I had accepted my identity and began dating a girl, I was kinda outed at school. The girl didn’t go to my school but she would come to my basketball games and when she wouldn’t respond to the guys hitting on her and people noticed that she was there with me, people started talking. My sisters would get in fights because people were giving them a hard time about these rumors about me, so I came out to them first.
My parents, I came out to when I was in college. My dad saw that I was upset one morning, and asked me what was wrong. I was like, “no dad, you’re trippin, I‘m ok”. Then he said, “I know you have a girlfriend.” And at first I denied it but ended up telling him and he was pretty cool about it. Then that evening he told my mom over dinner and when I came home that night, I found my mother drunk, throwing up, and crying her eyes out. It was pretty bad. It broke my heart to see her like that, to know that you caused that but it’s over something you have no control over- that was hard. But now, years later, they’ve gotten over it, are supportive, and vote in support of gay rights.
Mixed Nation: What is your vision for how our world could move towards being truly inclusive of diversity?
Nathalie: I think more people should care less about other peoples opinions about them and how they live their life. I feel like, in order for people to really be happy, people need to be themselves, but a lot of people don’t express their true selves because they’re concerned about what others think, So if you just took that element out and people just had compassion for each other, I think that would have a huge ripple effect.