Ms. Uptown, which officially opened in Beijing in October 2016, aims to be a new female-only fitness haven. The staff is bilingual (with Chinese and English being the dominant languages) and members of the fitness center can enjoy a variety of classes including Zumba, yoga, and hip hop dance among others. The gym also has a smaller workout area for cardio exercises, free clothing to use for the duration of each workout session, a changing room, and also sells drinks. While the gym does not have a specific age requirement, members must be old enough to use exercise equipment and machinery.
Judyanna Chen, the founder of Ms. Uptown, sees her organization as one for women of all ages and backgrounds to find a place of peace, a supportive community, and somewhere to build their own self-image. She sees her studio as a place for women “to be confident, determined, and strong so they can be independent, influential, and extraordinary.”
Judyanna Chen speaking at a Ms. Uptown event.
Ms. Uptown is one of several businesses that has opened up in China in recent years marketed solely towards women. As early as 2012 Lady Book Salon, a bookstore in Beijing, joined several bookstores geared towards women. In addition to businesses, female students as young as high school age have also recently begun to create their own female-oriented spaces such as a feminist club at Dalton Academy, which was started by two Dalton Academy students in 2014.
In the larger scheme of feminism and Chinese society and without proscribing to either, Chen says that above all Ms. Uptown is a place for women to learn new skills and have fun. In addition to the dance, yoga, and fitness classes it offers, Ms. Uptown also hosts workshops and events. While the workshops and events have thus far been open to men, Chen says that which events are open to in the near future will depend on the specifics of each activity.
Since the studio opened, some of its activities have included a K-pop dance session, Charity for Dogs, and a vegan lunch and yoga event. On February 18, Ms. Uptown will also be hosting a Yoga Foundation workshop that will be open to all genders. In terms of events more tailored to specific clientele, in mid-February the studio will begin offering a weekly mommy and baby bootcamp.
Prior to moving to Beijing, Chen worked as the CFO for several public companies. Chen, a Canadian born Chinese woman who’s also a licensed Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), says she drew inspiration for Ms. Uptown from her past experiences working at gym in Toronto that featured a female-only section. Chen believes that a female-only gym eliminates most of the insecurities, anxieties, or other discomforts that women might feel when going to other gyms where women might feel more pressure to maintain a certain appearance while working out.
In her own life, Chen prefers to squeeze in her workouts in the early morning and often finds that going to the gym can mean great forethought. “I’m a planner and a perfectionist so going to the gym requires much more planning than it should. For example what workout clothes would draw less attention from the male population, yet still be fashionably approved for your ego.”
Chen believes that fitness classes provide members with a unique experience that otherwise is not present in traditional gym exercise. Classes allow individuals the opportunity to learn new skills, a chance for mutual inspiration, and a platform for motivation from teachers and classmates alike.
Women working hard at a Ms. Uptown fitness class.
From hosting a plethora of events to starting a WeChat group specifically for daily life communication among studio members, Chen has worked hard to build this sense of inspiration and community for all at Ms. Uptown. Chen also credits her staff, who refer to themselves as The Awesome Team, for helping in beginning to realize Ms. Uptown’s potential and make the studio a warm, welcoming, and vibrant place.
The Ms. Uptown team occasionally breaks open a bottle of wine and snacks to relax from busy days. Chen also had much to say about the studio’s instructors who she described as “top notch in the city” and as spending hours meticulously planning out each class.
Ultimately, Ms. Uptown focuses on empowerment and whether you’re a woman working those calves, taking on roudy children, or working towards professional ideals, empowerment seems to be just what everyone needs.
For those interested in contacting the studio, they can do so through the Ms. Uptown WeChat: uptownyoga.