Aeshia DeVore Branch is the founder of PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT, a healthy lifestyle brand that makes fitness fun and affordable for women. She’s also the mastermind behind PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT fest ATLANTA, an annual fitness festival, SWEATlebrity Awards Show, and fundraising effort that benefits Sporty Girls Inc, Girls On The Run, Dance 411, and TeenDiariesFoundation.org. This year’s festival is on September 15th. To attend, click here. And for more info on Aeshia and her passion for healthy living, keep reading.

  1. How did you get into the business of inspiring others?

I started my career in the TV industry, and worked my way up from intern at ABC to producer on Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts. While 6 months pregnant with my first child and traveling to produce an episode of Iconoclasts featuring Venus Williams and Wyclef Jean, I realized that I wanted to be more present in the lives of my children while building something that can empower a community of female leaders.

So, in 2007, I left my job to provide virtual mentorship to aspiring female journalists in cities all over the nation, and in 2011 I launched PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT in an effort to help end childhood obesity. By 2015, my passion had turned into a business; PGS had become a lifestyle brand with products and experiences that people wanted to purchase over and over again.

  1. You’ve talked pretty publicly about how much Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign motivated you to start PRETTY GIRLS SWEAT. What, specifically, spoke to you about her movement, and what did you hope to add to the conversation surrounding childhood obesity?

I had overweight cousins, obese neighbors, family members with high blood pressure, and I’d lost loved ones to diabetes. It seemed like a personal problem until the Let’s Move! campaign showed me that it was actually a national problem. 1 in 3 American kids and teens today are overweight or obese, and childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.

So I was motivated to step up and help. Young people take their cues from celebrities and from their peers, and I had accumulated a teen audience throughout the years as well as fostered relationships with celebrities. It seemed like a no-brainer to tap into both networks, to try to make fitness fun, and to use the power of social media to prove that healthy living could be cool.

 

  1. Has fitness always been an integral part of your life?

Absolutely!

After a failed attempt at cheerleading in the 7th grade, I tried out for volleyball and made the team. The confidence I received from that sport led me to play basketball and then run track, where I anchored our 4×400 relay team in a state championship win during my 8th-grade year. In high school I continued playing all three sports, and even made the varsity basketball team my freshman year. My teammates became a fantastic source of support. We truly understood each other and worked hard for one another on the court and off.

During my senior year, I was captain in all three sports, the vice president of the student council, editor of the yearbook, and graduated 11th in my class. I can wholeheartedly say that the confidence, leadership skills, focus, and determination I gained through sports led me to become the woman that I am today.

  1. Why teen girls?

As a former athlete who still thrives off of an active lifestyle, I am well aware of the importance of introducing people to sports at a young age. Physical activity is vital to the physical, social, and emotional development of young people. So I target our community outreach efforts towards college-age girls. College students are the perfect audience for change because they have the freedom to make their own decisions and they’re passionate about impacting their communities.

When we give girls opportunities to lead, and when we provide them with an accessible platform/support group to keep them motivated to take care of their health, they become catalysts for change. Eventually these same girls become mothers who make 80% of the health care decisions in their homes. If we erase the negative stigma associated with sweat and educate young women about healthy living, they undoubtedly will help end childhood obesity by raising their own healthy children.

  1. What’s been one of the most rewarding moments so far for you, running PGS?

As a for-profit digital media, e-commerce, and event management company, we love training health leaders through our PGS Ambassador Program. The students we work with annually on college campuses nationwide help their peers lose weight, gain confidence, make healthier food choices, improve in school, and build friendships.

I call these girls “game changers,” and they go on to become doctors, personal trainers, physical therapists, journalists, corporate executives, and leaders of their own health movements . We’re currently at 20 universities with a goal of making 250 campuses healthier by 2020. Every moment we induct a female student into our “sweat sisterhood” is a rewarding moment for me.

  1. What’s your greatest hope for your organization, and for the wellness movement in America, moving forward?

To celebrate diversity in the health industry. It’s crucial for women to take an interest in fitness, be exposed to healthy lifestyles, get educated about the benefits of eating natural foods, and see a reflection of their body type and skin color in the fitness industry from a young age. In order for them to bloom, we must plant the seed of possibility in their minds. The health of our country depends on it.

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