pretty girls train
Chasity Montgomery, better known as Chas, is the owner of Pretty Girls Train. After teaching fitness classes and adding her own creative flair, Chas opened her own studio, known as “the Queendom” by the women who attend classes there. She started Pretty Girls Train in 2014 and has amassed a loyal following, with up to 80 women attending classes regularly. We sat down with Chas to hear her story.
So you started Pretty Girls Train. How did that idea come to you?
Getting into fitness was my way to keep myself accountable and keep myself on track. I’m the type of person who will not show up for myself, but if I told you I was going to show up, I’ll show up for you. So when I started in fitness, I loved to dance, and it started with me just teaching classes. If people go to different classes they’ll see the same routines, but the instructor adds their own flair. I’m creative, so I started doing my own thing, and it ended up just being my own style. That’s how Train Pretty with Chas was born. That’s what we called the class for the longest. Then, someone said “What if you called it ‘Pretty Girls Train’? Then that way it makes it bigger than you.” I thought that made so much sense because this is bigger than me. I would love for people to do Pretty Girls Train and to take my name off, you know? So, it really just came about from me trying to keep myself accountable. I was 52 pounds heavier when I started teaching classes. It wasn’t supposed to become this. It was just supposed to be a class on Wednesday. Now, I teach 7 times a week.
Did you start out just going to classes, and then decided that you wanted to teach them?
I went to one person’s class, and I really enjoyed it. This particular lady, I’ve told her many times that she was the reason that I became an instructor. I believe at the time, she was about 40. And I was about 30 when I started taking her class. I told myself, “I could see myself doing that when I’m her age.” And then the more I kept going, I started thinking “Oh I could do that at like, 35.” And then I was like “I could do this in a couple weeks.” The desire to do it just pulled me in. When I was younger, if you spent the night over at my house, we were going to dance. I had a whole routine for you to learn the whole weekend. Everybody who spent the night at my house knew that we were going to dance. So I’ve been an instructor my whole life, I just didn’t know it.
Was it the same routine for every group, or did you always make up a new routine?
I always made up a new routine. It was like “Okay, you’re coming? We got a new routine to learn.” And the next day after we learned it, we were going in the front yard with the boombox and inviting all our friends to watch us dance.
So when you started teaching classes, did you immediately open your own gym?
I didn’t even want my own gym. Never. Even when I opened it. I had no desire to have my own space—pay the rent, pay the lights, that was not my desire at all. All I wanted to do was dance, with no responsibility. You know, perform for the people in my class, pack my stuff up, and walk out. But I was forced [to open a gym] because the Queens kept coming and coming and coming by the pack. We needed space. And you know, people like to talk after, and just hang out, and when you’re renting space, you gotta go. We needed our own community. You never know what women go through when they leave here. 1 in 9 women are in abusive relationships. 1 in 9. 1 in 9 leave from us, and they go home, and they have to deal with something that is horrible. Fortunately, I never dealt with that personally, but I know the statistic, and when I look at the room, I know this is the happiest place that they’ve been all day. So that hour for them has to be magical. It has to be uplifting, because you never know what’s going to happen when they leave. I’m clear that there are women in my room that are being abused. Whether they say it or not, I know the statistic. There are a lot of women in here. So, with that being said, I don’t want to kick them out right after. If they want to hang out, let’s hang out, let’s talk. You never know what it is. So that’s how I got my own space—I was kind of forced.
So you were always a trainer, whether you realized it or not. But what did you want to do when you were little? What did you see yourself doing when you grew up?
I just wanted to be a star. I still could be a movie star! I still kind of want to do that. I’ve always wanted to be an influencer in the biggest way that I could be. They used to go around school and ask what people wanted to be and they’d say teachers and doctors, and I didn’t want to do any of that. I wanted to be something where I could just be free. I’m so happy when I’m free. I can’t be constricted or confined to hours in a building, it just makes me sad. I know actresses have schedules, but I would be happy with whatever that is. I’ve never taken an acting class, I’ve never taken a dance class, I’ve never done anything like that. But that doesn’t mean anything.
It also sounds like you always wanted to be an entrepreneur, like you always had that in you.
Yes. Absolutely. I ran the playground.
Did you do dance or cheer in high school?
I can’t believe you never took a dance class.
I never took a dance class. My mom was a single mom and it was not in her budget to put me in dance. I was a different kind of kid in school, though. I was a troubled kid. I wasn’t good. I was giving my mother all types of hell. And then I became a teenage mother. Me and my daughter are not that far in age. We moved because my mother felt like the particular school system that I was in was making me worse. She was like “We gotta get out of here. You are just getting worse. We’re going to move you to a new environment, and you get to start over. The reputation that you have here, you don’t have to take that with you.” [The new school] had this marching band, and with the band they had the baton team, the twirlers. I went to tryouts. I never did it before, but I was good. I picked up the routine so quick—I knew how to do it all. Everybody was like “You definitely got it.” This school was predominately white. There were no black girls that had ever even been on this team. So, long story short, I did not get picked. And neither did any other black girl. I was clearly better than everyone, to the point where everyone else trying out was like “You got it.” But I went to check the list, and I was not on it.
So, that summer I got pregnant with my daughter. I didn’t have anything to do. I had too much idle time. My time would have been taken up with practice and games and things like that. I never tried out to do any dance or anything after that. It was a wrap—I was a mom.
But now you’re having your moment. You didn’t make that dance team, but now you’re part of something so much bigger than what that would have been.
It’s not always a “No,” it’s just a “Not right now.” I had to go down a different path and do other things and create my own lane.
So, what are some tips that you have for managing your time? You are insanely busy.
I am. You have to have a Will-Do list and a Must-Do list. You just have to prioritize. You have to know the day before what you’re going to do the next day. You need to know what needs to be done, no matter what. So you just have to prioritize and figure out what’s important. I also make sure I’m on top of my personal development—just keeping myself and my own personal cup filled. I don’t take care of anybody else before I take care of myself. That’s another big part of managing people. You cannot manage people before you manage yourself. You are the most important. Your feelings, your well-being, your lifestyle, your everything, is more important than anybody, including children. You’re first. You can’t take care of anybody else if you don’t take care of yourself first. I take care of myself every day. I do a gratitude list every single morning. I list things I’m grateful for. It’s cliché, but gratitude changes your attitude. Period.
I listen to personal development too— things that are going to personally help me develop into a better human being. Whether I’m reading a book on self-help or leadership or listening to a youtube video while I’m getting ready in the morning, or listening to an audiobook as I’m driving, these are things I have to do. There are plenty of phone calls that I don’t answer if you call me too early, because I haven’t taken care of myself. I don’t talk to anybody until I’ve taken care of myself. That is a big way to manage yourself and your time.
What is something you could not go a day without?
I could not go a day without my phone. That’s where I make my money. How do people find out about Train Pretty? From my phone, because I posted something. If I don’t have my phone, I’m not making money that day. I could throw the laptop away, throw the iPads away, but I need my phone.
“You cannot manage people before you manage yourself. You are the most important. Your feelings, your well-being, your lifestyle, your everything, is more important than anybody.”
What is your greatest success since starting your own business?
The greatest success is getting my own place. And [this interview] is big for me—getting to sit with you and reach people who I otherwise wouldn’t get to reach. I was featured in a book called Black in Cleveland. Train Pretty is four. My class numbers have gone up and down, but this is the most consistent I’ve been, over this last year. I remember when my goal was to get over 50 people in a class, and I reached that. And now, I haven’t had a class of 100 people. We’ve gotten close though.
You just don’t realize how many people you touch. I had one of my Queens come to me, and I know she comes to class all the time, but she stays in the back and she leaves early, so we don’t ever talk. She came to another event that I was at, so I saw her and walked up to her and gave her a hug—I give really good hugs—but that was it. So then a few days later when she came to class, she waited at the end, and she doesn’t usually do that. She started crying and said “I just wanted to tell you thank you for giving me a hug. There were a lot of people there and I wasn’t sure if you saw me. I’ve been going through something, and you just don’t know how much that meant to me.” I gave her a hug. That’s it. I didn’t even say anything. And it impacted her like that. I get a lot of different things like that. A lot of people just saying “Thank you for what you’ve created.” That is a huge success. All I’ve ever wanted was to create a safe space for women.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to another woman who wants to start her own business?
Do it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. You do not stop your business when life punches you in the face. You don’t. You cry for 10 minutes, wipe your tears, and keep it going. What you don’t do is spread it. You deal with it, you figure it out. You’ll be able to handle it better if you take care of yourself every day. But you leave it right there, and you have to keep going. Just don’t quit. Don’t quit on yourself. You quit on yourself, and then what? There is no Plan B for me.