WONder Woman: Jessie Diaz-Herrera
“Violet, baby, don’t throw your iPad!” Jessie Diaz-Herrera shouts across the room. She’s 15 minutes into an Instagram Live dance class, the music is going, Jessie’s mid-choreo, and her 4-year-old daughter is having trouble holding it together (editor's note: aren't we all??).
Jessie, otherwise known as @curveswithmoves on Instagram, is a body-positive dance instructor, educational consultant, mom, and wife. And when her husband needed to be quarantined due to a positive Covid-19 test in April, it was on Jessie to make it work on her own—all while worrying about her husband’s health, home-schooling Violet, doing nursing duties, and putting on a brave face to make sure her daughter didn’t feel overwhelmed.
No surprise, Jessie rocked it. By the end of the live dance class, she had helped her daughter go from feeling upset to twirling in circles and requesting one more song—without (literally) missing a beat.
Ahead of Mother’s Day, we connected with Jessie to find out what it was like to balance it all. Read on for her interview and learn more about Jessie’s incredibly inspiring classes on her channel or visit @yourdaywon on to find her 30-minute dance parties (including the one with Violet!) on our Instagram TV.
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WHAT ARTHRITIS?! 🤣 You know I almost didn’t do this challenge because I knew how much work your knees take. People kept asking me to do it and I would scuff thinking “I can’t do it! It’s going to hurt my knees so much.” But sometimes as a dancer you feel guilted into trying. Like everyone is doing it, and people are waiting for you to do it, so get to it! Ugh the pressure of a dance challenge is real y’all! 🥵 I tried a couple times and felt dumb, and so I stopped. Thought about it and came back the next day to modify it. Because if I learned anything about myself through dance and fitness is that we do this for ourselves! And so there should be NO SHAME in a mod or variation because your body knows what it likes and can handle. So here is my slightly modified #cooloffchallenge I honestly feel amazing adapting it to myself then trying to adapt my body to others- PERIODT. Outfit by @yourdaywon Song: Cool Off @missymisdemeanorelliott Challenge by: @itsbankhead
As someone who has danced her whole life, why is bringing in the body positivity element important to you?
Going to different dance classes in New York, I was often the only person of color or the only plus-size body there. I could see that diversity was really lacking. I wanted to create a space where all different types of people could come and have fun without any negativity or competition. My class is about feeling the rhythm in your body while releasing any negative connotations about your body, releasing the feeling of competing with yourself in the mirror, and releasing any assumption that you can't do certain things because of the way you look.
What’s it been like to keep dancing, while balancing being a mom, working, and caring for your husband during this time?
It’s funny. People without kids right now feel like they have too much time, but people with kids, we have negative time. With a preschooler, you can’t do virtual learning yet, so I’m home-schooling, while working for a school that is doing remote learning, playing nurse because my husband’s in quarantine, and worrying at night. It was intense for a while. My husband is out of quarantine now, but it was a lot of resilience both emotionally and physically.
Dance is that zen moment for me. It’s my moment of calm, so for me during this time, I still loved teaching dance because that was the one normal thing for me. I’ve cried during live dance classes, I’ve shouted, I’ve laughed, I’ve gotten upset--but those raw moments felt good and being able to share that with other people was powerful.
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Do any of your workouts look like this lately? Not gonna lie, Friday I almost had an internal breakdown while I was teaching class for @yourdaywon because my daughter was throwing a tantrum while I was teaching a LIVE class. It was all because she wanted to watch YouTube on her tablet which I don’t let her watch unsupervised and well there she went. Full on yelling, threw her tablet and started to disrupt my workout. Now normally I wouldn’t accept this type of behavior from my child but truth is, she is tired of being cooped up. She has no idea why she is stuck in the house, she is bored, she wants her friends and the simple act of not having YouTube threw her off the deep end. But haven’t we all been there? Haven’t we been to a place where we’ve just had enough during this quarantine? I know I have. So I picked her up and she joined the workout. Her crying turned to laughter, and her tantrum turned into dancing. It’s the best way to get through life. For all the parents out there, I feel you. Imagine trying to navigate this quarantine for yourself and for little humans who don’t understand. My heart is with you, my weighted squats feel you , and my poked eye sees you! Keep it up! You’re doing the best you can. #momlife #mompreneur #plussizefitness #plussizewellness
Did you have any scary moments?
My husband is out of quarantine now, thank God, but it doesn’t mean he’s fully okay. He still feels tired--this disease has lasting effects. We’re slowly getting back into our routine. Because my husband has asthma, when he was quarantined and fighting Covid, he had a lot of breathing issues. There was a point it got so bad, he almost went to the hospital.
He waited until I was in the shower to leave, because he didn’t want to scare me. He just sent me a text saying, “I’m not going to freak you out, but I’m going.” Here I am dripping wet, jumping out of the shower, thinking okay, I still have to stay calm for my daughter. I didn’t know this at the time, but our car ended up having a flat tire so he decided not to go. We were able to have a virtual session with our doctor, get some medications, and luckily he was able to catch his breath a little more.
We’re so thankful your husband is feeling better now! Were there any sweet times too?
My husband was quarantined for his birthday, which was tough. He loves funfetti cake. I had been trying for weeks to find a bakery that makes them, and mixes at all of the stores were sold out. So I bought all the ingredients and my daughter and I spent the whole day making a two-layer funfetti cake completely from scratch. My husband was so surprised and happy and we did a little Zoom party after with all of his friends.
It was so inspiring to watch you to simultaneously care for your daughter and teach amazing body-positivity dance classes live. How do you talk to your daughter about body positivity?
My daughter has a speech delay, so she doesn’t understand a lot fully right now. It’s good in a sense because she’s blissfully ignorant about negative talk about body image. But we also want to make sure that when kids do start making fun of each other in school, she feels confident in her skin.
Just myself being a plus-size body and teaching dance, I’m showing her things that you don’t normally see. In normal times, we take family hikes together, so she can see that exercise isn’t something reserved for certain types of families. Her family is active and setting an example of what health, wellness, and love look like.
I started doing nightly affirmations with her. And now she doesn’t want to go to bed without them.
How do you cultivate body positivity in yourself to make sure you’re a strong role model?
Body positivity is a journey, but it really starts within. It’s also not just a plus-size women’s problem. Plus-size people might feel it more because there are already negative connotations about our bodies in society, but it’s something everyone struggles with.
For me, it started with how I wanted to change on the inside. I would think of one thing nice that someone had said about me that really stuck and then say it over to myself as an affirmation. Or I would think, when do I feel most beautiful and most confident? Why is that? How do I get that feeling to stick? It needs to come from an authentic place.