When Cody Rigsby moved from Los Angeles to North Carolina at age 8 with his mother, two dogs, and three cats, he experienced "a complete culture shock."
"I remember looking over at my mom and being like 'Mom, where am I Rollerblading?'" Rigsby says.
Growing up gay in a small Southern town wasn't easy. The conservative and religious values of the region fostered guilt and shame, making self-acceptance difficult for Rigsby.
Fortunately, he always had dancing, something he's been passionate about his whole life. His passion propelled him toward the bright lights of New York City and eventually helped him to become one of the most popular Peloton instructors. He describes his classes as a mix of "musicality, rhythm, and movement all transferred over from dance" for a fun experience that eschews traditional workouts.
"For me, fitness training is really about creating a relationship with myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and intertwining all of those aspects. I think when you're loving yourself and loving your body through movement, it makes you feel stronger and more powerful. In turn, mentally, you have positive thoughts about yourself. You see yourself as a resilient, strong person, and that creates, in itself, emotional joy."
It's this type of attitude that has made his classes so critical during the lockdowns amid the global pandemic. When gyms closed across the country, many people turned to home exercise equipment to stay in shape and stave off cabin fever. Peloton reported to its shareholders that membership more than doubled, from 1.4 million to 3.1 million, in the 2020 fiscal year. Rigsby, a self-described "opinionated homosexual," sees this as the perfect opportunity to extend LGBTQ+ visibility right into people's homes, calling it a Trojan horse to get past that first gate, so to speak.
"I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a gay person, even though some people don't know," Rigsby says. But when he becomes a part of a person's fitness routine, it allows them "to change their mindset about what a gay person is or looks like, gives them a call to action to speak up or to act within their own communities," he says.
"I think that has a domino effect. These little things add up, you know."