MILLENNIALS ON THE MOVE
Gals doing good
Body Love Blueprint isn’t your typical exercise programme. Firstly, there are no scales. Secondly, there’s wine. “We’re about much more than fitness,” says owner and founder Courtney Durr. “Our boot camps involve working out twice a week, but they also involve going out on weekends for bike rides, walks, brunch or coffee… even a wine or three! We’re all about balance: mentally, physically and socially.”
The business began when Courtney worked as a personal trainer at Les Mills in Wellington. “All I wanted was for my clients to be healthy, happy and proud of their progress. Instead, I watched so many of them feel disappointed, talk negatively about themselves, and quit if they weren’t losing any weight,” she says. When she realised that she, too, was part of the problem – constantly comparing herself to other women and resenting them for what they had and how they looked – she recalibrated her attitude. Losing weight ceased to be a priority; her new goal was to fuel her body so it could achieve amazing things. She completed a half Iron Man, and shortly afterwards Body Love Blueprint was born.
Three years later, what began as a 10-week boot camp has evolved into Body Love New Zealand, which offers three-day retreats centred around growth, adventure and connection. “We run workshops to educate girls on self-confidence, living in possibility, and overcoming adversity. We move through activities like yoga, quad biking and hiking. And we build relationships with and between women, by facilitating fun experiences that encourage vulnerability, and by fostering ongoing communication after the retreats are over,” says Courtney.
The holistic ethos behind the Body Love movement means you don’t have to be a gym bunny to benefit. Nor is it a ‘one size fits all’ programme. Courtney’s clients come in all shapes and sizes, with different fitness backgrounds and different concerns, both inside and out. And although Courtney and her business partner, Abbey Palmer, don’t pretend to have all the answers, they’re committed to catering to everyone’s needs. “We are there to support, encourage and never judge,” says Courtney. “We have close connections with all of our clients, so we understand that some girls need a push, while others just need kind words and encouragement.”
Currently Wellington-based, Courtney and Abbey are working on expanding the reach of the Body Love programme so that women around the country and around the globe can get involved. Until then, Body Love’s Instagram and Facebook accounts act as a hub where members of the community can connect in a positive online environment. Learning how to harness the empowering rather than the destructive potential of social media has been crucial for Courtney, who strives to keep it real on both her business and personal accounts. This means sharing the bad with the good, including admitting to her followers when she’s struggling with her body image or lacking the motivation to work out.
“Life is not about getting it right 100% of the time,” she says, adding that she wishes she had learnt to embrace failure, judgment and criticism earlier, “because you never know who you’re inspiring.”
As for words to live by, Courtney thinks the hashtag #actionoverperfection sums it up. And her advice for any woman questioning her path in life? “Take a risk, because either you win or you learn,” she says. “You’ve got one life and you’re going to spend it feeling comfortable? Hell, no! Go for it, girl!”
Phoebe Watt meets three young women making a difference and bringing about positive change in the fields of fitness, fashion and politics COURTNEY DURR Founder of Body Love New Zealand @bodylovenz “We are there to support and encourage and never judge”
“It’s kind of been a running joke since I was a kid that one day I would be prime minister,” says law school graduate, entrepreneur and 2016 Auckland mayoral candidate Chlöe Swarbrick. “But I actually never thought I’d end up in politics. I always thought you could achieve more outside of it, whether as a journalist or in some kind of business or NGO that acts as a check and balance on the powers that be.”
Be that as it may, in mid-2016, 22-year-old Chlöe entered the race for Auckland’s mayoralty. “I’m of the generation where we’ve all gone to university and come out with these massive student loans and few job opportunities,” she says, explaining her decision to run. “On top of that, we’re all trying to rent in a market that we can’t afford and we’re never going to be able to buy homes here, where the median house price just hit a million dollars. I thought: we’re not looking at a good future, and I can complain about this forever, or I can do something about it.”
We first met on the day voting opened – two weeks before election day. Polling better than projected, Chlöe was feeling more motivated than ever. “All of the problems Auckland is facing with its housing crisis, with public transport, with the brain drain… they personally affect me. So to win would be winning the ability to do something about these problems in a very hands-on way.” Albeit reluctantly, she countered her optimism with a dash of realism. “Falling short of winning, a win for me would be the best outcome for Auckland, which would be Aucklanders feeling that their collective voice was heard.”
Unhappy with the fact that two thirds of constituents didn’t vote in the previous local body election, a key aim of Chlöe’s was to engage the disengaged – including Auckland’s youth, but also its poorest and most disenfranchised. “They’re the ones who have the most to gain by voting but don’t trust the voting system and don’t trust politicians,” she explains. A crowd-sourcing approach to policy was all part of the strategy. “I just said, ‘Let’s open the floodgates. You give me your thoughts on what you want from your council and your mayor.’” The thousands of submissions she received alerted her to the intelligence of the voting base. “People have really great ideas and they’re willing to actually discuss things,” she says. “But they aren’t being respected and that’s where we get this disconnect, because politics doesn’t respect people. We need to bring that back into it.”
Throughout the campaign, she received countless messages from people who had enrolled to vote “just for [her]”, and these were a huge source of encouragement. But there were frustrations, too, particularly around debates where she felt she wasn’t taken seriously. “Afterwards people would come up to me and be like, ‘You were the most impressive by far, what are you going to do next time?’ And it’s like, what do you mean ‘next time’? I’m here now, I’ve shown you my capability and I’ve shown you my policy, I’ve been able to answer every question better than everybody else… next time I’ll be 25. Am I still going to be too young then? The time is now. Auckland is at this tipping point now. All of these problems that we’ve got are happening right now, I understand all of these problems, and I have some very strong policy to resolve them. And I love this city!”
Love wasn’t enough. On October 8th, campaign favourite Phil Goff took the mayoralty by a landslide. But with 26,474 votes, Chlöe gained an impressive third place, and she is now facing a bright political future. Despite telling media that she wasn’t interested in a career in central government, Chlöe announced in November – much to the delight of her following – that she is joining the Green Party. And if her first foray into politics was anything to go by, she’s up for whatever challenges this brings.
“The way that I see it, life is hard. And it would be hard no matter what you do, so why don’t you do the thing that fulfils you the most?” she says. “That, I suppose, is where I get my drive. I just don’t want to waste my time here.”
CHLÖE SWARBRICK Business owner and politician @chloe.swarbrick
In 2013, Anna Lee was cast in TV show Reality Trip, a social experiment which saw five Kiwi 20-somethings placed in the poorest parts of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in order to see first-hand where our consumables come from, and to meet the people who make them. From Manila’s Smokey Mountain slum, where 25,000 people live on the city’s largest dumpsite, to the site of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, where 1129 people had died in a garment factory collapse just months before, it was a harrowing experience for Anna, and one that completely changed her life. “I arrived in New Zealand after a long flight from Bangladesh, slid into a taxi and bawled my eyes out the whole way home,” she says. “I vowed to call it quits on shopping.”
At the time, Anna was an editorial assistant at New Zealand Herald fashion and lifestyle publication Viva. It became increasingly difficult, she says, to work for a large media corporation whose commercial interests were frequently at odds with her values and beliefs. But she made the most of the situation. “I realised I was in the perfect position to get my message across. There was a platform at my fingertips that enabled me to speak to thousands of people.”
She praises her former editor, Amanda Linnell, for seeing the value in the conversation that she wanted to have and offering her a weekly “Ethical Living” column that enabled her to educate readers on the realities of where their clothing came from, and familiarise them with stylish, ethical alternatives. Ultimately, though, she knew she could make a bigger impact elsewhere, and in February 2016 she left her one-time dream job for good.
Today, Anna is pursuing a law degree with a focus on human rights. “I hope to increase my knowledge of this area, which will hopefully make me a better writer on the topic and better able to represent those who don’t have a voice,” she says, explaining that her long-term goal is to move to Bangladesh to provide legal aid to garment workers like those who perished at Rana Plaza. Meanwhile, she is running a consultancy business that assists local and international brands who want to improve their overseas supply chains, and, in her free-time, using social media to call out those who are falling short. She’s adamant that the excuses designers come up with for not embracing ethical and sustainable practices – including that it’s ‘too expensive’ – are unacceptable. “Value human life over excessive profit – simple as that.”
With the help of organisations such as Baptist World Aid, whose annual Ethical Fashion Guide grades brands on their supply chain knowledge, auditing processes and worker empowerment, Anna says that we can make brands take accountability and action. “I want people to ask those questions that brands find so hard to answer, and push them for answers. We hold so much power as consumers, so let’s use it to help others.” She points out that something as simple as shopping from our own wardrobes next time we have an event to dress up for is another way each of us can make a difference. “If you wear an amazing dress, I’m still going to think it’s amazing the next time I see you in it,” she laughs.
For her part, Anna says she’s “by no means a perfect consumer”, but it’s about small changes and building momentum. “It only takes a small spark to light a wildfire. We can choose not to engage with the obvious consequences of our consumer behaviour, convince ourselves we aren’t contributing to a slavetrade economy and ignore the catastrophic environmental effects, or we can address it. You make a difference. So be passionate, compassionate, rattle the world and do something. Even if you help just one person, isn’t that better than nothing?”
ANNA LEE Ethical fashion and human rights activist @annalee_____ “Be passionate, compassionate, rattle the world and do something”
Courtney Durr (left) and business partner Abbey Palmer have reinvigorated the art of fitness.
Chlöe threw herself into the Auckland mayoralty campaign and now has her sights set on central government.
“I actually never thought I’d end up in politics. I always thought you could achieve more outside of it”