by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace Daffron
Since 2006, Jacuana Sykes has had big plans. Back then, she was a business marketing major at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. For a class project, she had to create a marketing plan for a business. Instead of picking someone else’s business, she created her own. Well, almost. It was still just a plan. She kept it in her pocket to pull out when she would be ready to open the doors, but she took measures to make it an LLC and start saving. But even in college, she knew what she wanted: a one-stop shop for all things good health.
Selfish Fitness Center opened in Tupelo in May of 2018, and uses the same business model Sykes created back in school. It’s been tweaked here and there to accommodate certain things like social media, but the bones are still there: a one-stop shop. The idea is simple: As soon as a member walks through the door, they should be entirely focused on themselves and have the opportunity to be selfish about their health.
“Because we put so much emphasis on everyone else and we tend to forget about ourselves, the whole point of Selfish is that you have to give your best self to everyone else,” Sykes said. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not giving them the best you. Even with your kids, your family, your husband – if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re moody, you tend to be tired, fatigued, you’re not good to be around.”
The first installment of Selfish was the fitness studio. Sykes figured it would be the best first step with Selfish, because it allows people to get in good physical health before venturing off to the other aspects of the business. While they offer personal training sessions, the majority of what Selfish’s clients and members focus on the fitness classes. Sykes said her best workouts are always group fitness classes.
“I don’t need the equipment, I just need a class with people who motivate me, make me feel good, push me through it,” she said, adding that her clients feel the same. “They don’t want to get on a treadmill, they want to have some fun.”
With six instructors, two personal trainers, a massage therapist and a brand ambassador, there are a lot of different tastes and preferences at Selfish. Because of that, it can offer a slew of different classes, in hopes that everyone can find one class they enjoy. From classics like weekly yoga and old-school step, to kick-it-in-gear body sculpt, ab attack and boot camp, there are quite a few options from which to choose. Selfish also offers high-intensity interval training (HITT) like Turbo Kick, MixFit, jump rope and Pound. These classes put a focus on quick movements, and classes like Turbo Kick integrate things like punching and kicking the air. Pound uses drumsticks to literally pound on the ground and in the air. The jump rope class integrates things aside from just jumping rope, but Sykes said 10 minutes of jumping rope burns as many calories as running for half an hour.
But above all else, Selfish is known for its Zumba. When Sykes first moved to Tupelo, she joined a gym that offered fitness classes, one of which was Zumba. She taught lead that class for quite a while and gained a following – a group she lovingly called her Zumba Crew. When the gym switched gears and stopped offering group classes, Syke’s could no longer teach there, and her Zumba Crew got antsy.
“They were like, ‘Where are we gonna do Zumba at? Didn’t you say you wanted to open up your own studio? Hurry up! What’s taking so long?’” Sykes said laughing.
From there, she knew there was a need and a want for her fitness classes in Tupelo, so she decided to make Selfish a reality. Members of her Zumba Crew even helped Sykes find the location, all to push the process along. All in all, she stopped leading the class in March of 2018, and Selfish opened its doors later that year in May. Sykes said despite being a dance class, most of her Zumba attendees don’t know how to dance, but they can follow along and have a great time.
“I don’t care, you can make up your own moves, I’m just here to motivate you to move. I’m an instructor, but I’m just a motivator,” she said. “I’m going to motivate you to sweat, I’m going to motivate you to be your best self, and that’s all I am is your motivation. Like I said, you can make up your own moves if you don’t get my moves, I don’t care, freestyle.”
For Sykes, the key is just getting out and moving, and why not have fun while doing that?
“You’re going to see results, you’re going to have fun, you’re going to be around people who want to see you win, who’s going to motivate you,” she said.
In conjunction with the personal training and group classes offered through the fitness studio, Selfish serves as a massage therapy center and a fitness apparel retailer featuring Selfish’s own clothing designs, from sports bras, sweat-wicking shirts for men and women, to waist trainers.
“Nobody needs to go anywhere else,” Sykes said.