Founder, Owner, Director,
Dancer, Choreographer, Instructor,
Event Planner, Graphic & Web Designer, Consultant, Mentor, Friend & Mother....
Meet Jeni J!
DANCE TRAINING BACKGROUND
Jeni J was born and raised in Tampa and comes from Cuban decent. Her diverse family is made up of many cultures and she embraced them all. "I believe when we appreciate our differences it allows us to love each other more effectively."
She studied dance at Mary Jo's Dance Studio where she was a member of the Junior and Senior Performing Arts Companies ("Cheers" & "Encore"). As a Company Member, she performed at many events throughout the Tampa Bay area and competitions throughout the State of Florida. She received many high achievements in both group and duet performances. She attended Hillsborough High School (Class of '94) where she was a Dancerette performing in half-time shows and parades with the Big Red Band. She was the soloist for the 1992 - 1993 school year.
TRANSITION INTO FITNESS
After high school, Jeni served in the U.S. Navy as an Interior Communications Electrician Petty Officer Second Class from 1994 - 2001. During this time she also served as Command Physical Fitness Coordinator where she was responsible for performing evaluations and training at risk Sailors to meet the Navy's physical fitness standards. Little did she know how valuable her training for this position was as her career as a Fitness Professional was just beginning.
LIFE & FAMILY
During her time in the military, Jeni J traveled and lived all around the world. She married a fellow shipmate in 1999 and one year later, at the age of 24, she gave birth to her first daughter, Deiona. After moving to Italy, she gave birth to her second daughter, Thalia, in 2004. During this time, she was a military spouse, working full-time, attending college, and actively involved in the community. Due to the unhealthy nature of her marriage, Jeni J decided to return back to the United States with her girls to begin the next chapter of her life as a single mother.
Upon her return, she worked for the US Attorney's Office while she taught Zumba classes part time. After 6 months, her classes grew to be so successful that she was able to resign from her Civil Service position and pursue teaching classes full time. Only 6 months after resigning, Jeni J unexpectedly opened FlavaFitness Studio.
MY PERSONAL STORY
I first heard of ZUMBA on an infomercial when I was up one night breastfeeding my oldest daughter. I remember thinking to myself, "I would love to just be able to take a class like that! It would be like dancing again." I had tried attending step-aerobics classes but could never stay motivated any longer than 2 weeks. In 2003 my then husband was transferred to Naples, Italy and I immediately got pregnant with our second child without even losing the weight from our first one. By the time that I delivered I was 234lbs!!! Although there were not any ZUMBA classes on the military base, I always had the idea of ZUMBA in the back of my head. I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to attend a class like Beto's, I would be motivated to keep going. Even after delivery and MONTHS of breastfeeding, I was still very overweight. Although I was a very positive and happy person, full of life, smart, successful at work....I was miserable with my appearance which I believe made me more tolerable of negativity around me. My husband was very verbally and emotionally abusive and the abuse was increasing daily.
In Sept. '04, my fellow Latinas and I performed a salsa and merengue routine for the multi-cultural celebration at the Naval Hospital. Even though I was very uncomfortable with my appearance on stage, my love for dancing and performing helped me to overcome my fears. We were a hit!!! The audience loved our show and many approached us asking for lessons. We also noticed how much exercise we were getting from just the rehearsals and we wanted to continue with something similar. All of us being moms, we couldn't just go to the club every night. I mentioned ZUMBA to them but none of them had ever heard of it. Being overseas (with no infomercials) I went online to see what I could find and discovered the ZUMBA instructor certification!!! At that moment my dream of becoming an ZUMBA instructor was born. But there were no certifications in my area?? I obtained a basic Group Fitness Certification but was too scared to do anything with it. I felt that I was too out of shape and overweight to teach a class....who would want to take my class???? But I was SO wrong! That is exactly what everyone wanted....someone they could relate to!!
Although it took me all the way until Feb 1, 2005 to build up the courage, we started our 'Latin Flava' (ZUMBA) classes with my beginning weight of 219lbs. My students immediately began to see the results in me and themselves. My classes got bigger and bigger, but my clothes got smaller and smaller! By July, I had lost 65lbs. During that time the verbal and emotional abuse from my husband continued to increase and he became even more controlling and jealous. While my classes were making me feel more confident and attractive, they were making him more insecure and he began to get more physical with his abuse. With my success at work and the support of my students, close friends and family, I became much stronger and realized that I could do anything that I wanted and I deserved so much more. In Sept. '05, I got on a plane with my two daughters and moved back to Tampa to start a new life. I finally got my dream of becoming an officially licensed ZUMBA Fitness Instructor in March '06 and ZUMBAflava was born! My dreams are coming true everyday. Within one year of obtaining the instructor certificate, my classes had grown to the point that I decided to resign from my full time job and pursue my dreams more. Six months after my resignation I opened FlavaFitness Studio! And I am not going to stop here, I am a dreamer and everyday I set new goals!
I know first hand the stresses that all wives and mothers go through to try and find the balance in their lives; especially those that work. And now, I know how hard it is to do it alone. I was a single mother, working full-time for the government, and then I became a self employed single mother!! It is not easy, and does take a lot of sacrifice. I don't have much of a social life...no clubbing for me! I usually crash on my days off. But I know that it is important for me to be happy with myself and do things that I love in order to be the best mother that I can be. I also feel that I am teaching my children an important thing in life....to always pursue your dreams and when life makes you turn left, you turn, but you keep moving forward!!! And after 2 more of those left turns, you are "right" on track. It is important that they learn the importance of exercise now and that you have to make time for yourself to do it. I know it is hard to squeeze that one hour into our busy daily routine, but I also know that one hour will help me feel better and live a longer and healthier life....which will allow me to be around for my children longer and be happier while I am! My mission is to help others who struggle with their weight to find a fun, easy, effective way to reach their goals and the support and motivation to want to do it. I strongly believe that the programs offered at FlavaFitness Studio open the doors to the world of fitness to those individuals that normally wouldn't do any form of exercise. Those who spend $100's on boring programs they never use. Those who keep saying, "I will start Monday". These are the people that I go out of my way to help because I believe we all can do it with the right tools and motivation. We can always just do a little bit better today than yesterday. It doesn't have to be so drastic all at once. That just sets you up for failure. And I am not a typical perfectly fit gym rat. I am just a regular woman and I am speaking from experience. I have been there myself and I have experienced how hard it is. I understand what it is like to not want to go to fancy gyms full of supermodels in skimpy clothing, or take classes from someone that is intimidating because they make it seem so easy or doesn't even break a sweat! I 'KEEP IT REAL' in all of my classes and with all of my clients! (Ask them, they will tell you!!) I get tired! I get sore! I struggle to drink water! I struggle to eat right! I struggle to get to class! JUST LIKE YOU!!! AND I DON'T PRETEND THAT I DON'T!
CERTIFICATIONS & LICENSES
- Zumba Fitness® Instructor
Zumba B2 Instructor
Zumba Advanced Steps
- Booty Jam Fitness® Instructor
- BAM!™ Member
- SilverSneakers Instructor
- Bokwa Fitness Instructor
- Beat It Exercise Instructor
- International Fitness Association Instructor
Jul 2007 - Present
Owner and Director of FlavaFitness Studio (Tampa, FL)
Jan 2014 - Present
Creator & CEO of Booty Jam Fitness®
Oct 2014 - Present
Director of STANDUP! (Stop the Abuse n' Dance, Uplift & Promote) Domestic Violence Awareness Organization
October 2014 - November 2016
Owner and Director of FlavaFitness Studio Lutz (Lutz, FL)
Jan 2011 - Present
Director of Bijoux de Burlesque Dance Company
Jun 2010 - Jan 2014
Jul 2011 & Jul 2010
Presenter of the Zumba Fitness Master Class Tour
Mar 2006 - Jul 2007
- Zumba Instructor at Shapes Total Fitness, Rizing Starz Dance Academy, Bob Sierra YMCA
- Independent Zumba Fitness Instructor (various classes & demonstrations in Tampa, FL)
- Member of the Tampa ZUMBA Performance Team
Feb 2005 - Sep 2005
- Zumba/Latin Dance Aerobics Instructor at MWR Fitness Forum (Naples, Italy)
2003 - 2005
- University of Maryland
Studied Accounting & Public Relations
- Lactation Consultant
- Founder & Director of Mom2Mom of Naples, IT
Jan 2001 - Jan 2002
- Owner & Instructor for JJ’s Dance Academy (Charleston, SC)
Classes for all ages, traditional and urban dance, Hip Hop, Salsa
Adult dance/fitness classes
1994 - 2001
- United States Navy
Interior Communications Electrician Petty Officer Second Class (IC2)
USS Rainer (AOE - 7)
USS Holland (AS - 32)
US Naval Stattion Bremerton, WA (Public Affairs)
US Naval Reserve Center Carleston, SC (Physical Fitness Coordinator)
- Vicennes University (Bremerton, WA) Associates of Science
Magna Cum Laude
Phy Pheta Kappa Honor Society
Sep 1993 - Jun 1994
- Crystal Lake Dance Academy (Crystal Lake, IL)
Dance Company Member & Choreographer
Adult Jazz Instructor
Children's Ballet Instructor
- Dancer Member of Club Kidd TV Show (Tampa, FL)
Performed on weekly TV shows
Peformed during Legends Bowl Half Shows
- Mary Jo’s Performing Dance Studio (Tampa, FL)
- Dancer Member of Club Kidd TV Show (Tampa, FL)Performed on weekly TV shows
Student (Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern)
Member of Performing Arts Company (Cheers, Jr. Encore, Encore)
Member of Competition Team (Regional & National Group, Duet & Solo Awards)
Casted in Productions (Cats, Grease, Chorus Line, West Side Story)
Local performances, benefits & parades
Studied under acclaimed choreographers (Joe Tremaine, Doug Caldwell, Barry Lather, Toney Capola, & Marcia Lane)
Co-Choreopgraherd various pieces