Celebrity trainer Massy Arias uses fitness to combat depression

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.

As a celebrity fitness coach with 2.7 million Instagram followers, and having spent time as the face of CoverGirl cosmetics, Massy Arias is an inspiration to her fans. But getting to that space has not always been an easy journey.

At just 13 years old, Arias moved from the Dominican Republic to the United States and struggled to adjust to life in a foreign country. She had to learn a new language, a new culture and a new way of life in New York City. On her own since 17, dealing with the challenges of what to eat and earn money, life became overwhelming. A deep depression set in, making life even harder for Arias, who said she already struggled emotionally to find a reason to live. “Being depressed is not something you control,” Arias says. “It’s a word people use a lot, but I don’t think people understand what it is to not want to wake up in the morning, not wanting to live, or having any motivation to even breathe and get out there to perform your daily activities.”