by Sydney Blaylock, Bean Soup Times Contributor
Naimah "Xstra" Cyprian is a professional performing artist, fitness trainer, dance instructor, educator and mentor. She displays that ‘xstra’ spark while exhibiting passion, knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and energy to whatever she's involved in. She studied performing arts management and dance at Columbia College Chicago.
With close to 20 years involvement in the entertainment and fitness industries, her recent highlights includes hosting her first women's empowerment conference called R.U.N. It, appearing as a guest fitness expert speaker on the "WE" Smackdown, an online radio program on Global News Forum, and promoting healthy-styles in her online group, Fitness by Xstra on Facebook.
She has toured as a principle back-up dancer with celebrity recording R&B King, R. Kelly on his Key to Ignition tour, and The Best of Both Worlds tour w/ R. Kelly and Jay-Z. She was a featured principle dancer/ roller skater in Endiskize's "We Don't Back Down" music video.
She also was a featured princle dancer in two of R. Kelly's music videos, "Happy People" and "Thonia Thong", as well as, perform on the BET and BMI Awards. She's choreographed and performed for numerous local artists and toured with internationally known performance arts companies such as Culture Shock Chicago, Andrea Kelly Dance Theater and Global Girls Inc.
Naimah is a certified fitness instructor with the YMCA of the USA and World Instructor Training School (W.I.T.S), and a certified personal trainer with International Sports Science Association (I.S.S.A.). She is an active member of IDEA Health and Fitness Association. She has taught at several dance and fitness workshops and classes for gyms, schools, churches, community centers, outdoor community markets, seminars, including appearing in a fitness DVD with Body Parts Fitness, Ltd.
Naimah has recently returned from Stuttgart, Germany where she took a team of four assistants and lead a fitness workshop at a women's empowerment conference. She has coached Evergreen Park Community High School varsity poms team for 3 years, leading them to the place 3rd in their first competition ever in history. Currently, she is working on producing and creating her first collection of fitness DVDs and writing a self help book. Naimah enjoys spending time with her family, mentoring youth, inspiring others, traveling and her favorite activity besides dance is definitely roller skating.
What was it like for you growing up?
I’m from Englewood and due to images in the media people probably think “oh my gosh you live in the hood and can possibly be in a gang” when that is definitely not the case. My childhood was exciting. I knew every kid on the block and their parents. I grew up in the same neighborhood where I attended grade school and high school. I eventually jumped on the deer’s train to college. So I was pretty well known in Chicago growing up and dabbled enough to travel on my own around the city.
How was life before your success with dance, modeling, and fitness?
Adventurous. I dibbled and dabbled in almost some of everything. I was involved in arts and crafts, writing, piano, singing, and designing Barbie clothes. I was very adventurous because my parents exposed me to a lot of things. Anything that I said “oh” or “ah” to my mother’s response would be “let’s check it out”. My mother always assisted my creativity and then dad would just simply ask for the price. I wasn’t spoiled by all means. If I ever got into something then I would have to stick with it for a while.
How exactly did you get the name “Xstra” was it created by you or given to you?
It was a combination of both. A good friend of mine named Phoenix Fanon that I attended to Columbia College with was present when the name was established. I’d just come off of the tour with R. Kelly and during the tour I was called “Bo Bo”. During a dance workshop for children, the children would always call me “Boo Boo” instead so I immediately parted from the name. So one day I was doing choreography for Phoenix’s song “Jukebox” and she said to me “All of your moves are so extra. Why can’t you keep them simple”? I responded, “That’s right I am extra” and then we paused and looked at one another screaming “that’s it! Extra is your new nickname!” Later, I eventually changed the spelling to “Xstra”.
If you could choose your best accomplishment in the field of the arts what would it be?
My best accomplishment as a fitness instructor was when I performed on stage at the Mayor Daley’s Fitness Convention in Navy Pier. I was on stage by myself and I captured the energy of the entire crowd. I remember going to those conventions and desiring to be a performer and once I had the opportunity that really hit home. Secondly, my most recent accomplishment was getting the opportunity to do a four-day fitness convention for women in Germany. I put together a power point presentation for women that were housewives, daughters, women in the military, depressed women, and mentally challenged women. For me to come from America to share knowledge about health to women was a huge accomplishment and blessing.
Name some things that you have done to stay healthy mentally, physically, and socially on a day-to-day basis?
I am mindful of my surrounding first off. I make sure I surround myself with positive people because negative people can take a toll on your body. I stay prayed up and always giving thanks which definitely helps. Physically, I get involved in a lot of activities that I enjoy outside of the gym. I went back to my childhood and figured what are the things that I liked to do. So I play sports, roller-skate, bike ride, and play soccer to stay in shape. I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I became a fitness instructor to make sure that I continue to work out on a regular basis. If I’m getting paid to work out then there is no space for excuses for not working out.
What do you have to say to those people that have tried every pill, smoothie or work out tape to loose weight but have had no results?
I would like to say, that it’s not the external activity that they can do that is going to help change their lifestyle mentally, physically and spiritually. The change has to first start at home. Ask yourself “How did I end up like this?” I think that once you get down to the core of the issue then you can become knowledgeable of what your body can handle food wise. Take the time to educate yourself, talk to a dietitian, and go get your food sensitivity test done. Of course as we get older we can't just eat fast food and sugar all day. You will notice that these quick finish programs, pills, and smoothies may not be the best source for you. If you don’t start from the heart and home then you will bounce exactly where you started. Open your mouth and ask professionals.
What sets your workouts methods apart from others?
What sets me apart is that I make it “xstracise” instead of “exercise”. The reason why I say that is becomes I’ve gone through trainings such as P90 X, Taebo, Sanity to see what the latest trends and keeping people interested. In my classes, I am able to modify all of the movements and give people options. Another thing that stands out is my personality. I have a ball! I educate people on the movements and how the movements can benefit you tomorrow or the next few days. Everything is tailor made for whatever class I'm teaching whether its teens, adults or seniors. I definitely don’t take the same approach for everyone, which sets me apart. I’m fun and realistic versus a commercial cookie cutter instructor.
I once I had a conversation with someone and she questioned, why don’t you think Black women exercise? Is it because of the fear of ruining our hair?
That’s a weird question because I’m in this industry and I do know a lot of Black women that exercise. Personally, from what I’ve seen, women don’t exercise because of time management or they make excuses. Sometimes it is with the hair but I’ve seen women actually work out with hair-bonnets and hair-rollers early in the morning. I will flip the script though, Black women do work out because Black women love to dance but they don’t associate dancing with exercise. We work out! I will keep it clean! We work out (laughs)! The thing about commercials is that they are not relatable because there aren’t that many Black women in fitness commercials. A myth that I heard is that Black women don’t work out is because they don’t want to loose their curves and their butt. At the same time you still have to work out and keep it toned.
What is something’s that you’re working on right now besides fitness?
I educate the youth and do seminars annually. I am working on my own fitness DVD and a collection of everything that I’m experiencing and worked with. I am also coming out with a self-health book. I am working hard because no one else will do it for me. I want to have something that my family tree can be proud of, this is so much bigger than me.
What is Xstra like behind the scenes?
I just enjoy life. For example, something that I’ve done recently is climbed a tree that was at least 25 feet tall. This was one of those trees that you need a boost for in order to climb. Something else that I did while I was out with a friend was hopped in the front of a shopping cart and allowed my friend to push me all the way to the store to return it. All I could do the whole time is scream and holler. Besides that I have vowed that while my grandparents are still on this earth I will be there for them, so I go out of my way to insure that they are living comfortably.
What is a life goal for you or something that you must do?
I must live every hearts desire. My grandmother told me “As long as it doesn’t mess up your representation, you don’t end up in jail, and you don’t hurt anyone then do it.” That’s is something that I have to do. If there is blood in my veins, I’m going to do it.