Natarsha talks about her life, her career, and her motivations.

Our most popular Downtown Brooklyn Presents event this season by far has been Zumba @ MetroTech Commons. From the very first week, classes have been at capacity, and we’ve extended the season twice due to popular demand. Its success is not only evidence of people’s desire to get outside and exercise post-lockdown, but also a testament to the popularity of its instructor, Natarsha McQueen. We recently had the opportunity to ask her some questions and got to know a little more about Brooklyn’s renowned queen of fitness.

DBP: You have a dedicated fanbase that comes to your classes every week, but there’s a lot about you that they may not know. Tell us about yourself.

Natarsha McQueen (NM): I’m a 12-year breast cancer survivor, born and raised in Fort Greene, so I’m a Brooklyn girl to the core. I’ve got a beautiful rich heritage of African American, Jamaican and Japanese. I’ve naturally always loved to dance, so I started taking ballet at 5 years old. I spent my college years at the University of Maryland, but eventually moved back to NY and had a pretty fun career in modeling, and dancing in the theater. I have also spent time working a regular 9-5 at BET which was amazing, but I hate schedules, so my current career speaks to who I am.

I love music, I love brunch, ironically my favorite sport is boxing, and I’m also known to be pretty good at pool. If I’m not working, I’m either reading or crocheting… I’m very much a homebody. Of course, I love my work, but sometimes it can be frustrating in terms of representation. My goal is for Black women to see themselves represented in areas of fitness that they feel unseen & unwelcome, particularly in Barre & Pilates, which is why I’m so passionate about what I do. Fitness should be inclusive!

DBP: Our Zumba @ Brooklyn Commons series with you has had the biggest turnout of all of our events this year. Why do you think that Zumba brings so many people together?

NM: It’s just a truly fun environment where there’s no judgment and no stress. This year, we’ve all been inside our homes isolating from others so long that being able to connect with the world outside the home is a gift, especially since we’ve been disconnected from a sense of community. When the gyms closed, we all lost our extended family away from home. Everyone has that natural human need to interact with others and what better way to do that than with great music and dancing, languages that speak to everyone. That one hour allows people to escape from what’s happening around them and just be, myself included.

DBP: Have indoor fitness classes started up again at the Dodge Y? What have you learned in your time there?

NM: In-person classes have not yet resumed at Dodge, but they are currently offering virtual workouts – two of which I teach. Tuesdays, I teach a 30-minute express class at 6pm on Instagram Live in which the format changes every week. Wednesdays, I’m teaching a 45-minute Barre class on Facebook Live at 12pm. When I am teaching in person, I also teach Pilates, Barre, Yoga, Les Mills Body Pump, and I’m a personal trainer and nutrition coach.

I have definitely learned a lot while working at Dodge. The most important being that I learned is what my true passion is – I absolutely love what I do! I get to connect with people while helping them change the quality of their lives, both physically and mentally. I’ve also learned how to become a better instructor and trainer on both a personal and professional level. I encounter such a wide variety of personalities, fitness levels and scenarios, so experience with all of these aspects has become my best teacher.

DBP: Your dedication to fitness is inspiring. What got you into the industry, and what tips can you give others trying to get fit?

NM: I’ve always been into fitness as I come from a dance background, but I really got into it when my active cancer treatment was ending. Once I joined the Y, I started working with a trainer from the Livestrong program who helped me build my strength back up. From there, I started taking classes and lifting weights regularly, constantly being inspired by the instructors who helped build me up. It was from this experience that I decided I wanted shift gears and make this a career. The advice I would give to others trying to maintain a fitness lifestyle is to find a type of movement you enjoy because that encourages consistency.

Fitness should be fun and something you look forward to, not something you dread. Also, find a workout that’s realistic for you and your lifestyle and don’t be afraid to modify. It doesn’t mean you are less able, it means you are building yourself up on your terms, at your own pace.

DBP: The world is going through a lot right now. If you could change anything to make it more positive, what would you do?

NM: Ask people to contribute. If you don’t have money, that’s okay. Contribute your time. Spend time with the people in your life who may be feeling lonely. Donate money, time, or goods to organizations that are providing services for undeserved communities. While it may seem like a small gesture, that one thing you do can have a tremendous impact on someone’s well-being during these unpredictable times. I am really big on donating some of the proceeds from my virtual classes to my local food pantry in Bed Stuy. While some of the world has seemed to move on, the fact remains that there are still a lot of people struggling out there – mentally, emotionally & financially.

We thank Natarsha for taking the time to chat with us and tell us more about the work she does and the passion that drives it. Keep up to date with her and her schedule of classes by following her Instagram here.