Santa Barbarans and yogis raised eyebrows and voiced opposition about yoga studio Power of Your Om’s (POYO) special-edition class “NWA” — “Namaste With Attitude” held last Wednesday.
Jenna Schaal-O’Connor said she was disturbed when she first found out about the class from an email she received from Power of Your Om. “I’m not particularly familiar with [the ghetto],” she said, “but I don’t like to make fun of people who live in the ghetto.”
The online flyer encouraged participants to “come dressed in your favorite ghetto fabulous outfit, snap-back caps, corn rows, heavy lip liner or whatever you can dream up.” Further attire suggestions were provided via a link to a wikiHow “How to Be Ghetto Fabulous” page.
Schaal-O’Connor said she was especially put off by photos of “little girls in Lululemon throwing up Blood signs” that PYOY also posted. Other photos pictured girls with aluminum foil stuck to their teeth.
“Maybe I was particularly aware of it in light of the Miley Cyrus twerking video,” Schaal-O’Connor said. Further, she added, it demonstrates “mocking a culture that you have no part in or that you’re not a part of.”
Schaal-O’Connor said she would have tried to get people together to protest the special-edition class had she heard about it earlier. Instead, she posted criticism on the studio’s Facebook page, only to have her comments deleted by site administrators.
One of the deleted comments — sent to Santa Barbara Independent via screenshot — reads, “encouraging your (presumably) privileged white clientele to come to do vinyasa in the ‘costume’ of a subordinated culture that is not their own is not funny and should not inspire ‘belly laughs.’”
In response to heated social-media backlash, POYO owner Adrienne Hengels said, “We created the flyer as ghetto fabulous not intending for it to be offensive.” She said the purpose of the class from the start was to incorporate rap music into a yoga class for fun.
Other online commentators were less harsh but did not completely pardon the studio. Courtney Dietz posted on Facebook, “Yes, the recent Ghetto themed class (though I didn’t attend) was misguided and insensitive at best, I have NEVER (read: NEVER) heard anything racist or elitist from [Adrienne or Melanie].”
In addition to online flyers, the studio promoted a do-rag giveaway through Instagram. Athena Tan posted a Facebook comment criticizing POYO for advertising the giveaways and for deleting a similar post via Instagram. That comment was also deleted.
Some negative comments are still posted on POYO’s Facebook page, and Hengels also posted a formal apology. “After reading perspectives [posted online], I felt sincerely sorry that we didn’t just keep it as rap class,” Hengels said. “The fact is that it was a one-time thing, it is now over. We didn’t realize that it was going to piss so many people off.”
“Of course nothing just dies,” Hengels added. “It’s there forever with the glory of social media.”